How Tonnesen’s “Fedora” Became Thos. D. Murphy’s “Muriel”

I recently had the privilege of viewing the “painting records” of the now defunct Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company of Red Oak, Iowa. TDM was a frequent buyer of photos by Beatrice Tonnesen and, occasionally, of her paintings. In the case of the colorful calendar print shown here, I was able to trace its path from Tonnesen’s Studio in Chicago to the TDM Company.

The records reveal that the “copyright only” was acquired from Tonnesen for a “colored photograph” titled “Fedora” by the artist on 4/8/1904. Since Tonnesen took black and white photographs, I assume that either she or one of her staff members added the color. The TDM Company then retitled it “Muriel” and made it available in their 1905 calendar line for purchase by their customers, whose businesses were advertised on the calendars. The notation that only the copyright was purchased, seems to indicate that Tonnesen retained the actual colored photo.

It was very rare for a calendar company to use a piece of artwork as quickly after purchase as TDM used this one. In most cases, the length of time between copyright and publication on a calendar was at least two years. It was also rare for Tonnesen’s photography to be credited on the published calendar prints. In this case, the information under the print reads, left to right: Copyright 1904, The Thos. D. Murphy Co, Red Oak Iowa; M-4514 MURIEL; From Photo by Tonneson. (Note the misspelling of her name.)

My thanks to Rick and Charlotte Martin for facilitating and assisting my research.

Copyright (c) 2010 Lois Emerson

32 thoughts on “How Tonnesen’s “Fedora” Became Thos. D. Murphy’s “Muriel”

  1. I have a 1911 copyright photo or engraving from a Moran…from the T.D.M. Co. in Red Oak, Iowa. It is titled “Tantallon Castle.North Berwick, Scotland. It’s in the original frame and I’m afriad to take it out of the frame to look at the back side. I was wondering if you have any info on this piece of art. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
    Robert O’Brien

  2. HI,\nI know that there was an artist named Thomas Moran whose work appeared on calendars around that time. However, I don’t have any further information on either the artist or the print you reference. Thanks for writing. Good luck.\nLois

  3. I have a picture titled ” From The Boy Beyond The Sea” from a painting by B Dobson It was copyrighted in1913 by The T. D. M.Co in Red Oak Iowa M4533 It was behind a family picture. I can find nothing about it , the painter or the Co that copyrighted it.\nPlease reply

  4. Hi Jack,\nThanks for writing. I’m sorry, I’ve not heard of that painting, nor of the artist. The T.D.M. Co was the Thomas D. Murphy Company. They bought artwork for use on calendars during the Golden Age of Illustration (ca. 1900-1940), but are no longer in business. Good luck!\nLois

  5. I have a print from The Thos. D. Murphy Co., of a large male lion on a boulder guarding his family while they drink at waters edge.It is titled “THE GUARDIAN”.The artist appears to be ELMER LEWIS.From what I can find that is a nick name for Robert Atkinson Fox.I have searched until my fingers are blue.Perhaps yo could enlighten me on this printIt is approx 18 x 20 printina striped fram with a toasties cereal carton sid for backing.Wow please help if you can.\nnote:I was positive I saw this exact print on Antiques Roadshow back in 2003 but only a quick glimpse and thats it.SIGH

  6. Hello Lee,\nThanks for writing. I have seen that print and it is beautiful! R. Atkinson Fox is reported to have painted under several pseudonyms. Elmer Lewis is one of them, and “The Guardian” by Elmer Lewis appears in two published guides to Fox’s work. Fox researcher Rita C. Mortenson reported in her 1992 book, “R. Atkinson Fox Volume 2”, that the print was used by the Thos. D Murphy Calendar Co. in 1925 and 1927. Your print was likely cut from a calendar published in one of those years, and framed by the owner (using the cereal carton for backing) for display in his/her home. Mortenson’s book about Fox and another by Patricia L. Gibson, published in 2000, are, I believe, out of print, but used copies sometimes appear on Ebay. Hope this helps. \nLois

  7. I have an actual print of “The Guardian” by Elmer Lewis.\nIt belonged to my husband’s grandparents. They lived in Milwaukee, Wis.\nI have often tried to find information on this print without success.\nThank you to Mr Hawthorn for his initial inquiry, that produced some information\nfor me.\nRespectfully,\nM Wicke

