Edna Billings

Edna Billings

Commercial photographer Edna Billings (Calkins) (1886-1974) of Racine, Wisconsin is the subject of this photograph. In 1914, Billings is listed as being a student at the Clarence H. White School of Photography during the first year of its’ establishment in New York City, according to records kept at the Library of Congress.  (1.)  Thus, this portrait may have been taken by a fellow student there, as it was included along with other mounted photographs from a Florida estate having ties with White School student Elizabeth G. Stoltz. Unsigned, this unconserved mounted portrait has several hand-drawn graphite lines framing the photograph as well as  pencil-shading at lower right-corner of image.

According to a 1993 story published in Racine’s Journal Times newspaper, Edna Billings:

“became the first woman photographer in Racine after she took up the trade working in her father’s studio.”  (2.)

Her father was the successful and well-known Racine commercial photographer Edward T. Billings, (1852-1927) who operated this studio at 501 Main Street (extant cdv’s are printed 501 Monument Square) for more than 50 years, according to the Journal Times article.

After her father’s passing, it is believed Billings took the studio over. She later took photographs illustrating at least three children’s books:

1935: Jo Anne Lives Here. Written by Harriet Wratten with photographs Billings.

1940: Buttons and Bo. Photographs by Edna Billings.

1941: Billy’s Scrapbook. Written by Jane Harvey with photographs by Edna Billings.

print details recto: staining to print
mount details verso: signed in graphite:
Edna Billings
Racine Wisconsin


1. Background: Edna Billings: 2015 email from Verna Curtis, curator in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress stating Billings was a student at the CHW School in 1914, with source taken from school’s 1925 alumni list collated as part of Warren and Margo Coville Collection at the LC.

2. excerpt: Too significant to sell at auction, says Prairie School committee: Jim Kneiszel: The Journal Times: Racine: March 6, 1993

Edna Billings

Image Dimensions20.6 x 15.2 cm spot-glued

Support DimensionsDetail: 35.7 x 28.0 cm rough-textured manilla card-stock