In 1896, Frances and Mary Allen participated in the first American photography salon, the Washington Salon and Art Photographic Exhibition, sponsored by the Camera Club of the Capital Bicycle Club. Nine of their photographs appeared in this juried exhibition held at The Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C.; two received awards. The artistic photographs section, Class A, included 177 photographs; five were by the Allens: “Study of a Head,” “Boiling down Cider,” “Spring,” “Sibyl,” and “The Mill-drain.” “Sibyl,” named for the ancient prophetess, drew praise for its “beautiful effect of lighting” and won a Special Mention by the Art Jury.14

The second section, Class B, was devoted to photographs with excellent technical merits, and included 168 photographs. Frances and Mary were represented by four: “Sunset,” “Lunch,” “A Holbein Woman,” and “A Steep Path” (later titled “A Difficult Step”) which won a Blue Ribbon for excellence. The jury commended the artistic merits of “A Holbein Woman,” and noted that if not “for certain technical demerits, [it] would have been decorated.”15 The July 1896 issue of The American Amateur Photographer singled out “A Steep Path” as “particularly artistic in pose and lighting,” and reproduced the photograph in the following issue.16 The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum purchased fifty of the 345 photographs in the 1896 Washington Salon for their newly formed Division of Photographic History.17 Two Allen sisters’ photographs, “Spring” and “Sybil,” were acquired for $11.00 and $6.00 respectively.

Photographs courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA.