A Wyoming Valentine in Pictures

If one is searching for Wyoming photographs that celebrate the holidays, look no further than the Ludwig & Svenson Studio Collection. A close second for holiday photos is the photographic collection of Lora Webb Nichols.

Henning Svenson arrived in the frontier town of Laramie in September 1905 with one dollar in his pocket and an ambition to open a photography studio. By the next month, he was already advertising his new business. Henning passed away in 1932 at age 53 and his daughters continued to operate the studio. In 1943, the business went under the name of Walter “Doc” Ludwig, a chiropodist who married one of Svenson’s daughters. More than 110 years later the studio is still in the family at the same location. The family generously donated a large portion the studio’s historic images to the American Heritage Center.

One hundred years ago, Henning, or perhaps one of his daughters, was invited to the home of prominent Laramie businessman Henry Neale “Neal” Roach for some Valentine cheer. If I were a judge for the costume contest, the woman on the far left would win hands down. Love the shoes. Like us today, these folks had recently been through a pandemic, in their case the Spanish Flu which lasted from 1918 to 1920. It must have felt good to celebrate in-person with family and friends.

Valentine’s Day costume party at the home of Neal Roach, 1921.
Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, Collection No. 167, Box 3, Negative No. 8545, Scan No. ah300502.

Twenty years later in 1941, Home Bakery went all out on a Valentine’s week window display featuring sweetheart cakes made from a Betty Crocker recipe. During the early 1940s, surveys showed that the name Betty Crocker was known to nine out of 10 American homemakers. The fictitious Betty Crocker was the “First Lady of Food.” Putting the brand name on the cakes must have been a seal of reliable good flavor. Home Bakery was a Laramie fixture from the time it opened in 1898 to its closure in 2010. I still miss it.

A night time photo of Home Bakery’s Valentine’s week window display of Betty Crocker sweetheart cakes, February 1941. Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, Collection No. 167, Box 24, Negative No. 33857.1, Scan No, ah302994
Close-up of cake in Home Bakery’s Valentine’s week window display, February 1941.
Ludwig & Svenson Studio Photographs, Collection No. 167, Box 24, Negative No. 33857.1, Scan No, ah302994

Lora Webb Nichols was born and raised in Encampment, Wyoming, and spent most of her life there. She called herself “Snapshot Sal.” Indeed, she was rarely without a camera around her neck. After all, she said, “You never know when there’ll be an elephant down the street.” She captured life in Encampment and Saratoga from the time she picked up a camera in 1899 at age 16 to her death in 1962.

On Valentine’s Day in 1958, Lora Webb Nichols sports a new dress and samples a treat from a box of Valentine candy given to her by youngest child Dick (born 1921). She and Dick were quite close. He often traveled with her on hunting and fishing outings.

Lora Webb Nichols enjoying her Valentine’s Day candy, February 14, 1958.
Lora Webb Nichols Papers, Collection No. 1005, Box 16, Photo No. 17443, Scan No. ah01005_17443.

Speaking of Lora’s Valentine’s Day candy, three days later her cat claimed it by laying on the box.

Lora Webb Nichols’ cat claims the remainder of the Valentine’s Day candy, February 17, 1958.
Lora Webb Nichols Papers, Collection No. 1005, Box 16, Photo No. 17446, Scan No. ah01005_17446.

We wish you a fun and happy Valentine’s Day full of costumes, candy, cake, and even cats.

Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.

#alwaysarchiving

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