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Bertha Shambaugh, Photographer

Bertha Maude Horack was born to Czech immigrants Frank J. and Katharine Mosnat Horack in Belle Plaine, Iowa on February 12, 1871. When she was eight, she moved with her family to Iowa City, where she received the finest academic education her parents could provide for their only daughter. A student of naturalist Bohumil Shimek, she became a talented sketch artist, and soon her stories and her plant drawings were being featured in local periodicals. After receiving a camera from her parents as a high school graduation gift, Miss Horack's attention shifted from illustrations to photography. An early proponent of dry plate photography, she regarded a camera as an important historical tool for documenting cultural traditions and daily lives. Miss Horack has the distinction of being the first 'outsider' allowed to photograph the Amanas, seven seven utopian communities settled by German expatriates who had been persecuted in their native land for their radical Lutheran beliefs known as the New Spiritual Economy. In less than a year, the young woman took more than 100 photographs of a way of life that was rapidly disappearing within an increasingly industrialized landscape.


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