Jennie Welch – Photographer

We’re all photographers in the 21st century. In 2018, the day of cell phones and their cameras, we hardly think about it when we pull out the phone to get a photo of friends, family and places that we visit. A hundred years ago it wasn’t so easy. Back then cameras were bulky and film was inconvenient. Not all photos turned out and you didn’t know what results that you would end up with for a long time while your film was away being developed, if you didn’t develop your own. But, of course, there enthusiasts.

There were photographers that ranged from full fledged professionals to home hobbyists with their own darkrooms. Most professional photographers provided services to those who didn’t have their own photography gear. They would travel and offer their services, sometimes door to door. They would photograph anything from individual portraits to family groups. Even photos of prize possessions such as their home, pets or a brand new automobile.

At the early part of the 20th century postcards were a big deal. Many people would order a set of the photos printed as a postcard to provide a way to send a photo to a friend or a family member that lived away.

Many of these same photographers provided photo postcards to souvenir shops of local iconic landmarks frequented by tourists. Afterall it was easier to just buy some picture postcards than it was to fuss with a camera and the subsequent rolls of film.

Some of these photographers made a name for themselves that has endured through the years but some of them were a little bit obscure. Some churned out massive amounts of these photo postcards while others only made enough to sell in their own roadhouse gift shops or country stores. Billy Welch’s Hotel was no exception.

Back in 1905 the Welches post office was established at Billy’s Ranch with Billy as postmaster. Billy married Jennie Faubion, the daughter of Oregon Trail pioneers and local homesteaders, and in 1940 became the Welches postmaster. Jennie was the Welches postmaster until 1960. Jennie Welch loved antiques and enjoyed collecting daguerreotype, ambrotype and tintype examples of early photography. It’s obvious that Jennie enjoyed photography.

Most people who remember Jennie remember her primary passion being antiques, but what a lot of people don’t know is that Jennie Welch was also one of the first local photographers of her day. She took photos and most likely had someone else develop them and apply them to a postcard backs to be sold to tourists in the Welches Store and Post Office. They’re quite rare as she didn’t make volumes of them like some of the other pro photographers did and they’re hard to take notice of when you see one, but every now and then one is recognized by the keen eyed postcard collector.

Although not recognized as such, Jennie Welch should be included in the list of early 20th century female photographers. Her photos capture the history and beauty of the Welches. Without her photos many early scenes would be lost with the passing of time.

Today her photos are considered rare and collectable. Gone or the days of pictures postcards and travelling photography salesmen but thankfully their work lives on.