John H. Burkholder

This image of the young John H. Burkholder was from around the time his studio was located in Bellville.

MOUNT VERNON -- Once a month, we feature a pair of vintage cabinet card photographs taken in Knox County which do not have names identifying the people in the pictures. They were all taken by photographers who had studios in Mount Vernon.

Cabinet cards were a popular format for sharing photos in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

This month we look at the work of John H. Burkholder, a successful photographer who got his start in Mount Vernon before moving on. An 1896 advertisement tells us that Burkholder was the first photographer in the area to use the carbonette process, a recently introduced innovation. The article states that Burkholder is “a modern and progressive photographer.” It says that he is assisted by E. E. Shoemaker, “who has been in the business nearly 20 years.”

While this was an auspicious start for the young photographer born in Sugar Creek, by 1898, the Mount Vernon city directory shows Shoemaker in business, alone, on Public Square. Perhaps the two found that their personalities did not mesh. Whatever the case, Burkholder set up his own shop in Bellville before moving on to Mansfield, where for many years Burkholder was in business on North Main Street.

According to a Burkholder family legend, John divorced his wife Miriam by publishing a notice in the newspaper while he was out of town!

As one can imagine, he stayed gone, spending the rest of his career as a photographer in Toledo. In 1927, he had just finished taking photos of a high school glee club, when he decided to stop by a repair garage near his home to leave his car to get worked on.

As he and his wife (the second wife, which he married after leaving Mansfield) were driving slowly down the street, Burkholder suddenly slumped over with a moan. Unable to reach the brake pedal, Mrs. Burkholder jumped out of the slow-moving auto and called on a passerby to help. The passerby ran down the car just as it was going over the curb and hitting a tree. Burkholder was likely already dead from a massive heart attack when help reached him.

What is clear from Burkholder's cabinet cards from Mount Vernon is just that — the clarity. He was good. He must have had quality equipment and knew how to use it, because his are the most accomplished photos we will see in this series.

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