Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 3

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Monday, August 29, 1983~Paragould Daily Press

Emily Alquest~Photographer

 

Photo courtesy Pearl McHaney

Emily Alquest/Photo courtesy Webb Green

   
 
  Pictured above(top): three sisters; Mrs. W.F. Dover, Sally Benson, Ann Watson
  Left (above child): Robert Stedman
   
  This Alquest photograph shows the drill team of the local Ladies of the Maccabee Lodge.
  Standing, from left, as identified on the back of the mount, Mrs. Ida Ford,
  Miss Calada Webb, Mrs. Willie Hawkins, Miss --, Mrs.  --,  Mrs. Sid Thompson and Mrs. May Peterson.
   Kneeling from left, Mrs. Bradburn, Mrs.Nannie Thompson, Mrs. Letha
  Dillman, Mrs. Don Green and Mrs. J. E. Childs

 

 

 

 

  

 

   I can't even remember what was pictured in the first photograph I saw bearing the delicate, stylistic imprint of Emily Alquest, surely Paragould's first woman photographer. But I remember well the curiosity that single embossed imprint provoked: Who was Emily Alquest? Why had I never heard of her?  To me it seemed unusual that in the early 1900s a woman would have her own photographic studio in Paragould. But not to Pearl Sims McHaney, who learned photography from Alquest and, after that studio closed, went to work for Tom McHaney and, later still, married him.  My initial curiosity about that first, single Alquest photograph was soon sidetracked by the demands of current business. But it was quickly revived as I sorted through borrowed photographs selecting the ones included in this special edition. Only then did I see a second Alquest photo and a third--11 in all (not including her many photographs of Dr. Graham Dickson's Paragould Sanitarium used in the souvenir program of its 1906 opening). For I kept count, hoping they would in sum provide a clue in my quest for information on the mysterious Miss Alquest. Her name did not ring any bells with longtime residents, even ones who brought photographs showing her imprint.
   When I contacted Pearl McHaney in Oklahoma City to interview her about her late husband's studio, I fortunately remembered to squeeze Emily Alquest's name into the conversation. Did she know of her? "Why, I got my first job with Miss Alquest," she said nonchalantly. "Oh, and I have a photograph of Miss Emily," she volunteered.
   I had struck gold.
   Only someone who has had a similar obsession -- a genealogist searching for family roots, perhaps -- can imagine my delight as I unwrapped the package of photographs that arrived in the mail a few days later, kindly sent on loan by Mrs. McHaney. There, included with several of the McHaney photographs you see on these pages, was an oval photograph of the enigmatic Emily Alquest. I stared at it for days, wishing it would by some miracle start talking to me.
   Pearl McHaney remembers Alquest as "a remarkable woman," who designed her own studio building (across the street from Dickson's hospital, which is now city hall) and secured a bank loan to build it. She also remembers her as a demanding professional and an assertive, confidant woman.
   Alquest came to Paragould from St. Louis sometime in the early 1900s to work for Tom McHaney's studio. She probably heard about the job from one of the photographic supply salesmen who carried news from one studio to another, speculated Mrs. McHaney, who said she didn't know just how long Alquest worked for McHaney before striking out on her own.
   Alquest had taken up photography in St. Louis, where she was friends with two sisters who operated a well-known studio there, Mrs. McHaney said, recalling stories she had heard from her friend and employer. When a well-known European photographer located in St. Louis, Alquest sought to apprentice with him but did not have the studio experience he required. So she put in some time with another studio before going back to the European with her newly-acquired credentials. Mrs. McHaney likes to cite this story as proof of Alquest's assertive determination.
   Alquest did not remain in Paragould long and cannot be located in either the 1900 or 1910 city census reports.
   Mrs. McHaney said it was about 1905, when she was 16 years old, that she went to work for Alquest. She did not recall how long the studio had been in business at that time. A few years later, Alquest decided to join her sister, a nurse, in the state of Washington, sold her studio to A.L. Welborn, another McHaney apprentce, and left Paragould, returning only once after that.
   Mrs. McHaney did not mention that Alquest and Welborn were in business together, apparently for a short time. But just recently I saw a circle imprint bearing that partnership's name - "Alquest & Welborn Art Studio."
   I was glad to see that Emily got top billing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Kitty Sloan
 

 

Welborn's Studio

Transcribed from the 1983 Centennial Edition by : PR Massey

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