The Amazing History of Strauss Peyton

For history buffs in Kansas City, there’s a lovely secret just down the road sitting in boxes in a jail cell in Independence.  Did you know that Strauss Peyton is the oldest photography studio in the United States that has been in continuous business since they opened?  And because we are over 100 years old, there’s been a fair amount of time of capturing portraits of some pretty amazing people.

Yesterday, three generations of Braswell’s and the rest of the studio made the trip out to Independence to visit with Caitlin Eckard, the Executive Director of the Jackson County Historical Society.  The JCHS has a collection of over 30,000 glass plates and negatives from the early years of Strauss Peyton.  Thankfully, JCHS had stepped up and saved the plates and negatives from certain destruction when the portrait studio was being reorganized at the end of 1969.  For almost the past 50 years, the collection has been in storage, waiting for the opportunity for the funds to be available to allow for cataloging the collection.

And what jewels they found!  Strauss Peyton was definitely a “Must-do” on the list of the celebrities, politicians and other dignitaries who visited Kansas City.  Names include the Marx Brothers, Anna Pavlova, Harry S Truman, Charlie Chaplin and so many more that were photographed by Strauss Peyton.  Caitlin brought us a stack of sitting cards (out of the 79,000 they have!) to browse through as well as the sitting books from the early years.  For anyone who enjoys history, this was so much fun to explore.  We found other very familiar names in the cards but whether or not they are the ones we know well requires a bit more research yet.

For more on the history of the studio, please visit our History page on our website.

Every so often, we get phone calls and emails from people with very old Strauss Peyton portraits.  While we would love to be able to help with who is in those portraits or reprints, the JCHS has the knowledge and negatives and slides and we highly recommend chatting with Caitlin there, she’s incredibly helpful!   She can be reached at 816-461-1897 or ceckard@kchs.org.