The legacy of Horace Maynard Brazelton (1877-1956) has been one of my labors of love over the past seven years. Once I ran into his work, I could not stop searching for it. What started as one or two specimens would increase and become more frequent until a few dozen or more were in the collection at the Chattanooga Historical Society. Not much, considering his fifty-year career servicing the Chattanooga Black community. Although as I was once reminded, not all Blacks in Chattanooga could afford a formal portrait or photography except maybe a penny arcade machine at a local fair.
Brazelton was a successful African American businessman. His studio changed locations at different addresses but always stayed on or near the ‘Big Nine’ in Chattanooga or E. 9th Avenue, later renamed MLK Boulevard. Unfortunately, his studios and home are not standing, nor is there a historical marker elevating his accomplishments.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Horace Brazelton came to Chattanooga as a young man. He was the first African American to open a professional studio in the Chattanooga area. He was a photographer until he died in 1956.
Brazelton’s body of work can still be found locally in antique malls, junk shops, and on the occasional eBay auction. If you run into any, fill out the form below, or message us on Facebook.
Brazelton’s work is often signed in script “Brazelton” in the negative in the righthand bottom corner. They are also usually real photo postcards, but I have run into studio portraits with a more polished studio stamp.
His signature often will look like this, and sometimes on a slant. Or, it’ll be embossed with Brazelton Studios, Chattanooga, and a 9th Street address.
Even unmarked Brazeltons have been identified with a distinctive and unique backdrop he used for many years.