JACK COFFRIN
From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
My parents, Everett and Olive Coffrin, homesteaded in Richland county, Mont., in 1914. Fourth of six children, I was born on the homestead near Mona, Mont., in 1917. The family moved to Sidney in 1923 and I attended grade and high school there. During the depression years I worked in retail clothing stores, in Sidney until 1938 and in Lemmon, S.D., until February, 1942, when I enlisted in the army infantry, serving 44 months, 28 of them in the Pacific.
After discharge from the service in November, 1945, 1 attended
photography school in Chicago in 1946, moved to Minneapolis late that year and married there. After working in photography studios for several months we moved to Sidney to open a studio in September, 1947. 1 sold that studio in August, 1950, and bought the old Range Riders Studio in Miles City, upstairs in the Miles Block. Operating as Coffrin Studio, I pursued my profession there until the summer of 1957 when we built a combination residence-studio at 1600 Main Street, our present location.
From childhood days listening to the stories of earlier times from my fat-her and other old-timers, Montana's history had a great appeal for me. I had never heard of the L. A. Huffman photographs of the frontier until one day, within a year or so after entering the photography business in Miles City, W. R. Felton and Mark Brown of Iowa came to me to see if I could print the illustrations from the old glass negatives for their forthcoming books, "The Frontier Years" and "Before Barbed Wire." It was a tremendously exciting experience for me to work with those old negatives and develop the photographs of the Indians, the buffalo hunting, the cattle roundups, as this work continued for several months. The negative files and collection of pictures were maintained at the old Huffman Studio on Garland Street where Huffman's daughter Ruth and her husband Vern Scott lived. Subsequent to printing the illustrations for the two books I continued to make photographs for them through the years until 1964. At that time I contracted to move the files to our studio for the production, display and sale of the Huffman pictures.
With the pressure of work in our day-to-day photography business and shortage of space for display of the Huffman pictures, an addition was built onto the front of the studio in 1966 and this has become Coffrin's Old West Gallery. Since leasing the equipment and photography business to Allen Turnquist on Jan. 1, 1969, 1 have devoted full time to the operation of the gallery and the distribution of our Old West photographs, postcards, art reproductions, and Western History books to other dealers in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and other locations.
Through the years Huffman's photographs grow more valued as an accurate record of that period following the Custer Battle and the establishment of Fort Keogh, the last of the Indian Wars, the buffalo hunting, the life in old Miles City and other frontier settlements in Eastern Montana. Huffman's magnificent work in photographing the ranches and roundups on the vast cattle ranges of the area is unequalled anywhere. Requests arrive from many points of the United States and overseas for use of the Huffman photographs to illustrate books and magazines. Tourists stop to visit, view the displays and capture the flavor of the Old West. It is very gratifying to have been at the right place at the right time to have been able to lend our facilities and training for the preservation of Huffman's great work and the sharing of it with Miles City and it's visitors.