COKATO’S OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS
Over the years, we have dedicated a good amount of time and space in this newsletter noting the name Gust Akerlund. Make no doubt, Mr. Akerlund certainly deserves the praise. He took photos in the Cokato for almost half-a-century, and left behind a legacy of not just those images (14,000+), but his intact studio with its furnishings and equipment. But Mr. Akerlund was not the only person to capture the lives and times of Cokato’s people on film. This article intends to highlight some of those who preceded Akerlund.
J. E. STADON
Little is know about Mr. Stadon. The 1885 census does not list him as a resident of Cokato, so when he arrived in town is not certain. Entries in the early Cokato newspapers seem to indicate he was an itinerant photographer, stationing himself in one town for a certain period of time. An advance person in each town took appointments prior to arrival. The duration of each stay varied; six to eight weeks was not uncommon.
Stadon sold his interest to J. W. Larson, a Cokato hardware store owner, in March 1889. But that arrangement must have been short-lived. The April 1890 editions of the Observer noted that Stadon was again operating his studio. No indication is given as to why Larson stopped taking photographs. The museum has only one photo bearing his name.
The Cokato Commoner of March 28, 1893 noted the sale of Stadon’s studio to E. E. Ometh, and his departure to Indiana.
E. E. OMETH
The longest operating studio in nineteenth-century Cokato, Elbert. E. Ometh ran his business from April 1893 to October 1898. At the same time, he ran a studio in Waverly.
A native of Norway, Ometh arrived in the United States with his family in 1869, settling in Cumberland, Wisconsin. After learning the photography trade there, he removed to Rush City (Chisago County) in 1890, and came to Cokato via the purchase of Stadon’s studio in 1893.
By all accounts, Ometh was well-liked and respected. An 1894 biographical sketch stated “his steadily increasing patronage proves the merit and appreciation of his work.” Ometh’s marriage to Alice Erickson of Dassel, in December 1897, prompted the Enterprise to describe him as “one of the most popular men of the town...”
Ometh left Cokato in late October 1898. He moved to Sparta, Wisconsin—near La Crosse—to open a soda-water business. The Enterprise noted how the community was “sorry to loose (sic) a man so proficient in the picture business as Mr. Ometh...”
By the time Reinhold Tynelius arrived in 1898, Cokato village had grown dramatically from its rather spartan beginnings. A Swedish immigrant who had only been in the United States since 1893, Tynelius took to his business with great vigor. The 1900 federal census listed him as a bachelor, and he had a “lodger,” seventeen year-old Swedish immigrant Henry Mattson, sharing his residence. Tynelius left Cokato in May 1901, to open a studio in Braham
Sadly, Tynelius’s life was cut short in a tragic accident in July 1902. While in St. Paul to purchase supplies at the Zimmerman Brothers wholesale house, Tynelius fell down an open elevator shaft, fracturing his skull. He died shortly afterward at the age of forty-four, and is buried in Braham.
It is not clear if Hanson directly purchased the Tynelius studio. An item in the April 18, 1901 Enterprise noted that Hanson was “reconstructing the photograph gallery…on Broadway.”
Hanson’s business ledger shows his first photos, taken on May 14, were of a confirmation class from St. Sigfried’s Episcopal Church in Cokato, and one of their rector, Rev. A. J. Almfeldt. That same ledger shows his last photo taken on November 5, 1902, of Miss A. Forsman, from Lamson.
Hanson sold his photography interest to Gust Akerlund in early December 1902.
Developing an accurate timeline for these photographers had its obstacles. These included few, if any, newspaper articles and the time between census enumerations. Other photographers who operated in Cokato, not mentioned in this article, included: E. J. Almquist, J. W Larson, M. W. Peterson, and John Runions. Specific dates for Almquist, Runions, and Peterson are not known.
The museum gets several requests during the year for dates of photos taken at these studios. Hopefully, this article will assist in that effort. If you have a question regarding Cokato's photographers, please contact the museum.
©2005, Cokato Historical Society