Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

A Brief History of the Shane-Thompson Photography Studio

Spencer Research Library’s Kansas Collection is home to the Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection, which documents a fascinating family of photographers and the images they took of the town and its residents. The studio was successful for seventy-five years, despite a tragic event that should have ended it.

Photograph of Captain James Boucher Shane

James Boucher Shane. Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500. Click image to enlarge.

James B. Shane was born in Kentucky in 1840. In the early months of the Civil War he enlisted as a sergeant in the Union 16th Regiment, Kentucky Infantry. Shane served until July 1865 despite suffering serious injuries during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864: his hearing was significantly damaged by his close proximity to cannonade and he lost a leg after a rifle ball shattered his left knee.

After the war, Shane returned to Kentucky, intending to resume his legal studies. Quickly discovering that his severe hearing loss would put him at a serious disadvantage in the courtroom, he had to abandon law as a career. Having read many accounts of westward expansion, Shane left Kentucky and headed to Kansas in 1866. He eventually settled in and around what later became Dickinson County, living there for twelve years and at various times farming, teaching school, working for the railroad as a land agent, and holding various elected positions in local government.

Photograph of James Shane's railroad photography car

James Shane’s railroad photography car. Shane-Thompson
Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 500.
Click image to enlarge.

In 1878 Shane moved his family to Lawrence, Kansas, to provide his ten children with access to better schools. The following year, Shane spent three weeks with a specialist in Chicago, receiving treatments for his worsening hearing loss. The doctor had several framed photographs of famous men displayed on his office walls, and this gave Shane the idea to have his picture taken. While visiting with the photographer, Shane took an interest in the work of photography and paid the photographer $50.00 for two weeks of lessons. By the end of this time, Shane was hooked. He gave the photographer $200.00 to purchase a photography “outfit” for him and then bought a railroad car for $100.00 to use as his gallery. He returned to Lawrence with a new profession, although unfortunately his hearing was no better.

Photograph of a train depot in Lawrence, Kansas

Train depot in Lawrence, Kansas. Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a Salvation Army group

Salvation Army group. Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500. Click image to enlarge.

Shane took his railroad car photo gallery around northeast Kansas and into Iowa. Eventually his wife wanted him stay closer to home, so he parked the car on Massachusetts Street in north Lawrence and bought a house on Louisiana Street. When his business outgrew the railroad car, Shane traded it for a gallery at 829 Massachusetts Street, where Brown’s Shoe Fit is today. It appears that business was quite good because within a few years Shane opened two other galleries in Lawrence, including one at 615 Massachusetts, which currently houses Quinton’s Bar and Deli. Shane also built a little processing shed made of corrugated iron next to the building at 1009 Massachusetts (now Louise’s Bar). He used this shop to re-touch and develop negatives.

 Photograph of a train wreck

Train wreck. Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Lawrence, Kansas, police officer Sam Jeans

Lawrence, Kansas, police officer Sam Jeans.
Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500. Click image to enlarge.

Shane was working in his processing shed on the morning of February 25, 1902. He was taking a break and standing in the entrance of the shed when two local young men out on their lunch break walked by. They said something to Shane and he believed it to be taunting. He had lately been having quite a bit of trouble with local boys taunting and bullying him. In an attempt that Shane said was meant to scare these two, he raised the revolver he kept in his pants pocket and fired, believing he would shoot over their heads. His arm caught on the bar of the awning that covered the doorway, and the bullet hit Edgar Katherman in the back. The young man fell face forward onto the sidewalk, killed instantly, his hands still in his pockets. It is unknown if Katherman had been one of the boys picking on Shane.

Photograph of Juno Belle Shane Thompson

Juno Belle Shane Thompson. Shane-Thompson
Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 500.
Click image to enlarge.

Two weeks after Shane’s arrest, his daughter Juno Belle returned to Lawrence from Virginia to operate the gallery. She was a photographer, too, and a graduate of the Illinois College of Photography. She had been employed in a studio in Virginia that, according to a write-up in the March 8, 1902, Daily World announcing her arrival back in Lawrence, was one of the leading studios in that state.

Photograph of Herbert Thompson

Herbert Thompson’s senior picture in the
KU Jayhawker yearbook, 1910. University Archives.
Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1910. Click image to enlarge.

