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A view of flooding in a residential area of Cassville, Wisconsin (WHI Image ID 93272)
A view of flooding in a residential area of Cassville, Wisconsin, circa 1910 WHI 93272

The Cassville Photographs of Frank W. Feiker

Around 1905 photographer Frank W. Feiker moved from Milwaukee to Cassville, Wisconsin, and for the next half-century he documented the daily life of that typical Mississippi River town. In this gallery we've brought together 147 of his best photographs. They range from intimate portraits to sprawling landscapes, and their subjects include everything from subterranean mineshafts to aerial views from bluff tops. Many images bear his signature "Souvenir" mark, denoting that the image was used on a postcard. The Feiker collection provides a rich visual record of Cassville over several decades and exhibits the work of a typical early 20th-century, small-town photographer.

Cassville's Downtown and River Life

Young women posing on a ladder in the woods, circa 1892
Young women posing on a ladder
in the woods, circa 1892
The collection contains many photographs of businesses along Cassville's main streets. This makes it possible to trace the history of the community's built environment during the first half of the 20th century by using Feiker's images.

Like most visitors to Cassville, Feiker was fascinated by the Mississippi River. Many of his photographs show vessels of different types over a 50-year period, including an iceboat, barges, ferries and steamboats.

One glass-plate negative contains 16 images of Cassville and is marked, 'Souvenir,' as if it were intended for a set of postcard views to be sold together. Feiker also photographed floods, shipwrecks, mining, farming and rural life.

Frank W. Feiker — A Brief Biography

Frank Feiker was born in the in Milwaukee's Fourth Ward in 1876. For a short time, he lived with his brother Herman at 1102 Walnut Street in Milwaukee, and around the turn of the 20th century the two brothers moved to Cassville. Frank bought a studio from local photographer Charles Ismael and lived in the back of the building the rest of his life.

When he first moved to Cassville, he took a number of photographs with a timer so that he could be in the picture too. In 1936 a W.P.A. researcher interested in Wisconsin governor Nelson Dewey called on Feiker and left these notes.

As he grew older, Feiker became increasingly reclusive. He took fewer outdoor photographs of town scenes or landscapes and more studio portraits. He died in April 1950 at age 74, after his neighbors found him unconscious.

View the Gallery

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