The Shelby Museum Of History
Recorders of Shelby Pictorial History

Early Shelby Photographers and their Photographs

Bert Mossholder c. 1907
(Picture courtesy of the Shelby Museum)
Bert D. Mossholder (c. 1906 to c. 1918)

The April 2, 1906 edition of the Daily Globe states that " Mr. Mossholder came to this place from Ottawa last month, at which time he bought out the gallery of Wm. Schwab and commenced business. He has had very extensive experience in his line and is thoroughly qualified in every way to produce high grade work in photography. He has succeeded to a very extensive business - a business in fact which has surprised the owner and is growing every day, all of which is evidence of the fact that he understands his business and that his work is appreciated by a discriminating public."
Bert David Mossholder was born May 11, 1872 in Minerva, Stark County, Ohio. He was one of at least seven children born to David and Rebecca Wolfe Mossholder. His where abouts immediately prior to coming to Shelby are not known beyond the "Ottawa" comment in the above Daily Globe article. We can assume that this refers to the town of Ottawa in Putnam Co., Ohio. William and Isabelle McClurg Fowler and their family were living in Ottawa at the time of the 1900 Federal Census. Their daughter Laura Belle was married to Bert Mossholder on March 13, 1901.
What occured in their life for the next 5 years is not known at this time, however it must have involved photography. In 1906, Bert aquired a photo studio from William Schwab. It was located in room 6 on the second floor of the Brickley Building in Shelby,Ohio. The Mossholders were living at 61 1/2 West Main Street in 1908 and moved to Whitney Ave. by 1910 with a studio on North Broadway. By 1914 they were living at 91 North Broadway and had a studio at 14 S. Gamble Street. It appears that Bert and Laura never had any children.
The Mossholders' arrival in Shelby meshes nicely with the history and evolultion of post cards. In December 1901 the U. S. Government first allowed the use of the words "Post card" to be printed on the undivided back of privately printed cards. Previously the U. S. Government issued pre-stamped postal cards and only the government was allowed to use the word "postcard" on the back of postcards. Private printers could use the term souvenir card or mail card. Writing messages was not permitted on the address side of the card until 1907. Any correspondence had to be written on the "face" of the card.
Wm. Schwab - c. 1905 - 1906

Note that the "message" was written on the face of this William Schwab post card. It was never post marked and so was probably sent inside a letter envelope.
Mossholder - c. 1907

In March of 1907 the divided back post card allowed the message or writing to be placed in the area to the left of the dividing line on the back of the post card. These changes in the law will allow us to better date some of the post cards from this era. Most all Mossholder Shelby post cards are of the divided back variety and we would be very interested to see any that are labeled Mossholder with an undivided back.
The 1906 Daily Globe article continues" During the past few months he has turned out over 40, 000 post card photos, while his work in regular lines is satisfactory in every way". During his period photography work in Shelby, it is his photo post cards that are the most numerous examples of his work. They document everyday life that was encountered in Shelby from 1906 until the mid to late teens. He did a series on the 1913 flood, band parades, the military reunion parades, Camp Shelby Civil War Veteran encampments, formal portraits of families and individuals, as well as novelty items.
The post card format was an ideal way for families to communicate and share their celebrated events with friends and family near and far. Bert's post cards did that very well!
1913 Shelby Flood
Citizen's Band
Camp Shelby Aug. 1907
Camp Shelby Aug. 1907
Shelby Day Aug. 1912
Front Labeling
Notice the variety of ways that the title or subject of the above cards was displayed. The flood photo was labeled in hand writing at the bottom of the picture. The first Camp Shelby photo was labeled at the bottom with a printed, probably stamped method. The second Camp Shelby was stamped within a banner style label. The Shelby Day card has a hand lettered label within a roughly made banner at the bottom.
Back Labeling
All the above post cards are of the divided back variety. However Mossholder sometimes used different labeling on the back. The earlier Camp Shelby cards were labeled "Made by Mossholder's Studio Shelby, Ohio" (see below). Later cards generally were labeled as the lower example shown below. Perhaps this difference is due to the changing times or possibly it merely denotes the fact that Mossholder Studio produced the card from a supplied photo and in the second instance, the photo was both taken and produced by Mossholder.
Card backs of the Camp Shelby (early 1907 - late 1907) era.
Card backs typical of the late 1907 - 1915 era.
During the 1907 period, interest in post cards was exploding all across the country. It is estimated that the printing of photo postcards was doubling every 6 months. The U.S. Post Office estimates that over 600 million post cards were mailed in 1908. Not all of Mossholder's cards were labeled. Coupled with the fact that photgraphers from Mansfield, Shiloh, Galion and other places were taking photos of events and places in Shelby and selling them, greatly adds to the difficulty in identifying an unlabeled post card.