While her father was being held without bail, Juno Belle ran the studio alone. She continued to do so after he was convicted and sent to the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing. Herbert Thompson became her business partner after their marriage sometime around 1907, and she taught him all she knew about photography. Together they ran the studio until Herbert’s death in 1929, after which Juno Belle again ran the studio alone until her death in 1953.

In prison, Shane was a model prisoner and put in charge of the photography studio. He was sentenced to hang, but the punishment was never carried out. In late 1912, at the age of nearly 72, his health began to decline. His daughters Myrtle, Vara, Neva, and Ella successfully petitioned the governor for their father’s parole. Shane was eventually pardoned in August 1913. He lived in Abilene with his brother for several months before returning to Lawrence, where he lived in the Savoy Hotel. He died there on December 28, 1913.

Photograph of the Eldridge Hotel, Lawrence, Kansas

Eldridge Hotel, Lawrence, Kansas. Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a Native American family

Native American family. Shane-Thompson Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500. Click image to enlarge.

Considering that Shane, Juno Belle, and Herbert Thompson operated a photography business in Lawrence for seventy-five years, and given the number of photographs and negatives in the current collection, it is believed that the Library does not have all of the photos ever taken by the studio. The collection contains photographs of Lawrence businesses, schools, events, activities, portraits and groups made by Capt. Shane, but the bulk of the collection consists of portrait photography by Juno Belle and Herbert between 1903 and 1923.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

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8 Responses to “A Brief History of the Shane-Thompson Photography Studio”

Are the names of the photographs taken by Thompson Photography listed? I have a picture with that logo taken in probably the early 20s and I do not know who these people are. Can you help?

Most of the photos in the Shane-Thompson Collection are glass plate negatives, and only a small percentage of them have been printed. The prints that have been identified with names are listed in the inventory (http://etext.ku.edu/view?docId=ksrlead/ksrl.kc.shanejamesb.xml). As you can see, there are very few names in the inventory, and most people are unidentified. The glass plate negatives that have not been printed are still in their original boxes. Some of the boxes have last names written on the side, but most do not. We also have some studio logs, but again, it is very difficult to match up the names with the glass plates.

Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services

I have a Picture Postcard of my grandfather Clarence Mohler Circa 1924 He was born in 1922 and I was told he was 2 in the photo. it is embossed in the corner Thompson Lawrence Kansas. Would this be associated with this site?

Thank you for your comment. It is likely that the picture postcard of your grandfather was created at the Shane-Thompson studio in Lawrence, Kansas. There is a great blog post on our site about the fascinating history of the studio and the photographers. The blog post provides a link to the finding aid for the Shane-Thompson photograph collection at Spencer Research Library. The link to the post is shown below.
https://blogs.lib.ku.edu/spencer/a-brief-history-of-the-shane-thompson-photography-studio/

Stacey Wiens, Reference Specialist

Thank you so much for the blog on James Boucher Shane. I’ve researched his wife’s (Missouri Quinlan Shane) family, as the Quinlans of Bracken, KY, are my ancestors. J.B. Shane has a fascinating and tragic life story. The photographs are absolutely stunning.

We are glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for your interest in the Spencer Research Library blog! There are a couple of photographs (a tintype and a cabinet card) identified as Missouri Lee Quinlan Shane in the Shane-Thompson Papers in the holdings of the library. The call number for the collection RH PH 500 Photographs, circa 1870-1923, Box 2, Folders 5 and 6.

Stacey Wiens, Public Services

I have a J.B. Shane car photo in my Family collection. I believe it is my great-great Grandmother Gesche Margarete Pageler.. Is there any way you can aid in confirming this?
By her clothing and being elderly I guess it to be from the 1880’s or 1890’s.She arrived in the US in 1874 and passed in 1897.
Any help or advise is greatly appreciated.

Hi, Melody. Unfortunately, we do not have studio records for the time period you need. I looked at Ancestry.com, and I believe I found your great-great grandmother. It looks like, perhaps, she did not live in the city, but out in a rural area, which may explain why I didn’t find her in any city directories. I was hoping to confirm her residence in Lawrence. The 1920 federal census indicates that she was living with her daughter, so she would be listed under her son-in-law’s name in the directory, which could be another reason why I cannot find her. The federal census also indicates that she submitted papers for naturalization. We have those records for Douglas County, but I did not find her name in them. Perhaps she submitted them in another county?

Kathy Lafferty, Copy Services Manager

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