Click on above images to view exhibit of cabinet cards
WILLIAM H. ERSKINE, the son of Harvey Erskine
and Mary Jane Kreshner was born in Monroe
County, West Virginia, on August 26, 1864. He
was largely self-taught and commenced his
photographic career in 1887 at the age of
twenty-three, working for three years with Mr.
Fell in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1890 he
moved to St. Louis, where he worked in the
studio of F. W. Guerin. After a year in St.
Louis, he moved to Chicago where he worked for
Messrs. Stein & Rosch. The next year Mr. Guerin
persuaded him to returned to St. Louis. During
these years he honored his skills, becoming a
master at the art of retouching glass plate
negatives, for which he became quite renowned.
While in St. Louis he suffered a devastating
accident that left him largely a cripple. He
returned to Charleston for rest and
Fortunately his accident did not preclude his
continuing to work as a photographer. In 1892 Alfred T.
Proctor hired him in his Charleston
studio. In 1893 he received a special diploma
for artistic retouching at the Chicago World’s
Fair. The same year Wilson’s Photographic
Magazine, in its October 1893 issue,
included an article about his retouching
methods, which was illustrated with several
prints depicting his skilled work. On June
4,1894, he married Cora Fagley in Charleston.
The couple had two children: a son, Fabin, and a
Within a few years, before 1897, he moved to
Huntington and rejoined Proctor and Elmer B.
Tully in business as Erskine, Proctor and Tully.
Within a short time (1897) he left and opened
his own photographic studio at the "Old Stand"
on the corner of Third Avenue and Eleventh
Street. The Photo Beacon for August 1898
indicated that he had submitted a photograph in
the Annual Convention of the Photographers’
Association of America, at Lake Chautauqua, New
York, in July1898. The next year he was awarded
a medal for a photograph at the same conference,
held in New York City. He remained in Huntington
until at least until 1903, but by 1910 he had
left the city.
Upon leaving Huntington, he relocated his
studio in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he lived
the rest of his life. He and his wife, Cora,
were divorced in 1912, and he married Irene
Kremp on June 3, 1913; they had no children.
He continued to be successful photographer in
Battle Creek. The Association News in its
February 1917 issue contained an article he
wrote about his methods to get customers, using
tickets (or coupons), special pricing, and using
an attractive girl to make house-to-house calls,
in which she showed examples of his work to
well-off households and left his business card.
All had proved successful in attracting
customers. He died on January 28, 1943, at the
age of 78.
Sources: Robert Hurd Jameson, The Jameson
and Related Families. Charleston, W. Va.:
Jalampa Publications, 1983; "An Ingenious
Retoucher and Etcher–W. H. Erskine," Wilson’s
Photographic Magazine, 30 (October 1893):
441-442; Photo Beacon, 10 (August 1898):
186; W. H. Erskine, "Advertising," The
Association News, 4 (February 1917): 47.
Graphics: William H. Erskine
portrait from Wilson’s Photographic Magazine,
30 (October 1893): 441; Erskine advertisement
from Huntington Advertiser, June 15,