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Gustave Joseph Shrader (1870–1946)

Gustave Joseph Shrader was a photographer who was best known as the official photographer for the state Senate and House of Representatives and for several Little Rock (Pulaski County) schools.

Joseph Shrader was born on May 25, 1870, in Orel, Russia, to a merchant. In 1885, Shrader began serving as a photographer’s apprentice. He immigrated to the United States in 1892.

Shrader met Bertha Frank, a resident of Louisville, Kentucky, and married her in December 1900 in Memphis, Tennessee. The couple had one child, Gustave Joseph Shrader Jr., called “Buddy.”

Shrader worked for photographers in Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Indianapolis, Indiana; Providence, Rhode Island; and New York City. In May 1901, he opened a studio with his wife in St. Joseph, Missouri. Shrader, who did much of his own developing, grew sick from the chemicals and was forced to give up darkroom work in 1910.

The Shraders went to Hot Springs (Garland County) that same year for the thermal baths and met George H. Roberts, who owned Shinn Studio in Little Rock. Three months later, the Shraders bought Roberts’s studio and named it Shrader Studio. The October 21, 1910, Arkansas Gazette article that announced Shrader’s arrival in Little Rock spoke of his “artistic poses and his careful attention to every detail.”

From its beginning, the Shrader Studio was family owned and operated. Shrader was the photographer, and his wife was business manager. They began training their son to join the business, and he became the assistant manager. On December 2, 1933, a fire destroyed all their equipment and 150,000 to 200,000 negatives. After living in temporary housing at Peerless Engraving Company at 4th and Louisiana, Shrader reopened at 305 Main Street with a staff of about ten.

For many years, Shrader Studio was the photographer for the state Senate and House of Representatives. Shrader was also the photographer for Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), its School of Law, the School of Medicine at the University of Arkansas (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), Little Rock Senior High School (now Central High School), Catholic High School for Boys, and Mount St. Mary Academy, all in Little Rock. Among Arkansas Leaders described Shrader’s quality: “It is Shrader’s art to bring out and dramatize the best in you as expressed by your face. That is the difference between picture taking and Shrader’s artistic photography.”

Shrader continued to operate the studio until his death on June 5, 1946. He was buried in the Jewish section of Oakland Fraternal Cemetery in Little Rock. The Arkansas History Commission and State Archives has Shrader’s negatives in its collection.

For additional information:
Davis, Lex Bruce, compiler, and Harry Forrest Barnes, ed. Among Arkansas Leaders. Little Rock: 1934.

“Photographer Joseph Shrader Dies.” Arkansas Gazette. June 6, 1946, p. 10.

Lynn Ewbank

Arkansas History Commission and State Archives

Last Updated 10/24/2012

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