Shamokin, PA  (1878-1998)
(adapted from an article by Mark Gilger, staff writer, Shamokin News-Item, 2004)

Studio History and Thomas Family:

Born Aug. 7, 1851, Myron Thomas was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Amos Thomas, who settled in the community in the early 1800s. During his early life, Thomas became interested in the new method of making a photographic image by chemistry. He was self-taught, gaining his early knowledge from the few text books that were available at the time.

Thomas established his first studio in 1876 on the south side of Sunbury Street between Shamokin and Franklin streets. Photography was crude at that time, but Thomas mastered the technique and began what became a highly-respected and prosperous business. After two years on Sunbury Street, Thomas moved his studio to its present location on Independence Street.

Thomas established the first chain of studios in Pennsylvania, including Mount Carmel, Ashland and Tamaqua. The Shamokin studio was the principal center for processing photos and specialized in aerial, commercial, publicity, photostats and copies, and picture framing.

He retired in 1929 and sold the business to two of his sons, Ralph and Paul Thomas, who continued to operate the studio at the same location. Myron Thomas died January 17, 1940, at the age of 89.

Paul Thomas, the youngest of Myron Thomas’ five children, was raised in the photography business like his brothers, Ralph, Richard and Clair, and his sister, Lillian. He learned the fundamentals of the photographic business at an early age and served as an aerial commercial and portrait photographer for the family business.

After a short partnership with his brother, Ralph, Thomas served as a naval aerial photographer during World War II, where he used all types of aircraft and aerial equipment in patrolling the South Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

He attended various photographic schools while serving in the Navy and upon his honorable discharge in 1945, he joined the New Haven Railroad, where he was in charge of the photography department. Thomas covered all system activities between New York City and Boston, Mass.

After leaving the railroad company, he became employed by Merrill Studio in New York City. He was later hired by the Port Authority of New York to make a photographic survey of all piers in New York, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

When he finished his last assignment, Thomas returned to Shamokin and assumed ownership of the family studio in 1950. He succeeded his oldest brother, Ralph, who retired in 1949 and moved to Arizona for health reasons. Ralph Thomas, a portrait and commercial photographer, was the first movie photographer in Shamokin to use the standard size 35mm equipment.

Paul Thomas, who specialized in portrait and commercial photography, continued to run the studio with his sister until his death in 1984.

His sister was trained as a colorist and retoucher, and specialized in free-hand miniatures on ivory.

After serving as an apprentice to his father, Clair Thomas was placed in charge of the Thomas studio in Tamaqua. After several years in Tamaqua, the studio was moved to Wilkes-Barre and later transferred to Warren, where the Thomases conducted a portrait and commercial studio until Clair retired.

Richard Thomas became an accomplished pictorialist, commercial and portrait photographer while working at the family business. He was adept in the art of retouching. He contracted a kidney ailment, which caused his death at a young age. Lillian, Ralph and Clair Thomas also are deceased.

Dedicated employee takes over:

Joyce Wojciechowski, who had worked full-time at Paul Thomas Studio in various capacities since graduating from Shamokin High School in 1965, took over the business following Thomas’ death and did an excellent job of continuing the long tradition of quality photography. Under her leadership, the studio specialized in weddings, custom framing, passports, copy and restoration, and oil and natural portraits of distinction. Wojciechowshi managed the studio until her death on August 2, 1998.

Wojciechowski’s death brought an end to the full-time operation of the well-known studio.  Bernard “Ben” Wojciechowski of Tharptown, who took over ownership and operation of the historical business in 1998 following the death of his wife.

Until the building was sold in March 2006, her husband was able to maintain the vast collection of nostalgic photographs, negatives and postcards that served as a historical tribute to the once-thriving community and brought back numerous memories for the thousands of people who had their pictures taken at one of the oldest businesses in the area. The studio contained many photos and negatives depicting weddings, graduations, class reunions, schools, churches, fire companies, collieries, aerial shots, trains, historical landmarks including the former F&S Brewery, hospitals, Eagle Silk Mill, Victoria, Capitol and Majestic movie theaters, Edgewood Park, Knoebels Amusement Resort, Glen Burn culm bank, stadiums, floods, old-time businesses and much more. The Northumberland Historic Society purchased the remaining pictures and negatives.

One of Wojciechowski’s most prized possessions is a letter dated Apirl 7, 1898 from Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, phonograph and many other contrivances, who had a portrait taken at the studio in 1876 – 1877, by Myron Thomas, founder of the business. In the letter, Edison, who once lived in the Sunbury area, asked Thomas for a copy of the portrait that he described as one of the best ever taken of the famous inventor.

While he was in the Shamokin area, Edison was responsible for providing electricity to St. Edward Church on North Shamokin Street, which was the first church building in America to have electrical lighting.

More about Edison, Shamokin, and the Thomas Studio

Thomas Edison - Thomas Studio