Past Treasure of the Month – March 2013
During the month of March, Rosenberg Library exhibited an assortment of historical items related to one of Galveston’s most prolific photographers, Justus Zahn. This artifact collection was donated by Ethel B. Buckley and includes Zahn’s pince-nez eyeglasses, an antique stereo-graphoscope, an engraved cane head from the Edelweiss Club, and an award pin from the St. Louis Photo Convention of 1894. An assortment of vintage photographs and business ads were also on display.
Justus Zahn was born in 1847 in Marburg, Germany. His father, Franz Zahn, was a Supreme Court Judge at Cassell. Zahn attended schools in Marburg and Cassell before enrolling in universities at both Marburg and Leipzig.
At age 22, he travelled to America for the first time to visit his maternal grandfather in Hoboken, New Jersey. Zahn returned to Germany briefly to fight in the Franco-Prussian War but later relocated to Chicago and established a photography business. He eventually moved to St. Louis and then to Belleville, Illinois where he met and married Elise Kreppelt.
In the late 1880s, the Zahns moved again — this time to Galveston, Texas. Justus Zahn went into business with Philip H. Rose, a well known local photographer. In 1888, Zahn bought out his partner and opened his own studio at 418 Tremont (23rd) Street. For the next fourteen years, Justus Zahn was considered the foremost society photographer on the island.
Both Paul Naschke and Joseph Maurer were apprenticed to Justus Zahn early in their careers. Each went on to open his own successful photography studio.
Sadly, the 1900 Storm had devastating impact on Zahn’s life and business. After selling out to Joseph Maurer in 1902, he moved his wife and two daughters back to St. Louis where he reopened a photography studio. In 1909, he relocated to Bowling Green, Montana and continued to live there until his death in 1918.
Zahn left an incredible record of Galveston’s history through his photographs of local people, places, and events. Many of his original photographs can be found in the archival collections of Rosenberg Library’s Galveston and Texas History Center. The Library also owns an oversize photographic portrait of its benefactor, Henry Rosenberg, made by Zahn.