Born on October 4, 1845 in Eslingen, Germany, William Latour and his family immigrated to the United States six years' later, settling in St. Louis, Missouri. Reportedly, he began his daguerreian art education at the age of 11 under the tutelage of Augustus Plitt, one of the St. Louis' most respected artists. From his instructor, they young man also learned ambrotyping and the aesthetics of photography, and further honed his skills working for several local galleries over the next five years.
The outbreak of the Civil War temporarily stalled Mr. Latour's burgeoning career, but he resumed the profession in his new home of Sedalia, Missouri in 1866. He quickly established a reputation for excellence throughout Sedalia and Joplin. During this period, Mr. Latour also pursued a theatrical career, first performing at the Leavenworth, Kansas Theatre leased by acclaimed thespian George D. Chaplin. He acted in several theatrical touring companies that included both Mr. Chaplin and renowned stage actor Edwin Booth.
Retiring from the stage in April 1868, Mr. Latour again returned to Sedalia and photography. He worked for daguerreotypist and photographer J. C. Downing and later joined the business of Richard Penny, and bought him out in 1869. On October 25th of that year, he married Josephine Lyons. Together, they would have three children - daughter Blanche and sons Ira and Lionel. From 1875 until 1884, his flourishing business was known as Latour's Photographic Gallery and Studio of Painting. On the corner of Ohio and Fourth Streets, he constructed "Latour's Block," and its upper rooms housed one of the most lavish and successful galleries in the Midwest. His cartes des visite were particularly popular. Quite simply, William Latour symbolized photography in Missouri, and served as president of the Photographers' Association of Missouri. His approach demonstrated how photographs can be both artistic as well as affordable.
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