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Philippines with his regiment, but Maurer
declined. He stated that although he had
enjoyed photographing soldiers, horses,
and cannons, he wanted to go where he
could photograph beautiful women.
Maurer heard about the Galveston
Business League’s post 1900 Storm
slogan “Galveston Must Rise Again,” and
decided to return to his hometown to
play his part in the rebirth of the city.
On February 27, 1902 he purchased
the photography studio of his former
mentor, Zahn. The newly named Maurer
Studios would remain at the 418 Tremont
location for over 40 years.
Four years after his return, Maurer
married Galvestonian Julia Clara Ott, the
daughter of Charles Sebastian Ott, who
owned the leading local monument works.
When a major hurricane struck the
island in 1915, news organizations across
the nation assumed that the devastation
would be similar to that of the 1900
Storm and offered large sums of money
for photos of the destruction. Maurer
felt it was vitally important to reinforce
the island’s resilience and strengths to
encourage continued commerce for local
businesses, rather than profit from the
event. He responded to all requests,
stating that no photos were available
because the damage was insignificant.
In 1918, Maurer’s studio took over
the ground floor in addition to the
second floor of 418 Tremont. The newly
expanded space offered portraiture,
commercial photography, Kodak
photographic supplies, developing
services, novelties, greeting cards, and
art works. Paul Schumann, a talented
artist and retoucher, worked there for
Maurer for over 25 years.
Though he certainly serviced some of
the wealthiest citizens of the island, his
studio was available to Galvestonians
from every social class, as reflected by
his photos still held in numerous family
collections today. He even advertised in
the foreign language newspapers such
as Il Messaggiero Italiano to appeal to
customers from all backgrounds.
Maurer was regularly contracted to
capture images of all of Galveston’s
major events, including Mardi Gras
celebrations and courts, Artillery Club
balls, Cotton Carnival parties, baseball
games, the Oleander Festival, Splash Day, parades, visiting dignitaries, and
more. The beautiful young women he photographed during the years of the
International Pageant of Pulchritude included a young Joan Blondell in 1926,
who was destined to become a movie star.
He won numerous awards for the invention of a retouching fluid, and was
twice elected president of the Texas Photographer’s Association. Maurer
received commendatory letters from photographers throughout the nation for
his advances in the profession.
In 1937, the photographer won international acclaim for his discovery of a
process of altering backgrounds on negatives. The process enabled any portrait
photographer to produce prints with either dark or white backgrounds without
altering the original negative itself, providing customers with attractive options.
On the merit of this discovery he was elected to membership in the prestigious
Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.
His dedication to photography did not keep him from being an integral part
of the island community in other capacities. He stated that one of his proudest
accomplishments was his selection to the committee that aided in settling
the Mallory and Southern Pacific Strike in 1922. He served as secretary to the
committee and even hosted their meetings at his home.
Maurer had a keen interest in music, partially born from his association with
Louisiana native Frank Herrle, who had a music store at the front of his studio
space for many years. The association reignited an interest originally sparked
during his brief time working for Janke Music in his youth, and he hosted
musical evenings for family and friends featuring local and traveling performers.
The photographer also inherited his mother’s love of flowers, and spent years
studying the growth and propagation of oleanders. He even devised a method
that allowed the blossoms to be shipped without wilting, which was a boon for
the Oleander City.
He was a former grand knight of Monsignor Kirwin Council, Knights of
Columbus as well, and worked in conjunction with numerous local charities.
But his greatest legacy to Galveston was undoubtedly his photography. The
Rosenberg Library’s Galveston Texas History Center special collections include
approximately 3,000 images by Joseph Maurer. By the time he retired in 1948,
he had been a photographer for 58 years. The wry man with piercing eyes and
a gentle smile passed away just five years later and is buried in Calvary Catholic
Cemetery, but the gift of his images lives on.
Miss Universe and a bevy of other beauties, circa 1930
Part I I i
Photos courtesy of Library of Congress
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