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Schnizlein’s legacy: Visual of what Hannibal looked like a century ago

This historic photo, identified by Steve Chou as taken by Anna Schnizlein, shows a steam engine crossing at the Minnow Branch west of the downtown terminal in Hannibal, Mo. CONTRIBUTED BY ARCHIE HAYDEN


Hannibal, Mo., was still recovering from the dark days of the war between the states when Johanna Margareta Schnizlein was born in 1869. The fourth of the children born to soapmaker Johann Leonhard and Mary Louise Barbara Killian Schnizlein, the daughter who would become known as Anna would leave a legacy that was quite atypical for a woman of her generation: Photographic images of her environment.

Anna took photos with an 1899 Kodak No. 4 Bullet Special that took glass plates, which is now in the possession of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. Anna took a number of photographs of people her era, and associated landscapes. Her camera and some glass slide negatives were given to the Twain museum by her grand nephew, Norman Schnizlein. In addition, Steve Chou is in possession of a number of prints made from her glass negatives.

She is perhaps best known for the ingenuity shown in 1902, during Sam Clemen’s last visit to Hannibal. While Herbert Tomlinson was preparing for the official portrait of Clemens in front of his boyhood home, Schnizlein, who was in her early 30s at the time, took a picture of Tomlinson setting up his camera for the portrait, with Clemens chatting in the background.

For most of her life, Anna Schnizlein lived with her family on the south side of Market Street, just to the east of the Minnow Creek Bridge. Their home was inside of the city limits from the 1870s on, and for a long period of time was the second to last house inside those limits.

To be expected, a number of her photos encompass the area of town, which was known as “the West End.”

Railroads were prominent in that area, and several of her known photos focus on trains, covered bridges and railroad workers. There are also photos of nearby Bear Creek, with children and adults in the water, and even a baptism. There are early photos of Market Street, which was still a dirt road.

She is one of several early photographers who took photos of the local character known as “Old Hannibal,” a man of color named Ed Butler, who was without legs. He caned chairs for a living and maneuvered through town with a makeshift cart pulled by mules.

The river and railroad bridges are prominent in Chou’s Schnizlein photo collection, as are musicians who performed in Central Park.

A heart-wrenching photo of an angelic tombstone in Mt. Olivet Cemetery represents the death of Sarah E. Richardson, 12, who died in 1902. She was the daughter of E.A. and Mark Robards Richardson.

Family tree

Anna Schnizlein was the fourth of five children born to Johann L. Schnizlein (1829-1893) and Maria Louise B. Killian (1841-1927):

George W. Schnizlein 1863-1905

Marianna Schnizlein 1864-1864

John Andrew Schnizlein 1867-1924

Johanna Margareta Schnizlein 1869-1939

Elizabeth Schnizlein 1871-


The 1920 census lists Anna’s profession as a “Finisher Kodak Views.”

The 1922 Hannibal city directory identifies Anna as a “Kodak Finisher.”

The 1927 directory lists that she is a photographer.

In 1930, the census identified her occupation as “photo finishing.”

When she died in 1939, her death certificate noted that she was a retired photographer.

Note: Anna Schnizlein is the granddaughter of family patriarch George M. Killian, on whose property a house still stands at 908 Mark Twain Avenue. The stone foundation and still-sturdy structure serves as a testament to his strong German work ethic and core family values passed along by descendants of the Killians, Schnizleins and Johanns.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Her collective works can be found at

This is an advertisement from the 1885 Hannibal City Directory promoting the soap manufactory of Anna Schnizlein’s father, Johann Leonhard Schnizlein. Accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website.

This photo, taken by Anna Schnitzlein, shows what is believed to be oil drilling operations on Dr. Fred Vernette’s property circa 1902. The creek in the foreground would have been Minnow Creek, long before the construction of U.S. 61. Near the center of the photo can be seen a triangular oil drilling rig. On the horizon of the hill is the outline of the Vernette home, which was also known as Elmwood Sanatorium. The hillside toward the right of the photo would be where the Fair Oaks Subdivision now exists. The eastern side of the hillside was later carved out for the construction of U.S. 61. Dr. Vernette owned a 5 acre-tract of ground fronting James Road. The house still stands. PHOTO / STEVE CHOU COLLECTION

Ed Butler is shown in the familiar cart in which he maneuvered about Hannibal at the turn of the 20th Century. Kate Ray Kuhn identified Butler, in her 1963 history book, as one of the slaves from Kentucky brought to Missouri circa 1850 by “Dr. Hampton,” presumably Dr. J.A. Hampton, father of Dorcas Hampton, “The Notorious Madam Shaw.” Photo credited to Anna Schnizlein. Steve Chou collection.

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