Studio Props
Photographers have used props in their work almost as long as photography has been in existance. As the practice grew in popularity, photographers began to offer a wide variety of backdrops and settings for use in the photo session. A study of these props can be very helpful in determining the origin of an unmarked photo.

Pictures courtesy of the Shelby Museum
Bert & Laura Mossholder c. 1910
Note the chair that Bert is sitting in. It was a familiar prop used in literally thousands of his studio portraits. Many Shelby postcards of the 1907 - 1914 era, that are not marked Mossholder, can be identified by some of the props that he commonly used.
Both pictures with the "chair" c. 1907

In addition to the booming post card business, Bert Mossholder also produced a wide range of more formal photographs. Returning to the Daily Globe 1906 article: " He does all his own enlarging, makes all his own bromides, sepias, water colors and is able to produce anything from a photo button to a life sized portrait. He has the latest thing out in a button photo - a novelty by the way which can only be appreciated by being seen. He carries the very latest things in mounts of all kinds and is able to satisfy any taste, no matter how exacting it may be. He makes a specialty of baby pictures and has a well earned reputation in this line. We might add that his equipment is first class in every way, and this fact has made it easy for him to do the highest class of work with the minimum amount of labor."
Picture courtesy of the Shelby Museum
Typical of the larger, more format Mossholder studio pictures is one that was taken of the Shelby High School Basketball team of 1913. The picture (with mounting) measures 11.75 by 9.75 inches. Note the embossed marking in the lower right corner.
Picture courtesy of the Shelby Museum
Another example of his photography, this time an outdoor subject: The winner of the Shelby Fancy Decorated Window Contest on Labor Day 1911. The A. H. Anderson Dry Goods store was located at 84 - 86 West Main Street. This picture is a rather standard size (including mounting) of 14 by 12 inches.
Note that Mossholder's marking is embossed at the lower right corner of the mounting just as in the girls' basketball photo. This embossed "B D Mossholder" was used on most of his larger mounted photographs.

Mossholder Studio c. 1913 - 1915
Picture courtesy of the Shelby Museum
In 1913 the Mossholder Studio was located at 14 South Gamble, (directly south of the Mickey Building). The above photo was taken standing in the intersection of Main and Gamble streets facing south. To the left, on the SE corner, is the H. L. Crowell Rexall Drug Store. On the right, on the SW corner in the Mickey Building, is the New York Store run by Mrs. E. W. Sanger. Further to the right is the Hart & Patrie Grocery. Looking down South Gamble (on the west side) the bell tower of the Methodist church can be seen in the distance. Just below the bell tower can be seen part of a sign that advertises the Mossholder Studio at 14 S. Gamble. Just beyond the studio is the Rice Motorcycle and Bicycle Garage.

December 1, 2014
We have just acquired a significant Mossholder photo (below). It was taken c. 1912 - 1913 and shows the Mossholder Studio at 14 S. Gamble St. It was as described and shown immediately above, however this is a front on view that gives a better idea of his working place while he was engaged in photographing many of his Shelby scenes and portraits
The sign on the right side of the building is the same as shown on the previous photo. A. C. Norton's shoe repair shop is now located at 16 South Gamble, moving into Rice's Motorcycle and Bicycle Garage (see above description).
Enlarging the photo gives us a window into the 100 year past. It appears that the ceiling light fixtures were gas or have been recently adapted to electricity. The wall fixture shows the probable presence of a gas shut off valve that may have been converted to a switch for electricity.
Further enlargement seems to confirm a gas valve on the wall fixture and clearly shows two of the prop chairs that were so well used in many Mossholder studio portraits. The foreground holds two portraits displayed in the window for potential customers. More photos are displayed on the hanging wall shelf beyond the hat or clothes pole (behind the oval portrait in the fore ground). It isn't clear if the dark area to the right is a wall hanging or perhaps the doorway to a studio in the back portion of the building. Wouldn't it be nice to know the two subjects in the foreground photos?

