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A.A. Bosshart, prolific artist and photographer of York County people and landscapes.

Bosshart landscape.
Bosshart landscape.

For half a century A.A. Bosshart captured images of local people and countryside with his camera and brush. His work is represented in many collections of family photographs and still found hanging on walls of homes and businesses. My recent York Sunday News column on Bosshart and his work is below:

1935 show flier listing Bosshart paintings from around York County
1935 show flier listing Bosshart paintings from around York County

York’s Bosshart Studio remembered

Many of you have studio photographs with A.A. Bosshart impressed on the paper mat or folder. You might also know of portraits of local individuals or landscapes of area scenes painted by A.A. Bosshart. So who was this person that left such a lengthy trail of photography and art?

Adolph Albert Bosshart (1880-1951) rarely, if ever, used his first name. When he was younger he appears in the city directories as A. Albert, but was usually known, even in his obituary, as just A.A. He was born in Zurich, Switzerland, coming to York with his family at the age of three. His father Albert was a gardener at Penn Park when it was a showplace. Sister Clara was a seamstress first, then she became a nurse. Sister Emma was a well-known musician, music teacher and an organist at several of York’s large downtown churches until her early death from pneumonia is 1926. Brother Robert Louis is listed as a coach painter in the directories in the early nineteen teens, moving to Detroit, Michigan by the time mother Barbara died in 1926. Brother Hans was a cigar maker and brother Rudolph a printer, working for the York Printing Company.

A.A. may have been professionally active as an artist even earlier, but I found A. Albert listed as a “crayon artist” in the 1902, 1905 and 1907 York city directories. (The directories were issued about every two years.) A crayon artist’s job was enhancing enlargements of photographs. During that time the enlargement process lost much of the detail, so a crayon artist filled them in with charcoal or pastels. That is why you can smudge the details on those portrait sized enlarged photos you might have from the late 19th and early 20th century.

By 1911 A.A. was listed as artist, and in 1921 as artist and photographer with his business address 21 West Market Street. He continued to be listed as both through most of the next three decades. He married Anna E. Brubaker and had just one child, Louise, who seems not to have married. His 1951 obituary says that he worked for 11 years for J. Horace Rudy, designing and painting stained glass windows. Those may have been the years that he was listed in the directories solely as artist. The obituary states that he purchased the Wilbur Hoffman photography studio at 21 West Market Street in 1919, coinciding with the directory listing. It goes on to say that later he purchased the A.O. Titus studio at 10 West Market and moved there. That seems to have been around 1923.

The last move of the studio was to 57 South Beaver Street, precipitated by a spectacular fire that pretty well destroyed the Ebert building at 10-12 West Market in August 1940. Losses were estimated at $125,000 (over two million today). McCrory’s Five and Ten’s stock was a total loss. Wiest’s department store on one side and Worth’s women’s apparel on the other suffered heavy smoke and water damage. York Water Company estimated 2,597,750 gallons of water were used by Laurel, Rex, Rescue, Union and Goodwill fire companies to quell the blaze. A number of firefighters and policeman were injured fighting the fire and helping rescue several firemen trapped by a roof collapse that was triggered by an explosion of photo-developing chemicals in the Bosshart studio. The studio had occupied several rooms on the second and third floors of the building, and Bosshart lost his equipment, 18,000 negatives and “a large stock of finished photographs.” A newspaper article about the fire said Bosshart’s losses were over $10,000 (almost $170,000 today), but he did have some insurance.

Bosshart was active in national and state photographers associations. He was awarded a “Master of Photography” degree by the Photographers Association of America in 1948.

Reportedly having studied with artist Robert Henri in New York, Bosshart was a prolific painter. Portraits were commissioned by local businesses and families; his obituary estimates that he painted more than 100 of them. His largest “portraits” were probably the life-sized depictions of James Smith, Robert Morris, Bishop White and a York Rifleman, four out of 16 paintings of patriots painted by various artists for the 1927-28 Sesquicentennial of Continental Congress meeting in York. Bosshart was reportedly elected an honorary member of the Historical Society of York County (now York County Heritage Trust) for renewing the large paintings, now part of the YCHT collections.

His personal pleasure was in capturing the landscapes of many county sites. A flier entitled A.A. Bosshart, One Man Show, May 27th to June 2nd, 1935 lists 52 paintings. He had two paintings exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1945. The 1935 exhibit was probably at the York Art Center, now the York Art Association. Bosshart was one of the founders of YAC in 1905 and was actively involved with art students there for many years, along with participating in exhibits. The Gazette and Daily had a “Critic’s Corner” column, written by “AG” in the 1940s. An April 26, 1947 column, “Bosshart’s Work at Art Center Hurt by Old Fashioned Framing,” seemed to approve of the impressionist style painting, but took the “old fashioned gold frames” to task, suggesting at least using a white matting. The column carried a disclaimer that the opinions were the critic’s own.

From 1923 to 1960, York lumber dealer Charles Noss and wife Carrye documented local events of all kinds on film. They then showed the mini-documentaries at fundraisers for local organizations, reportedly helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Noss films were given to York County Heritage Trust and later cleaned and spliced by volunteer Gerald Shermeyer. Bosshart is shown photographing a young woman in two segments of the Noss films titled “The Studio of Yesterday” and “The Studio of Today,” dating from about 1948. Another segment, “York Art Club,” shows students there in 1940 painting from live models, “under advisement from Albert Bosshart.”

Check your family photos and the paintings you and your friends and relatives have hanging on your walls. There is a good chance that you might have some Bosshart work of your own.

Photo invoice from 1941
Photo invoice from 1941

Click this link to read about Bosshart’s musical sisters meeting a famous singer.