Pruitt Photo Services: Capturing Columbus

"The Post News", January 1965

O. N. Pruitt (1891-1967) began his career working for Henry Emil Hoffmeister (1855-1951), who opened a photography studio known as the Hoffmeister Studio in Columbus in 1900.  By 1921, Pruitt bought out Hoffmeister and renamed the business Pruitt Photo Services or Pruitt’s Studios for short. 

In 1960, Pruitt retired and sold his business to his assistant of ten years (and son-in-law), Calvin Shanks (1926-1981). Shanks changed the name of the studio to Shanks Photo Service, which operated for two more decades.

Upon Shanks’ death in 1981 the collection was sold to Bill Frates, a photographic hobbyist. Under Frates ownership, copies of the photographs were made and given to the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.  These copies were the beginnings of the Local History Room Photograph Collection. 

About ten years later, Frates sold the compilation of negatives to Fraser Berkley Hudson, Birney Imes, Jim Carnes, Mark Gooch, and David Gooch. The more than 50,000 original negatives in the Pruitt Collection are currently housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In 2003, Hudson published a dissertation titled Possum Town photo-biography : culture, history, and identity through the Mississippi lens of O.N. Pruitt, 1920-1955 where he analyzes Pruitt’s photographs and how they not only document the history of Columbus, but southern culture as well.  You can learn more about Hudson’s research at

To view the photographs at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library or for more information call 662-329-5304 or email

Published in: on November 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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