Evolution of a Post Card
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The next group of four cards are the reverse sides of the cards shown above. Note that post card number one is one of the earlier Mossholder cards labeled "Made by Moss holder's Studio". Post card number two is the very same image but it has been colorized and it has no reverse labeling that would attribute it to any photgrapher. Post cards numbers 3 and 4 have obviously used the same number one image however the reverse of these cards are labeled as follows:
Number 3: "Published by the Shelby Souvenir Post Card Co., Shelby, O. Made in Germany."
Number 4: "Made in Germany Published by Shelby Post Card Co., Shelby, Ohio."
It appears from this set of cards that perhaps Mr. Mossholder made arrangements to have his original post card colorized and manufactured in Germany and the cards were then attributed to The Shelby Souvenir Post Card Co. or The Shelby Post Card Co. It will be interesting to see if this pattern is followed by other post cards in the series that were attributed to these same two companies. Perhaps all were originally produced at the Mossholder Studio and there exisits a real photo card for each of the cards in the colorized series.
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After approximately 10 to 11 years in the Shelby area making 100,000s of pictures, Bert and Laura Mossholder moved from the Shelby area. In 1920 they were living in Lake Twp., Wood County, Ohio. Bert was employed in a factory as an electrician. In 1930 they have moved on to Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio and Bert is a distributor of dairy products. Bert passed away in Fremont, Ohio in January of 1948 and his wife Laura Belle followed in 1952. They are buried in the Gibsonburg West Union cemetery in Madison Twp., Sandusky County, Ohio.
Anyone having further information about Bert and Laura Mossholder please contact us at the Shelby Museum. We would be happy to hear of their marriage and life prior to coming to Shelby.

Now thanks to the kindness of Janet Mehling of the Sandusky County Chapter of The Ohio Genealogical Society we have more information re. Bert and Laura Belle Mossholder. After learning that they were buried in the West Union cemetery in Gibsonburg, we contacted the Sandusky County Chapter to see if the Sandusky or Fremont papers may have published an obituary for either Bert or Laura Belle. Janet Mehling responded immediaely to tell me that there was a copy of their obits at the RB Hayes website and she would be happy to visit the local branch and obtain a copy for us, which she did. The obits that she sent record that Bert was employed at the Case Corporation the last six years prior to his death and that he was born on March 11, 1872 in Minerva, Stark County, Ohio. On March 13, 1901 he married Laura Belle Fowler of Cairo, Ohio.
There was no mention of children in the obits and so based on census records, it can still be assumed there were none. Also there was no mention of the fact that Bert and Laura Mossholder spent at least 10 years of their life in Shelby, Ohio helping to preserve many of our memories of 100 years ago. We appreciate that fact!
Thank you Janet for your response to our email query. The internet is a terrific resource that is made so much more useful when combined with wonderfully helpful people like you. The Sandusky County Chapter "Sandusky County Kin Hunters" web address is:
Jerry Parr has also supplied additional Mossholder family information. Jerry's grandfather was Otto Erastus Mossholder who was 2nd cousin to Bert Mossholder. Bert and Otto's common ancestors were John and Johanna Stumph Mossholder. John was born in Germany c. 1750 and came to America and initially settled in Cumberland County, Pa. where he met and married Johanna Stumph c. 1770 in Cumberland County. John served in the Revolutionary War and raised a family of 12 children. They died in Brother's Valley Township, Somerset County, Pa. Many of their children moved on west into Ohio and on to Wisconsin.

If you have questions or if you would like more information, please contact :
The Shelby Museum of History
% Sally Maier
76 Raymond Ave.
Shelby, Ohio 44875
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