Meet the Repeat Customers

NHPRC logoThe Picturing 1930s St. Louis: Sievers Studio Collection Project is made possible by an NHPRC grant from the National Archives.  

What have we discovered now that we’re halfway through our Picturing 1930s St. Louis project? That the Sievers Studio sure had a knack for creating repeat customers—with some intriguing outcomes.

Blakc-and-white photo of dancer posed atop a car outside the Coronado HotelIsaac Sievers snapped this dancer atop a Pontiac (in pointe shoes!) outside the Coronado Hotel on April 28, 1937. Missouri History Museum.

More than a quarter of the studio’s business from 1931 to May 1937 consisted of customers who came back at least five times. (We’re happy to say that the Missouri Historical Society just made the list with five shots at the Jefferson Memorial Building!) The bulk of that repeat business came from just eight organizations, five of which were hotels. That may seem surprising, but consider that the Sievers Studio had a reputation as excellent group and convention photographers.

The top three customers were the Jefferson, Chase Park Plaza, and Coronado hotels, with the Statler Hotel coming in at number five. The Jefferson Hotel seemed to favor conventions, dinners, and school events. Of note were the Fontbonne College prom; the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform; the Veiled Prophet banquet; and, my personal favorite, the Embalming Class of 1935 meeting with the Missouri State Board of Embalming.

The Chase and Coronado hotels seemed to be in tight competition for hosting automobile-company meetings. The Chase was a frequent venue for Chevrolet, Buick, and Oldsmobile events, though it did make an exception for a Hudson Terraplane parked in front of its building with Amelia Earhart posed beside it. The Coronado was apparently appealing to a slightly more diverse crowd, hosting meetings for Pontiac, Hudson, Plymouth, Nash, DeSoto, Cadillac, REO Motor, Packard, and Dodge.

Black-and-white promotional photo for Anheuser-Busch ginger aleThis diva donkey didn't seem up for promoting Anheuser-Busch ginger ale on April 26, 1931. Missouri History Museum.

The Statler Hotel was the site of several vastly different events and sales conventions, from the 1936 convention of U.S. Army chaplains to the fun-to-say Smoke Prevention Convention. Pictures at the Statler included flower shows, General Electric product displays, Buster Brown Shoe conventions (the official shoes of the Boy Scouts), and insulation on pipes in the basement—clearly they can’t all be winners.

Other repeat customers included Union Station, Boyd’s department store at Sixth and Olive streets, the Anheuser-Busch complex on Pestalozzi, and the Arena. The Union Station images show the building and various locomotives, but you can also see groups and public figures, such as Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, coming and going. The pictures from Boyd’s are, as you might expect, mostly window displays and advertising shots of men’s clothing, and the Anheuser-Busch photos show a brewery dusting itself off and getting back to work after the end of Prohibition.

Black-and-white photo of the St. Louis ArenaThe St. Louis Arena as it looked on November 5, 1931. Missouri History Museum.

The Arena photos include many shots of conventions too big for the city’s hotels. Automobile displays and flower-and-garden shows are the main stars, but a few unique images are sprinkled in as well. A display of the Arnold’s Bona-Fide dog food exhibit at the Junior League dog show and a life-size sculpture of a bear made out of butter are stand-outs.

Check out the gallery below to see samples of Sievers Studio's work for its repeat customers, or head here to explore a map showing the location and details of all the Sievers photo shoots from 1931 to 1936 (the last year we’ve completed work on).

Sievers Studio: Meet the Repeat Customers

—Amanda Claunch, Archivist, Photographs and Prints

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