Elsie Shannon

street.jpgS.D. Butcher, LOC, nbhips 14488

I am quite certain that the date that the Nebraska historical society has set for this image—1892—is wrong. Judging from the automobile alone, my guess would be closer to 1904-1915. Another factor that makes 1892 virtually unbelievable that this is an essentially rural area and the image is bristling with power or telephone poles.

There are way too many lines there, I think, for it to be power—I tend to think it must be telephone. Given the massive number of insulators, it seems that it could be1890s given the improvements in switching (resulting in fewer lines) didn’t happen until later in that decade. However, to contribute more context, the first transcontinental telephone call wasn’t until 1915—so the presence of so many subscribers in rural Nebraska in 1892 just doesn’t seem right. If any reader has a clue about the car (probably the most datable object here) that would probably be the easiest way to zero in on it.

Looking at the figures on Wikipedia for car production, there aren’t any numbers prior to 1899. From then, it seems to be pretty small until at least 1904. But that’s not really what got me excited about this image. Take a closer look.


I am fascinated by Miss Elsie Shannon, photographer. There are a lot of Shannons in Custer County Nebraska, photographed by S.D. Butcher, but not her. I haven’t been able to locate anything else on her anywhere so far. I suspect she might be mentioned in some of the other Custer county histories and genealogies, but I don’t have time for a trip to Omaha right now to check it out.


I’m also inordinately entertained by the guy fiddling with a switch on the left side. I wonder if he’s gazing at the automobile or Elsie’s photography shop. No way to tell for sure.