Header - Huntington Photographers

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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 recuperation.
     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 girl, Vivian.
     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, 1897.