We recently traveled across our home state of Missouri from Kansas City to St. Louis to visit the Missouri History Museum. While it’s a fine museum, we were there for a specific reason: to do a live show about pioneering photojournalist, Jessie Tarbox Beals. We know that a lot of you would have loved to have been there to learn about this extraordinary woman, so we re-recorded the show in an audio-only format for you.

Jessie Richmond Tarbox was born on December 23, 1870, in Ontario, Canada. She was the fourth child of John Nathanial Tarbox and Marie Antoinette Bassett Tarbox. Jessie was born into wealth but grew up far differently after her father lost all his money and her mother asked him to leave. Jessie’s first career was as a teacher in Massachusetts, where she met and married Alfred Tennyson Beals when Jessie was 26.

While teaching, Jessie began to photograph on increasingly better equipment and, when she realized she was making more money during her summer, side hustle of photography, she and Alfred hit the road as itinerant photographers. During this phase of her life, she became the first woman photojournalist and the first woman staff photographer for a media outlet.

Similar to Jessie’s very first camera, nothing fancy at all, but it opened a whole world to her.
On the streets of Buffalo, the Bookcase Climbing era.

While Jessie would have a long career of photographing everything that she thought she could sell (and she sold a lot) from street photography to political commentary, to famous people and the homes of the wealthy- her big break into large circulation publications came when she worked and talked her way into being the official photographer for the publicity department at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair AND 1904 Summer Olympics.

Jessie and her assistant, Punkin at the fair

Her photography secrets at the fair included walking confidently…
…and carrying a big ladder.

Did she sneak on the balloon or is this a reenactment for publicity purposes?

Cue a montage of some of Jessie’s World’s Fair photographs!

Yes, that’s THE Alice Roosevelt!

Yes, that’s THE Alice Roosevelt’s father, TR….okay, fine, President Theodore Roosevelt

While Jessie’s dream of photographing the world was limited to the countries and people represented at the fair, she was a professional photographer based out of New York City for most of the rest of her life. Jessie Tarbox Beals died on May 30, 1942, she was 71 years old.

It’s time for a final photo montage from her life after the fair:

Beckett’s favorite cat picture

Susan’s favorite dog picture

Biography with a lot of photos by Alexander Alland,Sr.
Compilation by Maria Ausherman
Photos from the fair by Eric Breitbart

An online souvenir book that was digitized by the Library of Congress: The Complete Portfolio of Photographs of the World’s Fair, St. Louis, 1904

Jessie’s photographs are online at the Museum of the City of New York, the Missouri Historical Society, Schlesinger Library, and the Library of Congress.

The National Parks at Night website has a piece about Jessie’s nighttime photography.

A history of…

Greenwich Village on Stuytown.com, Wanzer Sewing Machine Company, rural schoolhouses, the camera (those last two are fun because they are also a list of links…see? Cockamamie Rabbit Holey at its finest!) and MOSS at the American Bryological and Lichenological Society!

The Forgotten History of Racism at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

The Missouri History Museum’s new 1904 World’s Fair exhibit opens April 27th, if you can get to St. Louis, it’s worth the visit alone (and the rest of the museum is fantastic, too!)

The World’s Greatest Fair documentary is on Amazon Prime.

Meet Me in St. Louis is all over the place on many streaming services.

Break music: Rise and Shine, by Icicle; end music: Magic by LehtMoJo