The photographer, John Wilbur Clarence Floyd, who lovingly captured Lock Haven, Pennsylvania in his discerning lens was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1853. He moved to Lock Haven at the age of 28, taking over the ownership of a photographic company from proprietor F. W. Wood. Within a short time, Mr. Floyd became the most prominent and prolific photographer in the area, as the regional photographs taken between 1881 and 1906 certainly attest. Mr. Floyd's love of the landscape and Victorian-era architecture and fashion are evident in his images. Now financially secure, Mr. Floyd could marry his longtime girlfriend Erma L. Gast in 1883, but within a few years he experienced several professional and personal setbacks. In 1887, fire caused considerable damage to his photographic studio, and shortly after the catastrophic flood of 1889, Erma Gast Floyd succumbed to typhoid fever.
Unwavering in his determination to succeed despite many obstacles, Mr. Floyd became a tireless business promoter, advertising heavily, and making several local appearances that would generate newspaper coverage for his studio. For example, in 1890, he announced he would release a 16-foot-long balloon over Lock Haven, and the person who successfully retrieved the balloon would receive as prizes photographs totaling $5 and a cash prize of $2.50. Unfortunately, the balloon caught fire during its ascent, but Mr. Floyd nevertheless rewarded the $2.50 to a man who found the balloon's hoop. Sadly, Mr. Floyd's marital misfortunes continued when his second wife Jessie died in March 1896, less than four years after their marriage. However, his photography business flourished as he experimented with the latest technological innovations. He was among the first photographers to capture nighttime outdoor images with the aid of a camera light. He also received a patent for the photographic-print washer he invented complete with a rocking tray complete with a print chamber that could discharge water from receptacles at each end.
In 1906, Mr. Floyd married his retoucher, Blanche Bickford, to whom he remained happily married for more than 20 years. The couple decided to relocate to Pueblo, Colorado, and Mr. Floyd entrusted his beloved studio to his assistant, Henry Swope. Mr. Swope continued to operate the studio until it was permanently destroyed in a 1925 fire. Mr. Floyd opened a photographic studio in Pueblo, and after 1915 began a new career as a silent film cinematographer. In the early days of motion pictures, operating a camera required great precision and dexterity. Mr. Floyd once explained to a local newspaper reporter, "In order to take a motion picture and get it correctly on the film, one must be able to make the mind and hands perform two things at the same time. One hand must wind the film and the other adjust the machine and both hands must work constantly at their separate task... I have had my machine for long enough now to manage it, but at first it seemed to me the work was about the most difficult I have ever taken."
Still photographer, businessman, inventor, and silent film pioneer John W. C. Floyd died in 1930 at the age of 77. Many of his more than 100,000 photographs are currently archived at Lock Haven's Annie Halenbake Ross Library.
1887 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XVIII (New York: E & H.T. Anthony & Co.), p. 64.
2007 Clinton County (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing), pp. 92-93.
2008 The Express (URL: http://www.lockhaven.com/page/content.detail/id/501947/A-Peek-at-the-Past.html).
1895 Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Vol. LXX (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office), p. 404.
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