  8. Hi,\nGlad you found the information useful. Is it a painting that you have? Or an original print?\nThanks,\nLois

  9. Lois:\nOurs is an original print. \nWhen we obtained it, it was in dire need of a new mat and frame.\nOf all the pictures in our home this is the one people always\ncomment on. \nThanks again for the information you provided on your web site.\n\nM. Wicke

  10. I have a copy of a book “The People’s Art” which was given to me by my cousin in Red Oak, IA. She is the granddaughter of Thos. D.\nMurphy. My grandfather was Chas. H. Murphy and my father was\nWm. A. Murphy Vice President of Sales (calendars) They also had a \nlarge line of speciality items they sold world wide. The afore mentioned book covers TDM hundred years of calendars 1889-1989. My father was with the company until his death on a fishing trip in Canada in 1975. My brother Pat was also VP in sales until\n1990 when the company was sold to a company in Indiana (?).\nThis booklet can be found at the Montgomery County Historical Society. The address I have is P.O. Box 282, Red Oak, IA 51566.\nThis might have changed since this printing in 1991 but am certain you can reach them with just the Montgomery Co. Historical Society.\n\nMy brother has the first painting of Maynard Reese which he personally gave to my father. Mr. Reese offered to buy it back from Dad but when Dad asked why he wanted it he told Dad he\nwas going to destroy it. Of course my father refused as he had\nbecome good friends with Mr. Reese and the picture was kept out\nof sentimentality. This book has a list and pictires of some of the\nart work they had accumulated and a brief bio of the authors.\n\nThat is the extent of what I know but have thought about researching some of these. I have an original pring of Thomas Morans and Claude Strachan. I also have a small oil of H.H. Bagg.\n\nThis was a great company and is still remembered in Europe and\nthe States and probably further. My brothers would know that information.

  11. Hello Ann,\nThank you so much for writing. We are traveling now, but will follow up as soon as we return home. More later, Lois

  12. Hello Ann,\nI wanted to add that “The People’s Art” and The People’s Art Project” are discussed in the 1992 book by Rita Mortenson, titled “R. Atkinson Fox, Volume 2.” The cover of the book is shown, as well as photos of two of the researchers and some excerpts from the book. Mortenson’s book is now out of print, but copies can occasionally be found on Ebay. I will follow up with the address you gave me to see if I can obtain a copy of “The People’s Art.” Thanks.\nLois

  13. Dear Lois, I don’t know if you have my new e-mail address or not but it was ( My new e-mail is above.\nMy brother Pat Murphy has way more information as he was vice-president of sales until 1990 before he left. I would be more than happy to give you his e-mail address or phone number.\n\nThank you,\n\n Ann Murphy Meyer\n 2131 Terra Lane\n Coralville, IA 52241\n (319) 337-7419

  14. Lois,\n\nI found the picture and description very interesting. The reason that Murphy used the picture so quickly is that 1905 was the first year that Murphy produced calendars. In 1900, The Osborne and Murphy Company split with Osborne going back East and Murphy staying in the midwest. the reason that I always heard was that there was no future for manufacturing in the midwest.\n\nMurphy stayed out of the calendar business for five years and ran a newspaper. He also started the building that still stands. When 1904 rolled around, he was ready to start production. In the early days, they bought paintings and photos. They also bought the reproduction rights only leaving the artist with the artwork to do as they please. Black and white photos wre brought in and air brushed to give them the full color look.\n\nYou are right in that normally the time from the purchase of production rights to the production of the product is two or more years. Many time it was longer. When the salespeople were out selling a 1905 calendar, the plant had already set the 1906 line and were producing the samples. In the meantime the company was out looking for followup art for 1907 and beyond. A point to remember is that when we talk about a 1905 calendar being sold, it was actually sold in 1904 with shipment probably sometime in late August on.\n\nAn interesting comment about calendar advertising in the early years is that the the purpose of the calendar was to get an advertising mesage into a home. The pictures were large and the calendar pad and copy were small. The calendar was considered art and hung in the parlor or living room.

