Frank N. Tomlinson viewed photography as a means to public recognition and fortune. While serving as a clerk at Newcomb, Endicotte Co. in Detroit, Michigan, Tomlinson attempted to refine his skills at his avocation, photography. He realized the quickest way to establish himself as a significant operator was to take over an established business. He purchased the stock and premises of J.E. Watson's Studio at 236 Woodward, Detroit's photographers' row in 1883. Watson had founded his business in 1872 and built a handsome gallery before tiring of the unceasing effort to secure a clientele.
Tomlinson was more a businessman than an artist. To insure that his portraiture maintained a sufficient level of artistry, he hired Charles M. Hayes as his chief operator. Hayes (1862-19?) hailed from Chardon, Ohio, and had been trained by photographer H.W. Tibbals of Painsville, Ohio. He moved to Detroit in 1884 and was immediately hired by Tomlinson on the strength of work submitted for inspection. Hayes proved precisely the sort of operator Tomlinson needed: efficient, skilled in posing and developing, a capable retoucher, and an blessed with "a good eye." On the strength of Hayes' work, Tomlinson secured the business of the Detroit Wolverines Baseball Club and pursued the theatrical celebrity trade. Hayes handled the performer images.
An active participant in the national associations and exhibitions, Tomlinson often displayed experiments and novelties; in the 1886 St. Louis Convention, he showed a set of enameled portraits. In 1887 Carrie Williams, a "Titianesque blonde," sued Tomlinson when photographs from a sitting began appearing on the labels of a cosmetic compound by Acme Chemical Company. Apparently, the possibilities of advertising photography interested Tomlinson as a source of revenue. But his financial imagination became more fascinated with another path to wealth—real estate. Several of Tomlinson's contemporaries in the photographic profession became astute investors in urban buildings—Theodore Marceau, Albert Naegeli for instance.
In late 1890, Tomlinson sold his business to Californian Edwin H. Husher. Husher, who had been the chief operator of the Tabor Studio in San Francisco would become noteworthy in Ameriican photoreproduction annals by introducing the Swiss photocrom technique of color lithography to American printing. The Detroit Publishing Company would become the great force in popularizing this method of mass producing color pictures. Tomlinson relocated to Chicago in 1895 and became manager of a large group of properties north of the Loop.
Edwin H. Husher dispensed with Charles M. Hayes' services. Hayes moved to St. Paul for a year, but decided that Detroit would be a better arena for his talents. In 1891 Hayes set himself up as a rival, founding the "C.M. Hayes & Co." gallery. Hayes enacted several ideas that made him the premiere portraitist in the city. Beginning in 1894, he inaugurated an annual exhibition of art photography. When the art took the form of "society leaders of Detroit posing as madonnas" in new color processes, one grasps how Hayes cemented himself in the regard of the public. In 1898 the Detroit Museum commissioned Hayes to furnish portraits of four hundred significant citizens of the city for deposit in its permanent collection.
An active participant in professional associations, he was elected secretary of the National Photographers Association in 1894. The next year, he asserted his dominion over the professional world of photography in his state by organizing the Michigan Photographers Association and superintended it as president. He would be elected president of the Professional Photographers Association of America in 1901. As a member of the associational world of photographers, Hayes proved a rather original thinker. He thought the awarding of exhibition prizes a hindrance to creativity, he defied the tendency the fetishize the photographic print, and sent one of the very first electronically transmitted wire photographs—of Thomas W. Palmer—over 800 miles. He urged the widespread usage of faster lens and shutter mechanisms, and favored the Sluter #5 Rapid Portrait Lens with a Prosch Shutter.
Hayes eventually retired to Palm Beach in 1935 where, in his retirement, he pursued his love of automobiles.
NOTES: Dorothy Tomlinson Yantis, The Tomlinson Family (Privately Printed, 1978), 26-30. Kathleen Stewart Howe, Intersections: Lithography, Photography, and the Traditions of Printmaking (U of Mexico P, 1998), 68. "Good Advertising," The Professional and Amateur Photographer 5 (1900), 434. Robert Budd Ross, George Byron Catlin, and Clarence Morton Burton, "C. M. Hayes," Landmarks of Wayne County and Detroit (Detroit: Evenings Hews Association, 1898), 2:cixx-cixxii. David S. Shields/ALS