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When J. C. Coovert died in 1937 he was said to have 710,000 negatives , the vast majority, no doubt, portraits. A sticker for the back of his prints says, "Only studio in Memphis with an elevator" while located at 63 N. Main. Surely, that was for the convenience of his portrait clients. His last studio was located in Brys Department Store, where he met the carriage trade that was his clientele. We have very few of the portraits -- though the pictures of his niece Mary, made in the 1890s, are outstanding in their liveliness and inventiveness.

Mary Coovert was taken in and raised by J.C. and Florence Coovert in Greenville, Mississippi, when her father, J.C.'s brother George, was killed in 1890. She became a favorite subject for his experiments in portraiture. Here we see multiple portraits printed on the same paper. early 1890s
Coovert Family Collection.
This package was shipped from Coovert's studios at Brys Department Store in Memphis to Mary's son, Thomas Carter, in Randolph, Illinois, using only photographs for the Post Office to identify the recipient. The experiment was conducted in 1932, when Coovert was 70 years old. It was a success.
Coovert Family Collection.


"In Search of J.C. Coovert"
An illustrated lecture on the life and work of J.C. Coovert by Jane Adams and D. Gorton

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© D. Gorton and Jane Adams 2003

Young Thomas Carter, Mary's son and Coovert's nephew, in a portrait that must have been typical of the period. early 1930s
Coovert Family Collection.
A portrait of Mary Coovert using an elaborate background that mimics the seashore, and retouching of Mary's feet to simulate water. J.C.'s wife, Florence, was a skilled photographer and retoucher. early 1890s
Coovert Family Collection.
Mary Coovert is depicted in this carte de visite both in the wheelbarrow and pushing it in this "trick" photograph that entailed several careful exposures while blocking part of the negative. early 1890s
Coovert Family Collection.
Mary is depicted blissfully asleep, holding a kitten and guarded by her St. Bernard Frank in this carte de visite.. early 1890s
Coovert Family Collection.
Portrait of Mary McCammey, showing the picture mount. Finger Collection
Portrait of E. J. McCammey showing picture mount. Finger Collection.
Rosa and Maurice Schwab. Mount says "Coovert Memphis" This is a scan of a photocopy of the original. Schwab Collection