  15. Pat,\nThank you so much for writing. I am honored that you and your sister have chosen to share your unique insights and information with us and with our site visitors. I am fascinated by all aspects of the calendar business, which really was “the people’s art.” I’m sure I will have more questions for you going forward. Thanks again.\n-Lois

  16. I,have a print ,when home is paradise ,bythos.d.murphy. I would like info . on it please. anything would help .

  17. Hi Susie,\n\nI’m sorry I do not know that print. If you can send a photo or a scan of it, I might possibly be able to identify the artist. Good luck!\n-Lois

  18. Hi Lois , \nI have a TEM print of Old Scotia’s Shrine-The Burns Cottage. Looks to be the art of Claude Strachan. Are you familiar with this print?\n\nWW

  19. Hi,\nNo, I am not familiar with this print. I assume it is of Robert Burns’ cottage in Scotland, though, so I’m sure it’s a lovely print!\nLois

  20. Sorry , c printed by the Thos D. Murphy Co , Red Oak Iowa (not TEM) and yes , birthplace of Robert Burns. Funny thing is the print shows the cottage with an addition on the side that reads “MacGregors Tobacco” . I did some research and it shows the addition was torn down in 1904. So this tells me the painting was pre 1904 but used at a later date as Pat points out. It is signed Claude Strachan but missing the letter l for some reason. Unfortunately , I only have the print , no calendar and no year to tell me exactly what date it was used. You are fortunate to have had viewed the “painting records”. Hopefully one day I will solve this mystery.\n\nWW

  21. I’ve been going through more of my grandmother’s things. Found a copyright 1912 photo of 2451 “NOW, DADDY, DON’T FORGET”-The T.D.M. Co., Red Oak, Iowa. The photo is a 4-5 year old girl in a dress, kneeling on a chair, and talking on the phone (back then) that sits on a table that also includes a vase with roses in it. \nIt is precious. Any information you can lend?\nThank you.

  22. Hi Maureen,\nThanks for writing. This theme was popular at the time, and Tonnesen did produce images like the one you describe, although she was not the only one to do so. Without seeing the print, I can’t tell you much more, either about the artist or the model. If you can send an image, I’d love to take a look at it.\n-Lois

  23. I have an old print by Claude Strachan called ” The Path That Leads To Home Sweet Home” Can you tell me something about it? It also says ” Selworthy ” on the left side of the print.

  24. Hi,\nThe title suggests a theme that was popular in the early 1900’s. But, other than that, I’m afraid I have no information for you. Good Luck!\nLois

  25. Hello Lois, My husband has recently inherited a piece of art by Noel Harry Leaver from his fathers estate. We are attempting to gather some historical and value information on the piece. The art, titled “In Sunny Algiers” has been in his family for quite some time.\n \nThe family story is that the piece was purchased by the Thomas. D. Murphy Company, for the purpose of reproduction on their art advertising calendars. My husband’s uncle, Bernard Corbin, worked for the calendar company and when the project was finished, he purchased the painting from them for his private collection. We have no sales records however.\n \nAt the following link I have found a history of the connection between the Thomas D. Murphy Company and The Brown & Bigelow Company. It is my understanding that Brown & Bigelow were importers of Noel H. Leaver art to the U.S. It is then conceivable that the art is original and was acquired as family history notes.\n \n\n \nAny information that you might offer would be most greatly appreciated.

  26. Hello,\nThe Library of Congress Catalog of Copyright Entries appears to confirm your family story. It lists prints by Leaver that were copyrighted by the Thos. D. Murphy Co. on December 13, 1944. The listed prints are “In Sunny Algiers,” “Scene in Algeria,” “Shopping in Morocco,” and “Shores of Tripoli.” (It is unclear to me whether “Scene in Algeria” is a separate print or a description of “In Sunny Algiers.”) In general, though not always, calendar art appeared on calendars two years after the copyright year. So, perhaps there’s a 1946 calendar out there with a print of “In Sunny Algiers.” When I Googled Noel Harry Leaver, a number of auction sites came up. I didn’t check completely through all of them, but these sites usually provide information on past auction prices for works of art by various artists. In most cases, persons seeking information are asked to pay an entrance or membership fee. But you may decide you want to do so in order to see what prices have been paid for other paintings by Leaver. One of the sites indicated he was born in 1889 and died in 1951. Hope this helps.\n-Lois

  27. Hi Lois,\nI must not have selected reach me by email when I originally wrote back in September. What is your email address so that I can send an attachment to the “Now, Daddy, Don’t forget photo?\n\nI look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.\nThank you.

  28. I have a Thomas D. Murphy 1904 hardcover calander book(used for sales).Not only does it have the calanders it containes information about the company,prices,and so much more.I was wondering if you have any idea what the value is and could point me in any direction on this.I have not found really any information on this.Any information will be greatly appreciated.

  29. Hi Deb,\nI sent you an email with some suggestions. Hope they prove useful.\nGood Luck!\nLois

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