#Lookback: John N. “Jack” Langhaar

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

John N. “Jack” Langhaar was originally from New York but wanted to escape from his family’s affluent lifestyle and his overbearing mother. Jack ran away from home and rode the rails to get west at the young age of 14. He was later employed in Wyoming as an oil well driller and met his future wife, Zelma while working for the Inland Oil Company at the Alkali Butte and Salt Creek fields. Zelma Brown was the chief operator at the local telephone exchange in Riverton in 1922. Jack and Zelma tied the knot on June 28, 1922, and departed for their honeymoon immediately after the ceremony to Denver and Salt Lake City.

 Jack was the chief photographer for Walt Disney Productions in Anaheim for five years during the 1930s. In 1938, Jack and Zelma moved to Dubois where Jack took many photos of locals, the scenery of the upper country, the tie hack industry, ranches, and lodges. The couple had a log home built on the Wind River by Fred “Whitey” Van Vooren, where Jack used the basement as his darkroom. In 1939, the newly completed Langhaar residence was photographed, possibly by Jack himself. The photos he captured were marked with, “J.N. Langhaar.”

Jack had a checkered past, although the dates are not known, he served time for stock fraud and was later implicated in smuggling jewels. He was also known to be short-tempered and ornery. Zelma worked at Welty’s store for many years and was one of the town’s most beloved characters, some claimed that folks put up with Jack for Zelma’s sake. Zelma died in the fall of 1972 after a long illness. Jack passed away in Florida in 1982. 

The Dubois Museum recently acquired an early 1920s camera that was believed to have been owned by Jack Langhaar. The camera produced 8 x 10-inch negatives and featured two large bellows that allowed the lens to be moved into focus. The 9A camera and 1A stand sold for $151.75 in 1923, and $180 in 1925, which would cost $2,500 to $2,900 today, accounting for inflation. The 9A outfit did not include a lens. This camera was fitted with a Wollensak Verito 18” f/4 soft-focus lens which sold for $100 in 1922. The soft-focus lens is still coveted today for its popularity as a Hollywood portrait lens that created an evanescent “halo effect.” Due to the price and size of the camera, the Century line was used primarily by professional photographers for portraits or still life shots. Smaller, handheld cameras were cheaper and more practical for everyday photography.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

April 30, 1-3pm “Sheep Shearing Day” at the Pioneer Museum in Lander.  Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

April 30, 2-4pm “Arts and Music Day” at the Riverton Museum. Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

May 6, 9-5 “First Fridays” at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum and the Riverton Museum.  State Farm Riverton/State Farm Lander

May 4, 6pm “Preserving Your Home Collections” at the Riverton Museum.  Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

Thru October 2022, 9-5pm Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Hurrah for The Cowboy: Men of the Open Range” Art Exhibition

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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