We are excited to release a very special video to the public on our new YouTube channel of a collection of early selfie and landscape photos.

The photographer, Fred Johnson, was born in 1888. He was a farmer and an amateur photographer that lived in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin and I would confidently put his collection of 1943 farming photos up against anyone’s.

We don’t just get to see what farming was like in 1943, but we get to see the man that took them since he worked to perfect the early selfie using a string.


Learn about Fred…

Carl/Charles Fredrik “Fred” Johnson was born June 5, 1888 in Maiden Rock Township. His father was Adolf Johnson and his mother was Elsa (Ereckson), they emmigrated from Sweden in 1869. By 1909, with both parents deceased, Fred was living alone at age 21 running the family farm along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Fred never owned a tractor, doing all of his farm work by hand with the use of horses.

Likely self taught, Fred took many photos of himself, his horses, his dog Toby, river boats, his farm, and the beautiful landscape around Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. Fred had many cameras, carrying one with him almost everywhere he went. Fred built himself a dark room in the upstairs of his house where he could develop his own film. What makes his collection so remarkable, are his “selfies” he would take using a string connected to his camera. Look carefully for the string in the photos he took of himself.

He would track the date, time of day, lighting, and what the camera settings were for many of the photos he took. Of those photos that are dated in this collection, they were all taken in 1943. Fred’s main mode of transport was a bike. He died in 1944 after being hit by a car while riding.

He and his parents are buried in the Maiden Rock Cemetery. In 1946, Sidney & Grace Johnson, purchased Fred’s farm, home, and its contents. They preserved his photo collection and passed it to their daughters. Barb Sand and Harriett Rothe donated the collection to the PCHA.

We are running a display at our History Center in Bay City on his collection.  Visitors can also browse a photo album of the entire collection of over 200 photos.  A true treasure!