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  A. S. Addis, Photographer

Self-proclaimed "wanderer in photography" Alfred Shea Addis was born to Irish immigrant parents in 1832 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At age 22, he became an apprentice to daguerreotypist Thomas Joseph Short, who operated a studio in Lawrence, Kansas Territory. On March 27, 1856, their business relationship became personal when Mr. Addis married Mr. Short's daughter Sarah Hillis Short. The Addis-Short family became enmeshed in the slavery drama that was unfolding in the Kansas Territory at the time. Their pro-slavery sentiments resulted in their relocation from Lawrence to Leavenworth the following year.

Shortly after their arrival in Leavenworth, Mr. Addis and his father-in-law opened a gallery at the downtown section known as New Market Hall, located at the corner of Delaware and Third Streets. Unfortunately, however, the duo lost everything when their studio burned in a fire in June 1858. Undaunted, they opened another gallery at 56 Main Street the next year, and Mr. Addis and his wife welcomed their daughter Yda Hillis in 1860. In addition to his partnership with Mr. Short, Mr. Addis also teamed with local photographer John T. Needles to open the Needles and Addis gallery at the same location. Also in 1860, the ever-ambitious Mr. Addis joined forces with competitor Richard Stevenson, with whom he opened the Stevenson and Addis gallery at 40 Delaware Street. They advertised that their studio's "large Sky-Light" enabled the photographers to produce the finest ambrotypes, melainotypes, and photographs in Kansas. The following year, Mr. Addis was promoting his own skylight studio nearby, at 48 Delaware Street.

Mr. Addis's increased professional status led to his participation in local civic affairs. He became a partner in the Union Theater, and within a year was its sole owner. By 1862, the Addis family had grown to include son Joseph "Judd." Another partnership with photographer C. Noel lasted for about a year. For unknown reasons, Mr. Addis began spending more time away from Kansas, making his living as an itinerant photographer for the next two years, taking photographs in Salt Lake City, Utah, before moving on to Montana, where he specialized in panoramic views of Helena and Confederate Gulch (in Diamond City). After operating a gallery in Helena for a few years, Mr. Addis and his family began making frequent trips to Mexico, often living for extended periods in Ciudad Chihuahua and Mazatlan.

In the fall of 1872, the Addis clan was again on the move, this time sailing from Mazatlan to Wilmington, California, eventually settling in Los Angeles. Advertising himself as "photographist and artist," Mr. Addis opened a temporary studio in Independence, California. During the 1870s, he made some critically acclaimed stereo views of southern California, and throughout the next decade he engaged in several partnerships in California and Nevada. The family's love of Mexico led them back across the border, where Mr. Addis opened a gallery in Chihuahua in 1884 managed by photographer Frank E. Loomis. However, Mr. Loomis was promptly fired when it was learned he was stealing Mr. Addis's prints and selling them at lower prices than the gallery was advertising. Alfred S. Addis was shot and killed by bandits in Chihuahua Mexico on September 10, 1886. His wife continued operating her husband's business under the name "Mrs. A. S. Addis," and it is believed the Native American images she sold to primarily tourists were prints made from her husband's original photographs. Several of these prints are presently exhibited as part of the Mrs. A. S. Addis Collection at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

2017 Addis, Alfred S. (URL:

2017 American Doctor in Chihuahua Mexico (URL:

2017 Mrs. A. S. Addis Collection (URL:

2014 A Mexican "Bikini" Holster (URL:

2017 Mule-Drawn Mud Wagon Stagecoach with Armed Guards, Chihuahua, Mexico, Circa 1890s (URL:

2005 Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide by Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), pp. 68-69.

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2019-01-01 10:02:42

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