H.C. Hansen: Celebrating newspaper photography
An alarm was sounded at 11:30 p.m. Sunday, January 12, 1930, signaling the devastating fire in the 100 block of North Main Street in Hannibal. At left is the Famous store, and next door to the right, at 105 N. Main Street, was the Bootery shoe store. On the second floor, above the Bootery, was Hans C. Hansen’s photo studio. By looking closely between the Famous and the Bootery, there is a doorway which led upstairs to the photo studio. There appear to be photo images on display in this doorway. STEVE CHOU COLLECTION
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
The March 28, 1925 edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post was in actuality a celebration of photography. Not action photography, as we are today accustomed to, but rather studio photography. The early days, in a sense, of adding still photos to a newspaper story or advertisement in order to increase visual appeal and comprehension.
The newspaper, when it celebrated its “new home” in a reconstructed two-story brick building at 300 Broadway, boasted in a special edition, putting into use the newspaper’s new Goss perfecting press. located in the building’s basement.
This equipment update, plus the expertise of an experienced photographer new to Hannibal, provided the resources for the production of this enhanced newspaper experience.
That man was 60-year-old, German born, Hans C. Hansen. (Photo at right)
J.B. Jeffries was the newspaper’s editor and publisher at the time, and he was proud of the $60,000 remodel and expansion of the newspaper’s home. He commissioned Hansen to supply photos for a special edition, published March 28, 1925, and in that edition touted the work of the German-born photo engraver.
“Practically every ‘cut’ used in this issue of the Courier-Post was taken by the Hansen Studio,” the newspaper reported. Included in this edition were:
An illuminated night view of the display window of “The Bootery” at 105 N. Main St., and of its primaries, George G. Stoltz and John L. Werre. (Hansen’s studio was on the second floor of this building.)
An exterior photo of Milton Strong Dry Goods company, 102 N. Main St.
An interior and exterior view of the J.J. Bowles Clothing Company, 121 N. Main St., under the management of C.F. Coyne.
And a large advertisement featuring the exterior of the Sonneberg’s building on the southeast corner of Main and Center, where the Mark Twain Museum is now located.
Born in Germany in October 1865, Hans Carl Hansen was the son of Ludwig and Elizabeth Gunerson Hansen. He began studying photography at the age of 14, and came to the United States in 1892, when he was about 27.
He worked for some of the leading photography studios in Baltimore, Md., and Philadelphia, (according to a profile published in the newspaper’s special edition, on March 28, 1925) before moving to St. Louis.
In St. Louis:
In 1901, H.C. Hansen was working at the Murrillo Studio, located at 1314 Olive St.
1915-19 he was proprietor of the Raphael Studio, 4117 Manchester.
He took for his wife Emily Beave of Knob Lick, Mo., in November 1896. She was the daughter of Peter and Lucinda Tansig Beave. A year after their marriage, a son, Peter C. Hansen, was born.
Emily Hansen died April 12, 1924, at the age of 60.
Soon thereafter, Hans C. Hansen purchased the existing Frazer (Tomlinson) Studio at 105 N. Main, Hannibal, and subsequently made Hannibal his home.
On March 25, 1925, he proudly displayed in his window a group photo of all the Courier-Post employees, and photos of the exterior of the newspaper’s newly remodeled office building.
For the next five years, Hans C. Hansen both lived at worked at 205A N. Main St. He advertised his business in the newspapers of Palmyra and New London, and apparently gained a fair share of the photography business.
But all of that changed when a fire alarm sounded at 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12, 1930.
The Palmyra Spectator reported the fire seemed to originate at the rear of the Hansen Studio, which was still located at 105A N. Main Street.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, smoke had already filled the second floor of The Famous, which was next door to the south.
The estimate at the time was that fire damage would total a half million dollars. The contents of the Hansen studio, including presumably his photo plates and negatives, and The Bootery, a shoe store located on the first floor of the same building, were a total loss.
Three people were injured:
Harry Lower, night captain for the Hannibal Police Department, was nearly overcome by the flames when he entered 105 N. Main, in search of Mr. Hansen. It was later learned that Mr. Hansen was out of town at the time of the fire.
Fire Captain H. Clancey mashed three fingers while raising a ladder against the Famous building, and firefighter Otto Schulten suffered injuries to his face when he slipped and fell on the ice.
While the Bootery reopened in the vacant building at 207 N. Main, Hansen’s business presence on Main Street ended.
In 1939, Mr. Hansen and his former assistant, Bess Yates, operated a studio at 123 N. Seventh.
Ultimately, Mr. Hansen returned to St. Louis, where he took up residence at a shelter operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor, 3225 N. Florissant. He died in March 1945, and was buried at Calvary Cemetery.
Hans C. Hansen’s son, Peter C. Hansen, was born in 1897, and followed in his father’s footsteps. First the younger Mr. Hansen worked as a photographer in St. Louis, and ultimately took a job in the engraving department of the St. Louis Post Dispatch where he worked for 43 years, retiring in 1966. Peter Hansen was a member of the Photo Engravers Union Local 10, and died in 1984, at the age of 86.
Peter’s son, Louis P. Hansen, also followed the family tradition, working as a lithographer at the Post Dispatch. He retired as a photoengraver for the newspaper, and died just two years after his father. Louis Hansen died in July 1986, at the age of 60.
The illuminated window of “The Bootery,” 105 N. Main, Hannibal, was among the businesses featured in the March 28, 1925 edition of the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post. Hans C. Hansen’s photo studio was located on the second floor of this building.
Fire Captain Harvey Clancey was injured fighting a fire in the 100 block of North Main Street, Hannibal, which started on Jan. 12, 1930.
Firefighter Otto Schulten slipped on ice while fighting a fire in the 100 block of North Main Street, Hannibal, which started on Jan. 12, 1930.
J.B. Jeffries was publisher and editor of the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post in March 1925, when the newspaper published a special edition, utilizing photo “cuts” by Hans C. Hansen.
George G. Stoltz was co-owner of the Hannibal Bootery, 105 N. Main, during the era of 1925-1930.
John J. Werre was was co-owner of the Hannibal Bootery, 105 N. Main, during the era of 1925-1930.
This image of the interior of J.J. Bowles Clothing Company, which was located at 119-121 N. Main Street in 1925. Most of the “cuts’ for the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post’s March 28, 1925 special edition were made by Hannibal photo engraver Hans C. Hansen.
This image of the exterior of J.J. Bowles Clothing Company, which was located at 119-121 N. Main Street in 1925. Most of the “cuts’ for the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post’s March 28, 1925 special edition were made by Hannibal photo engraver Hans C. Hansen.
Milton Strong Dry Goods Store, 102 N. Main Street, Hannibal, Mo., in March 1925. Most of the “cuts’ for the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post’s March 28, 1925 special edition were made by Hannibal photo engraver Hans C. Hansen.
A portion of the large Sonnenberg advertisement in the March 28, 1925 edition of the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post.
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. Books available on Amazon.com by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.email@example.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com