Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 3


Monday, August 29, 1983~Paragould Daily Press



       Photo courtesy Talma Buchanan Hayes


Photo courtesy Fran Jones

Tom McHaney-marked with the X-was still teaching school when he posed for this photograph with his students and some of their parents in the 1890's   Tom with his sisters Meda, at left, and Estelle, in the summer of 1901.


McHaney traded class slates for glass plates





Photo courtesy Fran Jones

  J. Thomas McHaney, left, and Pearl Sims McHaney, right, each photographed by the other. In the center, Tom McHaney's first studio in Blytheville.  




On a winter day in the 1890s, school teacher Tom McHaney was posing with his class for what had already become the traditional last-day-of-school photograph. Photography was still relatively new in rural Greene County; only in the past few years had it evolved from a curiosity at visiting side shows. As he captured the class on the glass plate, the traveling photographer noticed McHaney's interest in the camera and asked if the teacher would like to work with him during summer break. McHaney jumped at the offer and never returned to teaching.

After serving a brief apprenticeship, McHaney bought a Blytheville studio - Blytheville Portrait and View Co., which was housed in a small wooden building. On the siding he painted in large letters: "J. Thos. McHaney. Fotografer."

He didn't stay in Blytheville long before moving home to Greene County and building a new brick studio at the corner of "Pruit and Depot" streets, a busy intersection in a bustling timber-happy town. His Paragoold Portrait and View Co. opened Jan. 1, 1900, the first day of a new century. His studio featured a large northside skylight that allowed the photographer to take indoor portraits in the days before modern studio lights. (Bill Hunter, who now operates Child Art Studio not far from the old McHaney location, says some oldtimers coming in for portraits still ask, "Is it too cloudy to take my picture today?"

McHaney was not Paragould's first photographer. Several others had preceded him. But he was a prolific one, and his surviving photographs document a fertile period in Paragould's history. Perhaps that is why so many of the photographs brought to the Daily Press for inclusion in this Centennial Edition bear the imprint of McHaney's Studio. Little has been written about McHaney's Studio, so the section in a 1918 Paragould promotion brochure is worth an extended quotation: "No town or city can well afford to be without a first class photograph studio, nor can the citizens afford to go to other towns and cities to have work done when they have such an artist at home. To be a good photographer one must be a lover of the beautiful, precise and accurate and be able to calculate the amount of light and darkness necessary in the production of a natural likeness. J. Thomas McHaney, proprietor of McHaney's Studio has for many years made photography a theoretical and practical study. "All that one needs to be convinced of his superior skill is a visit to his studio, and there study the hundreds of photographs on exhibition which show that they were printed from the most perfect negatives and touched by the hand of a skilled artist. This studio is elegantly furnished and his apparatus is the best known in the art of modern photography, thus enabling him to do the best work on short notice......."The McHaney Camera Supply Co., operated in connection, is also owned by Mr. McHaney. The last named concern carries a complete line of cameas and supplies, a special feature being made of Eastman and Ansco lines. Personally Mr. McHaney is well known throughout this section as a progressive, straightforward business man and has many friends in all walks of life."

McHaney attended annual conventions of the national photographer's association and regional schools sponsored by the George Eastman's company, all in an effort to improve his craft.

In 1922, he married Pearl Sims, an associate who had come to work for him soon after Emily Alquest had closed her Paragould studio, and the couple moved to Oklahoma City where they set up another business. They tried for a number of years to keep the Paragould studio operating under hired management but the distance soon caught up with them. They sold out to A. L. Welborn in the 1930s probably after McHaney suffered a heart attack in 1934. He died in 1939 and is survived by his widow, who still lives in Oklahoma.




Transcribed from the 1983 Centennial Edition by : PR Massey

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