Jessie Richmond Tarbox Beals, First Female Photojournalist in the U.S., Part 2

Now that Jessie’s parents and siblings are all sorted out, it’s time to take a look at Jessie’s life and her Tarbox ancestry.

As mentioned previously, Jessie Richmond Tarbox was born on 23 December 1870 in Ontario, Canada. She grew up in Canada in a wealthy home. Her father made his money by inventing the Wanzer sewing machine in Canada, so as to not infringe on any U.S. patents.

Jessie was educated at the Collegiate Institute of Ontario, where she graduated in 1887 with a teaching certificate. Family records indicate she then left Canada and went to Williamburg, Massachusetts to live with her brother, Paul, and began teaching. About the same time, Jessie entered and won a Youth’s Companion magazine contest. The prize was her first camera and photography became her new hobby.

Jessie married Alfred Tennyson Beals on 2 September 1897, Greenfield, Franklin, Massachusetts. Less than two years later, she was asked by the Boston Post to photograph the Massachusetts state prison and her professional career was born.

Jessie and Alfred went on the road in a business partnership. Jessie was the photographer, while her husband managed the business and helped in the darkroom developing Jessie’s photos.

They traveled extensively as Jessie’s career blossomed and her photographs were published. By 1904, the couple had settled in New York City, but their marriage was on the rocks. I’ve found no mention of divorce, but they seemingly lived their own lives.

Jessie, like her father, made quite a bit of money, but spent it all, living an impoverished life at the end. She died at Bellevue Hospital, New York City, on 30 May 1946.

Jessie and Alfred were the parents of Grace, born and died on 6 March 1902 in Dowagiac, Cass, Michigan.

Jessie gave birth to a second daughter, Nanette Tarbox Beals, 8 June 1911, New York, New York. Family papers state Nanette was also the child of Alfred, but online articles suggest her mother had a relationship with someone else.

The best resource I found for this family is a booklet digitized by Familysearch, The Tarbox Ancestors of Nanette Tarbox (Beals) Brainerd, published in 1989.

Jessie has a number of living descendants today.

To learn more about Jessie Tarbox Beals:

Jessie Tarbox Beals – Wikipedia

Women Photojournalists: Jessie Tarbox Beals

Jessie Tarbox Beals, American Photographer – Britannica

Jessie Tarbox Beals – The J. Paul Getty Museum

Guide to the Jessie Tarbox Beals Photographs – New York Historical Society

Jessie Tarbox Beals Photographs – flickr

Jessie’s Tarbox line of descent:

John Tarbox (1612-1674) = Rebecca (MNU) Andrews
John Tarbox (c1645-1723+)= Mary Haven
Nathaniel Tarbox (25 January 1684-1726) = Elizabeth Emery
Benjamin Tarbox (1711-1788) = Hannah (Elliot) Smith
Caryl/Carl Tarbox (1761-1847) = Jane Gilpatrick
Nathaniel Tarbox (1788-1863) = Eliza Cammett
Nathaniel John (1831-1899) = Marie Antoinette Bassett
Jessie Richmond Tarbox (1870-1942)

Jessie Tarbox Beals is my 6th cousin 3 times removed! Not exactly a close relationship, but a cousin nonetheless!


2 thoughts on “Jessie Richmond Tarbox Beals, First Female Photojournalist in the U.S., Part 2”

  1. What a cool story!! But so sad that she died destitute. Do you know where in Ontario she grew up? I love reading stories about enterprising women – she was truly ahead of her time!

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