Lawrence Beitler

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Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930

Lawrence Henry Beitler (1885 - 1960, 74 years[1]) was a studio photographer in Marion, Indiana. His photograph of the hanging bodies of African Americans Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, surrounded by a large white crowd, including women and children, became an iconic representation of such events. This photo sold thousands of copies, which Beitler stayed up for 10 days and nights printing.


Most of the nearly 5,000 lynchings documented between Reconstruction and the late 1960s were perpetrated in the South, with the peak of frequency between 1890 and 1910. The photo may have inspired Abel Meeropol, a teacher in New York, to write a poem and set it to music - what became known as "Strange Fruit" and made popular in 1939 by Billie Holiday's recording. The first line of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row," is “They’re selling postcards of the hanging”, inspired by sales of the above photo and the sale of photos from other lynchings.


  1. ^ ""Find A Grave". Birth: Oct. 9, 1885. Death: Mar. 3, 1960. Spouse: Rachel E. Comer Beitler (1897 - 1978). Burial: Grant Memorial Park, Marion, Grant County, Indiana, USA. Plot: C 18" [1].