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COLE, ALLEN E.

COLE, ALLEN E. (1 Sept. 1883-6 Feb. 1970), a professional photographer in Cleveland's black community, generated over 27,000 negatives during his life, a collection acquired by the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY and selectively published in a book entitled Somebody, Somewhere, Wants Your Photograph (1980), which was Cole's business motto. Son of Allen and Sara Cole, he was born in Kearneysville, W.Va. Cole graduated from Storer College and worked as a waiter in Atlantic City and a railroad porter and cook in Cincinnati until he was injured in a train accident. He moved to Cleveland, worked as a waiter at the CLEVELAND ATHLETIC CLUB, and eventually became head waiter there for over 10 years.

At the Athletic Club, Cole met Joseph Opet, manager of Frank Moore Studios, who introduced him to photography. He assisted at Opet's studios for 6 years, then decided to live as a photographer, opening a studio in his home in 1922. When individual orders declined in the Great Depression, Cole did commercial work and commission work for 8 white studios. Cole contributed photographs to the CLEVELAND CALL & POST, and his work earned prizes at state and local exhibitions. Cole also was a founder and treasurer of the Progressive Business League, an officer of the Dunbar Life Insurance Co., a member of ST. JAMES AME CHURCH, and was active in the Elks and MASONS. For years he was the only black member of the Cleveland Society of Professional Photographers. His wife, Frances T. Cole (1 Jan. 1889-29 Apr. 1979), was his assistant and business manager. Cole was buried in Highland Park Cemetery.


Black W. Samuel and Williams, Regennia N. Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole: A Photographic History of African Americans in Cleveland, Ohio . Kent State University Press, 2012. A copy may be purchased here .

Somebody, Somewhere, Wants Your Photograph(1980), WRHS.

Allen E. Cole Papers, WRHS.