Alfred Shea Addis

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Alfred Shea Addis
Alfred Shea Addis.jpg
Born 1832
Died 10 September 1886
Chihuahua, Mexico
Cause of death Gunshot wound
Nationality American
Occupation Photographer
Known for Photography
Spouse(s) Sarah Short
Children Yda Hillis Addis, Judge Addis

Alfred Shea Addis (1832 – 10 September 1886), also known as A. S. Addis, was an American Western itinerant photographer, mostly known for photographs of Kansas, Mexico and the American Southwest.

Early life[edit]

Born in Philadelphia, Alfred Shea Addis migrated to Lawrence, Kansas in 1850. He worked as a photographer’s assistant for Thomas Short, quickly learning the art of photography and gradually securing his own clients under Short's guidance. Addis later married Short's daughter, Sarah. The Addises had two children, Yda Hillis Addis (born 1857) and Judge Addis (born 1862). The families were Confederate sympathizers. When the situation in Lawrence became too violent, the Addises and the Shorts moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where they lived near the protection of the fort.

Fort Leavenworth[edit]

Addis started his own photography business. He advertised "Photographs, Ambrotypes, Melainotypes. Photographs framed in Superior style. Pins and Lockets filled in best style. Call and give me a trial."[1] At night he managed the Union Theater which he later purchased. As the potential for civil war heated up, the abolitionists increased their stronghold in Leavenworth and violence broke out there when Missouri seceded from the Union in November 1862, prompting Brigadier General James G. Blunt to proclaim martial law. In August 1863 the pro-slavery bushwhacker William Quantrill led a massacre of pro-Union citizens at Lawrence.[2] Addis gave a benefit performance at the Union Theater, with the proceeds to go to the Lawrence victims. In January 1864, abolitionists burned down the Union Theater. The Shorts and the Addises, along with their slaves, fled to northern Mexico.


The Addises and Shorts first went to Chihuahua, where they found other Confederate sympathizers. Addis took photographs of the Mexican landscapes and the indigenous people and sold his cartes de visit to art dealers in New York. When he scouted for wilderness landscapes and exotic vistas to photograph, he often took along his daughter Yda to translate the Indian and Spanish languages to English. Addis moved his family further south into Mexico, looking for new views of native people and the country. By mule train the family migrated to Mazatlán and Hermosillo. After the Civil War ended, Addis took his family aboard the sailing ship The Orizaba for California.

Return to America[edit]

In California, the Addises and the Shorts lived in a house located on Bunker Hill in Los Angeles. His children attended school in the small Los Angeles School House. The women kept house and took in boarders.

When Addis heard of veins of gold and silver in New Mexico and Nevada, he left Los Angeles for the mines, photographing Indian tribes and buying real estate along the way. When he moved to Tucson, Arizona, he became the territorial marshal. His son, then a young man, joined his father in Tucson. A thief who robbed Addis fled to Mexico but was tracked to, Chihuahua, Mexico by Addis and his son. Addis was shot by the thief and died the following day.


Addis was a prolific photographer and his work appears in many private and public collections, however cartes de visites, cabinet cards, stereographs and photographs with his imprints are relatively uncommon.


  1. ^ Leavenworth the Weekly Inquirer Thursday Morning, April 17, 1862
  2. ^ James M. McPherson, Battle Cry for Freedom: The Civil War Era, New York, Oxford University Press, 1988