Back in August of 1996 I was visiting Racine and was walking through the old downtown taking pictures. In the 300 block, I noticed a closed-up door with Leonard Studio set into the entrance way. Later on, I was looking through Ead’s Illustrated History of Racine and came across an advertisement for Leonard’s Studio at the same address. Apparently it was a well-established photo studio with “A Lady always in attendance” to put the women of 1884 at ease. On a hunch, I looked through my 1940 Racine phonebook and found, at the same location, a Harry J Leonard doing commercial photography — specializing in work “Out of Studio” for legal purposes. So, over at least a 52 year span, someone in the Leonard family was taking pictures in Racine. I would love to find out more information about the Leonards and their business.
Here is a cabinet photo, taken at Leonard’s Studio, of a first communion sent to me by Kristie who found it at an antique show. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version of the picture.
More about Leonard’s Studio from Mike Bantuveris:
“My family ran the Main Shoe Repair Shop at 333 Main Street. Harry Leonard had a photo studio on the second floor. My brother and I worked in my father’s shop as shoe shine boys when we were kids and we often shined Harry’s shoes. He also took pictures of us as kids every few years so my father could send them to his relatives in Greece. Harry had an classic car, not sure but it was a late 1930’s model (Pierce Arrow?) that he kept garaged in back of the building and seldom drove it in the late 1940’s.
During WWII, Harry had quite an in-studio business taking pictures of sailors, soldiers and marines with their girlfriends (often just after they finished their basic training at the Great Lakes Navel Station in Chicago and before shipping out.) On the wall next to the studio entrance was a large glass display case with recent pictures of these couples posted to encourage others to come up for pictures – no appointment necessary.”
Mike Bantuveris sent me Harry J. Leonard’s obituary:
Harry Leonard, Photographer For Half a Century, Is Dead (Edit: Date of death: 27 Nov 1955)
A career in professional photography in Racine which spanned more than a half a century was ended Sunday with the death of Harry J. Leonard, 77, in St. Luke’s Hospital.
Leonard had won national recognition for his photographic achievements and wide acclaim in the world of sports during his youth. At one time he coached the old Racine College football team.
The veteran photographer was found hurt in his studio Nov. 19. He suffered from arthritis and sustained injuries in a fall.
During his career, Leonard had done portraits of a number of nationally known figures, including William Jennings Bryan, Robert M. LaFallotte, Sr., and William Howard Taft.
Leonard’s achievements in photography had won him 39 state and national awards and wide recognition in his field. Of all of his photographs, Leonard was the most proud of the one of the former Miss Lillian Anderson. It was his photo of the Racine beauty which placed her in the running for the title of the Queen of the Century of Progress held in Chicago in 1933.
His father, P. J. Leonard, a pioneer photographer, settled in Racine in 1847. Also an accomplished musician, the elder Leonard received and accepted invitations to play on the concert stage. He toured through the south and in Macon, Ga., was induced to remain as conductor of the city’s band and to work in a photo studio. In 1879, the elder Leonard returned to Racine and opened his photo studio at 333 Main St.
When Leonard’s father died in 1904, Harry took over the business which remained at the same location for a record 75 years until the studio was moved to its present location at 409 1/2 Main St. last year.
Leonard began his photography career as a youth, helping his father. However, he also had made his mark in the field of sports. He starred in the old Racine High School’s first football team, coached by Dr. A. J. Williams. Leonard entered the University of Wisconsin and continued his participation in sports, namely, polo, football and bowling.
On his return to Racine in 1899, Leonard accepted the coaching position at Racine College where the football team during his four years as mentor won all but one game. For several seasons he also played as an end on the Racine Athletics, recognized in the 1890’s as one of the foremost professional grid squads in the nation. The team was coached by John R. Richards who had been a teammate of Pat O’Dea on the University of Wisconsin football team, and had come to Racine to begin law practice with M. E. Walker.
When roller polo became the rage in Racine, Leonard was among the first to be considered for the team because of his previous championships in the sport. On the Racine Horlicks team Leonard helped bring the world’s championship in roller polo to Racine in 1909.Leonard also excelled in bowling and golf. As a member of the Horlicks and Elks bowling teams, Harry shared in the many local, state and national honors won by the two teams.
He was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
His survivors include a nephew, Lyle Abrahamson of Tacoma, Wash., and a niece, Edna Andrews of San Antonio, Texas.
Funeral arrangements are to be announced later.