In the annals of early photography in America, one name keeps appearing in photographic magazines, articles and news items about photography — Felix Addison Raymer.
He was born on April 17, 1870, in Nashville, Tennessee, to Thomas Langford Raymer and Artemesia Patterson Raymer. Thomas and Artemesia were married on Oct. 11, 1848, in Davidson County, Tennessee. Felix had four siblings: Thomas L., James Henry, Alonzo Frederick and Jessie Byrd, all born in Nashville. Felix married Norma Ann Woosley on Nov. 2, 1892, in Obion, Tennessee. They had three children: Minnette (1893-1920), Gladys (1925-1957), and Felix Raymer Jr. (1899-1958).
Norma Ann Woosley’s family history indicated she was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, as the daughter of Joseph B. Woosley and Flavilla Jane Schoeffner Woosley. She was the granddaughter of Joel Schoeffner and Amelia Schoeffner (his first wife). Norma was also the great-granddaughter of Martin Schoeffner and Catherine Cook (1762-1823). Martin Schoeffner (1758-1838) enlisted in the Continental Army at Guilford Court House in the North Carolina cavalry under Greene, Steuben, and DeKalb. He was born in Germany and died in Bedford County, Tennessee.
Felix learned the art of photography as a photography assistant at J.S. Patterson’s photo studio in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1885. James Speer Patterson was born in December 1838 in Davidson County, Tennessee, to Lewis W. Patterson and Artemesia Colly Patterson. Felix was James’ nephew. Raymer eventually became a partner in that business. James was listed in the 1860 census as an artist and photographer. He was also listed in the 1859 Nashville City directory as an ambrotypist with the Hughes Gallery. Patterson was also associated with the Eureka Gallery as an artist in 1860. James S. Patterson died Nov. 10, 1913, in Nashville, Tennessee, of heart-related problems.
Felix Raymer worked at the Illinois College of Photography in Effingham, Illinois, starting in 1898. He was listed as a demonstrator of lighting, posing, composition and flash light on the Austin College campus, also in Effingham, 1905-1906. Felix was also a pioneer in three-color photography using colored backdrops and assorted chemicals in photo development. In 1900, Felix moved his family to St. Louis, Missouri, to take a position at Guerin College of Photography.
Fitz W. Guerin was a Civil War Medal of Honor winner who worked for several local established photographers in the St. Louis area to learn the photography trade. In 1876, Guerin opened his own studio. When he won an award at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair, he became an overnight success. His expertise in photography earned him a good reputation for which he received international recognition for his portraits. He served several times as the president of the National Photographic Society. Pioneer women photographers Emme and Mayme Gerhard studied under him for three years. When Fitz retired in January 1903, Guerin sold his photographic studio to them. Guerin died of a heart attack on July 11, 1903.
Raymer returned from Missouri to Effingham in 1903 to finish his time at the Illinois College of Photography in 1913. Graduates of the college were expected to “go out fully equipped and the fact that they are alumni of the Illinois College of Photography is a guarantee that they are artists in their lines. A diploma from this institution assures them the most remunerative positions in the best studios in the country.”
In 1902, Felix wrote a book famous in photography circles titled "Photo Lighting." It contained 24 chapters dealing with all facets of lighting to achieve the best quality photos for amateur and professional photographers. He was a proponent of skylights in photography studios for natural light. Felix described single and double slants as well as skylight construction. This book made him in demand for lecturing many places in the United States about the aspects of lighting and photography. For some amateur and professional photographers, he stated window photography was acceptable because skylight construction was expensive.
Raymer wrote an article in 1909 for The Professional and Amateur Photographer: A Journal of Practical Photography magazine titled "The Jupiter Lamp." The lamp was a 36-inch concave, disc-shaped pattern invention with eight electric 50-watt incandescent light bulbs around the perimeter and two bulbs in the center. The lamp could be used with time or flash exposures. It was on a tripod and could be tilted up or down. His invention was supposed to take the place of the expensive skylights which he advocated and cost $250 new. This lighting device aided the photographers with consistent exposure time using artificial light. Raymer stretched blue cheese cloth over the entire frame to filter out yellow incandescent light. After the publication of his book, "The Invention of the Jupiter Lamp," and other articles on photography in various magazines, Felix was in even higher demand nationwide for lectures about the fine art of photography.
Raymer ended his tenure at the ICP in 1913 and moved his family to Dallas, Texas, for a job as an operator with the Studio de Luxe, Browne and Browne proprietors. That position was one of considerable importance as the studio was one of the largest, best equipped, and most expensively furnished photographic studios in the South and Southwest.
Felix Addison Raymer died on Jan. 5, 1924, in Houston, Texas, at age 53. A copy of his death certificate indicates he died of edema of the lungs and bronchial asthma caused by fatty degeneration of the heart. His wife, Norma, died just two years later. They are buried in Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Austin, Texas.
Felix helped train hundreds of students who attended the ICP. Those graduates employed his techniques worldwide and earned good wages for their efforts. Some of the 1920s graduates were making $50 per week as photographers. That was the equivalent of $631 in today’s dollars.
For questions or comments, email Phil Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 217-342-6280.
Illinois College of Photography booklets and histories
Photo Lighting by Felix Raymer, 1902
The American Photographer, Vo. 14, 1902
Photographic Times: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine Devoted to
Photography, Vol 33, 1901
American Photographic Publishing Co, New York, 1902
Bureau of Vital Statistics- Standard Certificate of Death, Texas State Board of
The Camera: An Independent Monthly Magazine devoted to the Advancement
Camera Craft 1913
Photographers’ Association News, Vol. 4 Issue 11
Photo-era Magazine Vol. 31, 1913
Photographic Journal of America