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Emil Scholl

Time Period: 
Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles


German born photographer Aemilian "Emil" Scholl emigrated to Philadelphia in 1873. He had been trained as a graphic artist in Germany, and advertised himself as such until 1875 in the Philadelphia directories. His transition to photography probably paralleled that of Marc Gambier in New York, finding that he had more employment performing freelance crayon work and tinting in photographic galleries than commissions for portraits from the public. Boarding at 1331 Girard Street, he maintained a home studio in his flat. In 1877 he was styling himself a photographer and occupied a studio at 112-114 N. 9th Street. His success in his field can be marked by the movement of his studio to fashionable 1632 Chestnut Street in 1882 and his new residence at 841 Broad.

Scholl's grasp of posing and lighting was expert, rivaling that of the chief photographers in the city, A.K.P. Trask and William Frank Bacon. As a graphic artist, he appreciated the importance of having suggestive backgrounds, and contracted back paintings from the foremost practitioner of the art in American, New York Lafayette W. Seavy. In 1878 he also developed relations with the Gebble lithographic company in Philadelphia supplying base images upon which to compose lithographic scenes. A second strategy for maintaining his business was to develop advantageous relationships with the managers of Philadelphia theaters. While Bacon had most of these in his pocket, Scholl did partner with the Arch Street Theater in creating publicity in the late 1870s.

In 1880 Scholl hired Elliott Houseworth of San Francisco, brother of William Houseworth, to be his camera operator. Houseworth worked as Scholl's associate for two years. When Scholl determined to move the studio to Chestnut Street, Houseworth offered to buy the 9th Street gallery and set up as an independent operator. He did so, forming Sparks Studio, a firm that lasted from 1882 until 1887, when Houseworth transmuted into an optician.

In 1886 Scholl moved his private residence to Radnor while maintaining the studio on Chestnut. Sometime in 1887 he shuttered his Philadelphia studio. He moved to Boston in 1891 and opened a gallery at 25 Winter Street under his birth name Aemilian Scholl. In the end of 1893 he joined the exodus of galleries to Beacon Street, choosing to settle at 62 Beacon. Though he didn't abandon theatrical work entirely, he refocused his business to become a society photographer.

In 1895 the competition in Boston and the allure of southern California made him accept the offer of a partnership with Warren Kleckner to establish a photographic studio in Los Angeles located at the top of the Byrne building. The partnership last a brief five years before its financial collapse. Scholl was forced to accept an operator position with the Fox and Symons Studio in St. Lake City, Utah. He chafed at the circumstances and in 1906 secured a position with photographer Struck Aune in Portland, Oregon, a position he thoroughly enjoyed until he retired in 1911.

NOTES: Scholl's circuitous trail was tracked by a systematic searching of city directories in Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, St. Lake City, and Portland, Oregon. David S. Shields/ALS