Searching for Mary Schäffer
Women Wilderness Photography


Cover image (Searching for Mary Schäffer)

Mary Schäffer was a photographer, writer, botanical painter, and mapmaker from Philadelphia, well known for her travels in the Canadian Rockies and Jasper at the turn of the twentieth century. In Searching for Mary Schäffer, Colleen Skidmore takes up Schäffer’s own resonant themes—women and wilderness, travel and science—to ask new questions, tell new stories, and reassess the persona of Mary Schäffer imagined in more recent times. Public and private archival collections in the United States and Canada set the stage for this engrossing exploration of Schäffer’s creative, collaborative, and competitive enterprise amid the cultural complexities of Philadelphia’s science and photography communities, and the scientific, tourist, and Indigenous societies of the Rocky Mountains of Canada.

“In this impressive book, Colleen Skidmore uses her considerable skills as a social historian of photography to shed new light on the remarkable life of Mary Schäffer. She knows the stories, the characters, and presents a social history that is fresh and convincing. Skidmore’s conclusion is brilliant and will certainly serve as a catalyst for further research and study of Mary Schäffer.” Donna Livingstone, President and CEO, Glenbow Museum

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Front cover 1
Title page 3
Copyright page 5
Dedication 6
Contents 8
Acknowledgements 10
Author’s Note on Names 12
1 She Who Colored Slides 14
Exploring, Challenging, and Comprehending 17
Women 21
Wilderness 41
Photography 45
Rethinking Mary Schäffer Studies 50
2 Philadelphia, Paris, and the Rocky Mountains of Canada, 1889-1903 60
Photography in Philadelphia 63
Photography Aesthetics and the Photographic Society of Philadelphia 69
Exhibition of American Women Photographers 71
Botany 81
Beauty, Realism, and Mountain Landscapes 95
3 The Rocky Mountains of Canada, 1904-1906 104
1903: Wealth and Widowhood 108
1904: Meeting Molly Adams 116
Civilization and Wilderness 124
1906: Imagination, Literary Licence, and Five Women on the Trail 137
Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies 156
4 Maligne Lake, 1907-1911 164
Seeking Chaba Imne 167
Finding Chaba Imne 172
The Beaver Family 175
Photographing the Beaver Family 185
Sketching Chaba Imne 194
Surveying Maligne Lake 205
Mistaken Identity 209
5 Japan, 1908-1909, and Banff, 1909-1939 216
Interest in Things Japanese, October 1908–January 1909 218
Photographing in Ainu and Atayal Villages 227
Writing the Rockies, 1909–1939 244
Epilogue 248
Appendix 1: Mary T.S. Schäffer and Families 254
Appendix 2: Mary W. (Molly) Adams and Family 258
Notes 262
Bibliography 310
Illustrations and Permissions 338
Index 346
About the Author 374
Other Titles from The University of Alberta Press 377