A Portrait of Claremore’s Extraordinary Past

    The Souvenir Booklet of Pioneer Photographer Miss L. Ida Lawley – A Portrait of Claremore’s Extraordinary Past

    Though quite antiquated now and brittle with age, the once masterfully crafted Souvenir Booklet, Claremore, Oklahoma, 1910-1915, found in the Rogers County Historical Society’s archives, gives those of us who live in the present, a photographic tour of life in Claremore’s past. This unique 39-page photo book, created by female pioneer photographer L. Ida Lawley, portrays and advertises Claremore’s unique qualities and invited tourists and travelers of bygone days to come and personally experience the city’s virtues.

    In the dedication of Miss Lawley’s booklet, page one, she writes:

    “This souvenir is respectfully dedicated with the hope that it may recall many pleasant memories to those visiting Claremore, and to induce many to locate among us; also to carry good news to those out of our city and even out of the State of Oklahoma who might be interested in the many advantages in our city and surrounding country.

    “I wish to offer this small volume to the public as a souvenir and, while doing so, give you a faint idea of the advantages of our town and county.  While it is impossible to give a complete album of Claremore in such a small book, it contains a limited collection of views (pictures) representing the religious (First Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal and ME, South churches), educational (Hiawatha, Claremont, Academy, and Eastern University Preparatory schools) and professional business (such as Hotel Main, Berwick Hotel, Brown’s Meat Market, Ault’s Drug Store, and Banks) and social progress; it contains the photographs of many of our business men and ladies, also shows many of their homes (for example, G.D. Davis, J.F. McClellan, Bayless’ Belvidere, G.F. Godbey, J.F. Flippin, Leo A. Moore, G.M. Reed) and tells of the famous radium wells and the miraculous cures of hopeless cases as a result of the wonderful radium waters.” 

    Competitors in Claremore’s photography businesses were highlighted as other photographers also advertised their studios in Miss Lawley’s souvenir booklet. J.F. Macy, Proprietor, publicized, “Macy Studio, the only gallery in Claremore that has a skylight” (p.33), while John Blair’s Studio publicized “Portraits that Please Particular People” (p.27). Miss Lawley was the only lady among this bunch.

    On pages 38-39, Miss Lawley adds a description of her photography business, Lawley Photograph Studios.

    “I have been in the photograph business fifteen years and have met with splendid success.  I do the highest class work, and my aim in life is better photos, pleased customers, and a fair, honest deal with every one.”

    “We make portraits of all kinds: Black and White Work, Post Cards, Kodak Finishing. We Guarantee all best-grade work and keep the latest style folders and cards.  All linen work same price as the sepia.  We have a fine line of Christmas Cards and Folds.  Nothing nicer to give your friends and relatives than a nice photo for a Christmas present… Everyone is welcome… We do enlarging, your photo on pillow top, your photo on felt, your photo on felt pennants.”

    Not long after the completion of her souvenir booklet, Miss Lawley left Claremore. January 24, 1919, The Erie, Kansas, Sentinel, discloses, Miss Ida Lawley, “purchased the Erie studio and is now ready for your work. Miss Lawley is an experienced photographer and Erie is mighty glad to know that she has purchased the studio here.”

    Though she was a Claremore resident for only a short while, Ida Lawley’s Souvenir Booklet, Claremore, Oklahoma, 1910-1915 stands as a tremendous history treasure that captured an incomparable portrait of Claremore’s past for which present Oklahoma historians are grateful.

    by Christa Rice, Explore Claremore History Photo credit Rogers County Historical Society

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