Family of frontier photographer John Breum donates items to museum


From Prairie County Library

  Frontier photographer John Breum’s granddaughter recently visited Prairie County to tour the area her grandfather had resided in and photographed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. 

John Breum was the XIT ranch’s hunter as a young man and later was the postmaster in Fallon. He moved to Washington in the 1940’s. He was an accomplished photographer, recording the life of the cowboys and early settlers as well as the landscape of Prairie County. As a contemporary of Evelyn Cameron’s Breum is mentioned in Cameron diary entries as he tutored Cameron in the art of photography — even loaning his camera to Cameron for a six month period. 
Early this spring, family friend and photographer, Terri Smith contacted the museum to arrange a visit to the area and to view the Breum collection displayed at the Prairie County Museum. She also indicated that Cherie Breum, John’s granddaughter, was interested in donating copies of her grandfather’s photos as well as their glass negatives to the museum. 
The two women visited Terry last month and were hosted by the museum board members. Terri and Cherie related the chance discovery of the glass negatives. Growing up Cherie had enjoyed looking at the collection of her grandfather’s photos, however, her aunt Fern had inherited the photo albums after John’s passing. At the urging of her friend Terri, Cherie had sought the albums to copy the photos for her father Cliff.  
While looking for one of the albums, Terri discovered the stacks of glass negatives in a trunk. Fern gave the albums and the negatives to Cherie. According to Terri, the negatives required an investment of about a year’s time to restore them to a condition that allowed for their copying and printing.
After meeting with the museum board, Cherie did in fact donate the glass negatives as well as a picture book compiled from the photos. Cherie also generously gave the museum rights to reproduce the photographs for individual sales and for museum promotions. 
The two visitors were also pleased to be taken on tours of the area including the Calypso Trail, Scenic View Overlook, and the Fallon community.
They have remained in contact with museum board members since their visit and expressed their appreciation for the unique beauty of eastern Montana including the community hospitality shared.
The picture book, Through the Eyes of Johnnie Breum, can be viewed at the Prairie County Museum. Tentative plans are being made for enlargements and framing of several of the Breum photographs to be displayed along with his camera equipment. 

Published October 24, 2012

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