Frank Albert Rinehart was born in Lodi, Illinois on February 12, 1861. In his late teens, he and his brother Albert moved to Colorado, where the siblings began working for Charles Bohm's Denver photography studio. By 1881, the brothers were partnered with acclaimed Western photographer William Henry Jackson, and opened the Jackson and Rinehart studio. Mr. Rinehart received an invaluable education from his older partner and mentor, and became fascinated with the Native American culture. This professional partnership also led to a personal partnership, when Mr. Rinehart met studio receptionist Anna Ransom Johnson. The couple married in 1885 and would would later have two daughters, Ruth and Helen.
After the business with Mr. Jackson was dissolved, Mr. Rinehart and his wife moved to Nebraska, settling in Omaha. Shortly thereafter, he opened a downtown studio in the Brandeis Building, at 16th and Douglas Streets, which he operated for the rest of his life. Refusing to use anything but the first camera he ever purchased, an 8 x 10 glass negative camera fitted with a German lens, Mr. Rinehart established himself as one of Omaha's most respected and financially successful portraitists. It is believed that he produced more than 2,000,000 negatives with that camera over his lengthy career. His interest in Native American customs and traditions served him extremely well during the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, which was held simultaneously with the Indian Congress, in Omaha in 1898. Mr. Rinehart was named official photographer of the Exposition, and soon his portraits and exquisitely-lighted nighttime images, received widespread attention and praise. He captured the leaders of the Indian Congress in their traditional attire, but there was a humanity in these photographs that was unmatched by the more stereotypical Native American images of his contemporaries. Along with his gifted assistant Adolph Muhr (who later worked for photographer Edward S. Curtis), they collaborated on what is now regarded by historians as "one of the best photographic documentations of Indian leaders at the turn of the century." Mr. Rinehart's deep admiration for the Native American way of life is evident in his photographs, which respected rather than exploited their culture. His soft lighting and attention to the smallest details combine to brilliantly capture the strength, dignity, and pride of his subjects. Tom Southall, former photographic curator of the University of Kansas's Spencer Art Museum, observes, "Instead of being detached, ethnographic records, the Rinehart photographs are portraits of individuals with an emphasis on strength of expression… this large body of work which was widely seen and distributed may have had an important influence in changing subsequent portrayals of Native Americans."
F. A. Rinehart continued concentrating primarily on Native American subjects for the rest of his life. He died in New Haven, Connecticut on December 17, 1928, at the age of 67. His widow Anna stepped in and continued the family business with her son-in-law, George Marsden, until she retired in 1952. Mr. Marsden continued operating the studio until his death in 1966, when it closed for good. The Frank A. Rinehart Photograph Collection consists of more than 800 glass plate negatives that presently reside at the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. More than 500 of these images have been digitized for easy patron access.
2017 Color Photographs of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, Omaha, Nebraska (URL: http://trans-mississippi.unl.edu/memorabilia/view/TMI04588.html).
1900 The Cosmopolitan, Vol. XXVII (New York: The Cosmopolitan Press), p. 730.
2012 Fascinating 19th Century Portraits of Native American Indians ~ By Photographer Frank A. Rinehart (URL:
2011 Frank A. Rinehart (URL: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73070061).
1898 The Illustrated American, Vol. XXIV (New York: Illustrated American Publishing Company), p. 263.
2013 On the Edge of Extinction by Royal Sutton (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse LLC), pp. 27, 34, 40
2005 Rosebud Sioux by Donovin Arleigh Sprague (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing), pp. 12, 32.
2016 Shelter from the Storm by Geonni Banner (URL: http://atpeacewithpink.blogspot.com/2016/08/f-rinehart.html).
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