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Thomas Croft

Thomas Croft moved to Arkansas City from Illinois in 1885.  His family lived for a while on South H Street in the Sleeth Addition.  Later they built a home on North Third Street. His studio was near the corner of Summit Street and Central Avenue.

Thomas Croft was an associate of William Prettyman, a famous photographer from Arkansas City, Kansas. Croft was present on September 16, 1893 at the opening of the Cherokee Outlet for settlement.  Prettyman, Croft, and P.A. Miller set up a platform on the northwest corner of the Chilocco property.  On the 20-foot scaffold they sat up three cameras positioned to photograph the opening of the land rush.  Prettyman left the other two men to take the photographs while he ran for land in the race.  The three men agreed not to tell who actually took which photograph, however Croft's son George has revealed that his father is the photographer who took the famous photo of the opening of the Cherokee Outlet.

In addition to the now famous photo of the horses taking off in the race for land, Croft took two photos before noon.  One shows the line up at close range with all modes of transportation awaiting the opening and the other shows an incoming stagecoach.

Croft preferred landscape and outdoor photography.  He and George Cornish took many pictures of business buildings and scenes around Arkansas City and published booklet in 1900 called "Arkansas City Illustrated."

Thomas Croft is said to have been responsible for the first known photograph of a tornado in action.  On May 12, 1896 at 4:00 P.M. he and Albert Potter, from near Maple City, Kansas, were in Oklahoma City doing some retouching while George Cornish watched a storm brew.  George told his father that the tornado was coming right at them, so Thomas grabbed his camera and took the photo.  The photo was used in many scientific publications among others.

Thomas Croft went into the Oklahoma Territory on occasion to photograph the Native Americans.  In fact, some are now famous photographs of the Native Americans. Many of his photos have been printed on china and used as souvenirs.   His glass negative collection is still in tact in his family's possession.

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This page created: September 14, 2001
Revised: October, 2002: 10/2010
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