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January 3, 2022

Extraordinary Vintage Portraits of American Women at the Turn of the 20th Century

This collection of photographs, shot by photographer James Arthur at the studio of Arthur & Philbric in Detroit, Michigan.

James Arthur was born on May 27, 1855 in Montreal. His parents were both immigrants from Scotland who were financially well off. Arthur attended prestigious private schools where it is implied that he developed the artistic eye that would influence his photographic work that followed. Following his father’s death, Arthur began working as a photographer with the well known J. and J. W. Notman studio.

He came to Detroit in 1881 and went to work with photographer J. E. Watson. In 1883 he became senior partner in the firm of Arthur & Philbric and they remained in business together for eight years. He then became sole proprietor of a firm called Arthur Studios.

Research also yielded information about Philbric. Most notable is that Philbric was a woman. Her name was Helen M. Philbric and her name appears in Michigan business directories as Arthur’s partner between 1884 and 1893.

On January 12, 1912, James Arthur died a successful and prominent photographer in his Detroit home. Ten years after his death, in a book detailing the early history of Detroit, Arthur was described as one the foremost photographers in the United States.


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