Cal Calvert and His Airplane
During the early days of photography, before it was common for the average person to own a camera, a studio photography session with a group of friends or the family was a popular indulgence, and in many cases a once in a lifetime luxury. In 1910 the consumer camera had only been available for about ten years.
At the time being a photographer could be quite lucrative but there was some stiff competition for business. Photographers had to be creative to come up with ways to make money. Rarely did one sit in his studio and wait for people to line up for portraits. Many photographers would travel to scenic locations to photograph local scenery to apply to postcards made available to tourists. Some would knock on doors of farms and homes in rural areas asking if the family would like to have their photo taken as a means to supplement their incomes. Many folks took advantage of these offers and would order several copies of the photos and would request postcards to be sent to friends and family far away.
At the time postcards were a very popular way to communicate. Phones weren’t in every home so a quick phone call was out of the question in many cases. Automobiles were primitive and typically owned by the more affluent and roads were still more primitive so hopping in the car for a quick trip wasn’t practical. Letters were saved for more lengthy and formal communication, but postcards were cheap, quick and easy way to send a quick greeting via mail. Having a photo of yourself with family or friends, the homestead or even the family horse on front of a postcard was a bonus.
There was one photographer from Portland Oregon who was especially creative in how he would entice customers to pose for their portraits at his studio. His name was Charles “Cal” Calvert and he specialized in fast postcard photos. He advertised himself as “Cal Calvert the 10 Minute Post Card Man”. While it was common for photographers to have a decorated backdrop for their clients to pose in front of, in Portland most all had one with a view of the city with Mount Hood in the distance, Cal Calvert went the extra mile with his fanciful, if not airworthy rendition of a aeroplane with cockpits for his clients to sit inside of while being portrayed as flying effortlessly over the city of Portland… complete with Mount hood on the skyline.
Cal Calvert had several backdrops that folks could choose from, probably the most popular was a conservative wood and ivy arbor but by far the most whimsical was the aeroplane in which you hardly saw a serious face, which was more typical of the era on more formal photos.
I’ve included an assortment of photo postcards that I’ve acquired through time. The best part to me are the faces of the people in the photos. I’ve also included several other photos that have backdrops from other unidentified Portland photographers from that era that include Mount Hood, just because I love Mount Hood. Most include either an airplane or a car, both symbols of status and owned only by a few.