Odd photo job leads to mystery

A high resolution photo of a horse print, which hangs in Eddie's Supper Club in Great Falls, Montana.

When you are a photographer you get calls all of the time from people with requests to photograph strange things. That was the cast recently when a movie production company contacted me and asked me to photograph a facsimile or lithograph of a painting hanging in Eddie's Supper Club in Great Falls, Montana. They want to reproduce it, frame it, and use it on the set for the movie they are making.

Photographing the lithograph was easy. Editing it in Photoshop was a bit more challenging. It had been hanging in Eddie's Supper Club for many years and the colors were faded and it wasn't very sharp any more. But with some work I was able to restore it and ship it off to the customer. But I was curious. Who was the original artist? Where did it come from?

If you are unfamiliar with Eddie's Supper Club, it is an old restaurant located on the east side of Great Falls. When it was built back in the 1950s it probably was on the edge of town. Since then the city has grown and it is now surrounded by residential neighborhoods. But one thing is for sure, not much inside the restaurant has changed. And that's good.

When I asked the owner of the restaurant where it came from all she could tell me is that it was one of four lithographs purchased from Franklin Vaccine Company. That seemed like an odd company to be purchasing prints from, so I did more research, but came up empty. Franklin Vaccine Company used to make medicine for horses and it has been out of business for many years. Given how little information about Franklin Vaccine Company exists online it is possible it's not even the company's real name. Actually I think it might be O. M. Franklin Serum Company, whose founder was inducted into the National Cowboy Museum, but not for painting--for developing the first successful vaccine for blackleg, a deadly cattle disease--but I don't know. One of my leads seemed to indicate they commissioned a painter every year to make a calendar and that the artist might be Raphael Lillywhite. But if you look at Lillywhite's paintings the styles don't really match. So who knows.

Whatever the answer is, I suspect it may never be found.