Arriving in Tucson seven years before the railroad, frontier photographer Henry Buehman captured the rapidly vanishing frontier on film. His son Albert Buehman continued the family tradition and gained international renown. Grandson Remick rounded out an 80-year family legacy.
Henry arrived in Tucson in July 1873. He was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1851 and became a photographer’s apprentice. At 17 he sailed for America. After two years in Visalia, Calif., Henry became a traveling photographer, hauling his glass plates and chemicals over the rutted wagon roads of California, Utah and Nevada.
Henry came to Tucson via the Butterfield Stage route, began working at Rodrigo’s photography gallery, and soon bought him out. Henry’s trademarks were originality and superior quality. In 1881, townsfolk said he was foolish for building a two-story building on Congress Street between Church and Stone. They felt the edge-of-town location was susceptible to Apache raids.
Although he often traveled through Apache country, hauling explosive chemicals by wagon was even more dangerous. His camera of choice was the 5″ x 7″, and he gained national attention advertising 10,000 photographs of Arizona Indians for sale at the 1893 Chicago World’s
Henry Buehman was Tucson’s mayor from 1895 to 1899. A congregational deacon, he decried Tucson’s moral depravity. “Even the dead sat for Henry Buehman” when he photographed stage robber Bill Brazelton’s dead body propped up against the jailhouse wall as a warning to would-be outlaws.
Following his passion, Henry took long trips to capture Arizona’s beauty. He made a special study of Arizona Indians and photographed historic figures such as Gen. Nelson Miles and John C. Frémont. Henry Buehman married schoolteacher Estelle Morehouse and they had two sons, Willis and Albert. Henry died on Dec. 19, 1912.
Albert was born in Tucson in 1886. He earned a degree in mining engineering went to work in Metcalf, Ariz. When Henry died, Albert tried to sell the studio, but hung onto it after three attempts to sell it fell through.
Albert capitalized on the magazine advertising and tourism boom, adding commercial photography to the studio’s economic mainstay, portraits. In 1926, Albert Buehman was invited to attend a six-week course at the Daguerre Memorial School of Photography, sponsored by the Photographers Association of America. His Arizona cowboy photographs won him highest honors. Albert co-founded the Photographers Association of Arizona in 1927, and became president of the Photographers Association of America in 1939.
Albert married Ella Doyle in 1912, and she worked alongside him in the studio. Their four children learned the trade and worked after school delivering photographs and drumming up business.
He served in the Arizona legislature and ran for Congress in 1948. He was elected president of the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society in 1940.
Albert warned his children about the undependability of the business, but son Remick took over the studio in 1946 anyway. Born in 1916, Remick joined the Marine Corps in 1942. He operated a photo lab in Saipan from 1942-46 and earned medals for flights over the Pacific.
Remick added aerial photography to the studio’s offerings, capturing Tucson’s postwar boom from the air. Remick also attended the Daguerre School. Albert retired in 1949, became executive manager of the Photographers Association of America, and an associate of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.
The Buehmans sold the studio in 1952, ending 79 years of family photography in Tucson. Remick moved to California, and Albert Buehman died in 1967.
The Arizona Historical Society’s Buehman photographic collection consists of more than 250,000 glass-plate and nitrate negatives. It is one of the largest and finest photographic collections in the Southwest.
More than 100 of these photographs can be purchased in the book, “The Buehman Studio: Tucson in Focus,” published by the Arizona Historical Society in 1995. The book is available at the Arizona History Museum, (520) 628-5774.
- Jim Turner, Arizona Historical Society. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society.