Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dusseau the Photographer

"The House that Jack Built," northeast corner Main and Broadway, 1901, before being demolished for the Hirbour Tower. Sign on second floor says "Dusseau the Photographer." Hennessy Building in left background.

By Richard I. Gibson

Angelo (or Alrick) Dusseau was born in Burlington, Vermont, in 1842 or 1843, of French-Canadian parents. He traveled west, to Wisconsin, by the time he was 23 years old, working as a carpenter on a railroad and as an engineer for a steam line in Missouri. By 1869 he was in Montana, a practicing musician in Helena.

July 20, 1876. Butte Miner.
A.J. Dusseau’s true calling – as a photographer – began in Deer Lodge about 1874, and he was in booming Butte by 1876 or 1877. One of his first studios in Butte was on “Upper Main Street” at a time when there was no north or south Main, reportedly above the Post Office, when it was on the west side of Main between Granite and Quartz. His studio may also have been just south of the corner of Copper and Main, on the east side.

By 1882 his residence and studio were both in “The House that Jack Built,” a two-story building on the corner of Broadway and Main where the Hirbour Tower stands today (see Lost Butte, Montana, p. 47). His sign, “Dusseau the Photographer,” was emblazoned across the Main Street side of that building until it was replaced by the Hirbour in 1901. In 1902, in partnership with George R. Thompson, Dusseau’s studio was at 219 East Park and the family was living at 720 Utah Avenue. Thompson continued the photography business after Dusseau died in 1908, and there was still a photo studio at 219 East Park in 1916. I believe the home at 720 Utah is still standing.

Among Dusseau’s photographic work is a portrait of Louisa Earp, wife of Morgan Earp. The portrait dates to about 1877, probably soon after he moved to Butte. Louisa and Morgan were probably together in Montana at various points in time from the late 1870s until early 1880. It’s not clear when they married – some reports say 1875 – nor is it clear exactly when and for how long they were in Butte, but there is little doubt that Morgan was on the Butte police force from December 1879 until March 1880. He joined his brothers in Tombstone, Arizona, soon after he left Butte, and was wounded at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in October 1881. He was shot and killed in Tombstone in March 1882 at age 30.

Dusseau’s wife Amanda, from Missouri, was 17 years younger than A.J. Their daughter Elmira was probably born in Butte in 1888. A.J. Dusseau died August 28, 1908, leaving a rich photographic legacy.

Sources: Cabinet Card Gallery; Photo of Butte man in Pythian regalia from The Autry’s Collections; portrait of couple courtesy Francine Le Blanc. Ad from Butte Miner, July 20, 1876. Broadway and Main photo from Anaconda Standard, May 12, 1901. See also Mrs. Earp: The Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers, By Sherry Monahan

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this piece Richard.
    I had no idea Morgan Earp was ever in Butte let alone on the police force. That he was here prior to Tombstone is fascinating.

    On another note, I have a fascinating mystery that I have not been able to solve. Having read much of your stuff- I think you will find it just as intriguing as I do. Brian McNary 208-309-2911

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  2. Regard the location of Dusseau's studio; I have a photo of my great grandparents Matt and Hedvig Johnson taken, I believe, about 1890 after their marriage before my grandmother was born in 1891. The reverse of the photo has the photographer's info: "A.J. Dusseau, Corner of Main and Granite, Over Hennessy's Store, Butte, Montana." Tom Greene tgreene67@gmail.com

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    1. That would make sense. I may have a typo or error in the post saying he was at Broadway and Main by 1882 - it should perhaps be 1892. He was definitely there then, but without checking older directories I don't have a location before that, and generally they say "Upper Main Street." So he could well have been above the Hennessey Store (the one on the SW corner of Granite and Main, predecessor to the large one across the street) about 1890 when that building was rebuilt after a fire in 1889 destroyed it. Thanks for the info.

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