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October 16, 2021

Vintage Photos of ‘the Worlds of Bertha Shambaugh’ at 219 N Clinton Street, Iowa City

Bertha Maude Horack Shambaugh was born in 1871 to Czech-born immigrants Frank and Katherine Horack. The family moved to Iowa City in 1880, when she was nine. In 1888, at the age of 17, she received a camera, becoming a very competent photographer by combining her technical skill in large-format, dry plate photography with a keen aesthetic sensibility.

Bertha took pride in her photography, as evidenced by her mounting, matting and framing of her images. Her most famous photographs document the daily life in the Amana Colonies, the majority taken in 1890-91.

The following year, Bertha met Benjamin Shambaugh, the first superintendent of the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) and an early champion of the importance of local history, marrying him in 1897. Once married, she didn’t use her camera much, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t have a hand in the photographs taken of her home. She also played an important role at SHSI, editing manuscripts, designing book covers, and collecting manuscripts and objects for the society.

These vintage photos from The State Historical Society of Iowa that show exterior and interior of Bertha Shambaugh’s house at 219 N Clinton Street, Iowa City in the late 19th and early 20th century.

A view of the Horack family's sitting room, which contains numerous hallmarks of Victorian interior decorating. An easel displays a print of a peasant woman and child, circa 1887-1889

A view of the facade of the Horack home, possibly in early spring or late fall, circa 1887-1889

A view of the Horack family's parlor with wicker chair, circa 1887-1889

Horack house, dining area with a dining table and buffet to the right, circa 1887-1889

A view of the parlor with the Splendid stove to the right and the roll top desk to the left. In the center is an upholstered rocking chair, circa 1888-1889

A view of the sitting room with a lounging sofa under the shelf, a crochet blanket covers the sofa. To the left, in front of the door, is a rocking chair with cane back and seat, circa 1888-1889

Parlor with portrait of Bertha, circa 1888-1889

Horack parlor with piano violin and screen, summer 1889

Katherine Horack, pen in hand, seems to be writing at a desk in the sitting room, circa 1890s

Horack parlor with rocking chair and mirror, circa 1892-1900

Horack parlor with screen and wicker rocking chair, circa 1892-1900

With the camera stationed in the front room, Coover has photographed the hallway of the Shambaugh house, the focus being its built-in seat covered with pillows, circa 1892

Katherine Horack and her son, H. Claude Horack, sit on the back steps of their home, cleaning ducks that were presumably caught by H. Claude, circa 1895-1897

Katherine Horack, sitting in a rocking chair in her garden, creating a drawn work tablecloth for her daughter, Bertha, circa 1895-1897

Bust portrait of Bertha Shambaugh, 1897

Katherine Horack knits in the Horack family parlor, while Bertha Shambaugh, her daughter, appears to be copying or taking notes from a book on her lap, circa 1897-1905

The Shambaugh House under construction, circa 1901

An exterior view of the Shambaugh House. According to the text written in the bottom right corner of the image, this is an "early photograph" of the home, circa 1901-1905

Bertha, who sits on the porch railing, looking at the camera. Ferns and other potted plants line the porch rails, and vines grow along the corner of the house and on the porch colonnettes, circa 1901-1905

A view of the library, taken by L. G. Coover in 1904. Bertha has made note of two in particula "Armchair--one of first pieces--survives. Oak chair with Seal (pride of campus) survives."

Shambaugh house, looking into the front room from the hallway. Written in pencil in the bottom right corner is "Coover 1904," and at the bottom of the image, "wedding chair with spindles"

Shambaugh house. A view of the library, with a view of the dining room beyond, 1904

Bertha took this image during the warmer months, as a good portion of the Shambaugh House is partially hidden by trees, circa 1905-1910

A view of the library mantle with Greek key pattern and the fireplace. Flanking each side are bookcases, and in front of them, are a rocking chair on the left and an armchair on the right, circa 1910-1920

Bertha Shambaugh wears a jacket and skirt with a floral design. Her hat has a matching decorative band, and she holds glasses, circa 1924


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