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Thomas McKee, Photographer

Thomas Michael McKee was born in Scary Creek, West Virginia on March 17, 1854. When he was a baby, his parents traveled to Louisville, Kentucky by steamboat and from there took a stagecoach to Nashville, Tennessee, where the family remained for several years. During his boyhood, his leisure time was spent traveling throughout the South and painting landscapes along the way. He went to St. Louis to become a photographer's apprentice and later traveled to Texas to work as a railroad express messenger.

After a jaunt to Sitka, Alaska in 1887, Mr. McKee received a letter from family friend A. E. Buddecke, who owned an opera house in Montrose, Colorado. When learning the town had no photographic studios, he and his family moved again and settled in the small southwestern town. There, Mr. McKee had no shortage of subjects to photograph - the scenic valleys, the ranchers, the miners, and the Native Americans. Long fascinated with science, he experimented for oil shale and discovered their commercial potential. He also was one of the first scientists to employ uranium nitrates instead of gold and to use carnotite, a radioactive ore, as a source of light. Mr. McKee is also believed to be one of the first photographers to take X-ray pictures. In 1892, when the Rio Grande Southern Railroad began laying tracks in the Lost Canyon region between Dolores and Mancos, Mr. McKee resumed his earlier job as express messenger. This provided the amateur paleontologist with an opportunity to collect fossils well as to capture images with the wet-plate camera that was always by his side. Always the innovator, he also introduced the region to motion picture equipment, taking the first moving pictures of Western Colorado in 1895.

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2013-09-22 11:18:03
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