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George B. Cornish


Largely to one man goes the credit for preserving what little is left of the thousands of plates made with such precision and perseverance by William Prettyman.  This man was George B. Cornish, a protégé and youthful partner of Prettyman's who had a greater respect than his teacher for this monumental record.  Cornish stood on the platform that hot September day in 1893 when one of history's greatest photographs was made.  He manned one of the cameras and tried to guess the fraction of a second when a fast-moving scene would reach its dramatic peak.  He never revealed which of the three pictures was his.

Cornish continued as a photographer in Arkansas City throughout his life.  Each time he moved to larger quarters he took along the remnants of the work of Prettyman and Bonsall.  To assure their continued existence he made glass positives of many of these plates, which he kept in careful storage.  Only when an original negative was broken did he open the store to make another negative.  When unbreakable acetate film became available he made negatives on this material.

Never did Cornish attempt to borrow the greatness of his teacher, nor claim the authorship of his work.  Some he protected by copyright in his own name, but these pictures continued to be identified as Prettyman's work.  Prettyman never sought a copyright on any of his pictures.  Long after Prettyman left Kansas, Cornish produced an album of photographs made from choice plates in his collection.  He did not have to include his former partner's name but he titled the album "Oklahoma Views, by Prettyman and Cornish."  After the death of Cornish, the plates became a part of the Cunningham Collection, and now are back in the land of their origin.
Prior to his death in 1946, Cornish's studio was on West Fifth Avenue.  A local attorney now occupies the building.


Original page captured from http://www.arkcity.org/cornish.html (inactive)


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