Fred Behmer was born in 1886 in Columbus, and at an early age he gained access to a camera and quickly developed an eye for photography.
At 16 years old he started taking photographs for money, and at 17 he began working at Jeffrey Manufacturing doing corporate photography. He married in 1907, and he and his wife, Sophia, had a son and two daughters. The family later moved to a new home at 1407 Wyandotte Road in Grandview.
After about a year, Behmer left Jeffrey to join Baker Art Gallery of Columbus, which was the largest photo studio in the country. After two years he went to work for the Ohio Sun, a Columbus newspaper, where he was the sole photojournalist.
In that capacity, Behmer was the first local news photographer to cover out-of-town Ohio State University football games and owned the first Graflex camera used for press work in Columbus. The Graflex was popular for sports and press photography due largely to its use of a focal plane shutter to produce shutter speeds fast enough to appear to freeze rapid motion such as in football games.
Behmer returned to Jeffrey in 1908 as chief photographer. Jeffrey’s primary business at the time was related to the coal mining industry, having been formed from the Lechner Mining Machine Company. Lechner founders were inventors and manufacturers of some of the first automated coal mining equipment. Jeffrey became a diversified manufacturing business, producing equipment that included stone crushers, loaders, conveyors, and locomotives that were used in stone quarries near Marble Cliff and across the country.
Behmer did all the photography and layout for the company catalogs and instruction manuals and for advertising spreads.
In 1910 he made the first big photo advertising blowups in Columbus. Jeffrey built simulated industrial environments in their Columbus facility in order to place their products for the photography sessions. This photo shows a number of Jeffrey employees acting as coal miners for a Behmer photo shoot. Behmer sometimes sat in as one of the “miners.” He also photographed company events, including its annual golf outing at the Arlington Country Club in Marble Cliff.
Behmer’s son, Fred Jr., graduated from Grandview Heights High School in 1926 and started working with his father at Jeffrey while attending OSU. In 1933 he joined Jeffrey fulltime, assuming the “roadwork” responsibilities that his father previously had done. He did Jeffrey industrial photography, including movies of Jeffrey machinery at work, in the 48 states, Canada and Mexico. He succeeded his father as head of Jeffrey Photography Department in 1953. He died in 1968 at 59 years old. His father died in 1972.