Ira G. Owen: US Civil War Era Photographer of Newton, New Jersey


  • Gary Saretzky
  • Joseph Bilby



Like other studio photographers, Ira G. Owen, primarily active in Newton, New Jersey, in the 1860s, sought to profit from the strong demand for photographs so that he could have a comfortable middle-class life. Owen exemplifies the “you can make it if you try” kind of success story that came true for some able and motivated entrepreneurial Americans in a market economy in which small businesses could flourish under effective management. This article by Gary Saretzky traces the trajectory of Owen’s career, closely looking at his marketing and production methods, including posing styles employed to satisfy his many customers during the Civil War and postwar years in Newton, Hackettstown, and Scranton. For additional illustrations to this article, see the Ira G. Owen Digital Portfolio. A special addendum to this article, by Joseph G. Bilby, outlines the military career of one of Owen’s subjects, Nathaniel K. Bray.