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McClellan, Katherine Elizabeth

Katherine Elizabeth McClellan

Katherine Elizabeth McClellan (1859-1934) was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. After graduating from Smith College in 1882 she worked for eight years in private schools and as a tutor in New York and New Jersey. Her career as a photographer began in the Adirondacks in 1892 when the McClellan family moved to Saranac Lake, NY so that Katherine’s sister could be treated for tuberculosis at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium. Katherine McClellan took up photography as a hobby, concentrating on landscapes. She turned her hobby into a thriving business. In addition to selling her photographs, McClellan also published two viewbooks, John Brown, or A Hero’s Grave in the Adirondacks (1896) and Keene Valley: “In the Heart of the Mountains” (1898), and planned two more Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. It is not known whether these two were ever completed.

In 1903 McClellan started spending part of the year in Northampton, Massachusetts. She opened a studio on State Street and announced in the Smith College Monthly magazine that she ‘was reading to take all order for photographs.’ A large share of her business came from the college. She was hired to make photographs to illustrate college publications and newspaper and magazine articles. The College also called on her to document physical changes on campus. Her views of buildings, classrooms, the campus, and special events highlighted the College’s facilities while presenting a dignified image of education and life at Smith. In 1912 she was given the title “Official Photographer of Smith College.”

McClellan also produced for the College yearbook portraits of students and faculty, and group photographs of club members and house residents. She also documented the activities and events of college life such as dances, proms, and dramatic productions. In addition to her work for the College she also took portraits of local people, visiting dignitaries such as Helen Keller, Julia Ward Howe, and Henry James, to mention a few. She also took images of local townspeople.

In 1918, at the age of 59, McClellan retired to Florida. She and her sister developed a tract of land south of Sarasota, named McClellan Park and she continued to make photographs of the Florida landscape and its people. On her move to Florida, McClellan sold her studio to her collaborator of ten years, Eric Stahlberg. He continued to shoot images for the College through the late 1940s and sold images, negatives and films to the College in 1958. Katherine McClellan died in Sarasota in September of 1934.

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