This story must be true, for try as I might I was unable to find a photograph of Representative John S. Rhea of Kentucky. Sometimes the story is more interesting than the photograph. Although I must admit to a great deal of curiosity toward the photograph. If anyone knows of one please contact me. I'd love to see it.
I found a written description of Rhea in a book that contained woodcuts of all others mentioned. The following is his description: In presence, he is very attractive, and his voice alone, though his handsome face should not be seen, would instantly rivet attention. In physique, he is slight, but of commanding excellence in dignity and style — one man among many — and the charm in his manner is exceeded only by his remarkable mental qualifications.
"A newspaper artist has requested permission to make a sketch of me, and I have told him that I will give him a sitting. I hope no harm will come to him." This was the solicitous observation made by Representative John S. Rhea, of Kentucky.
"Do you think it a specially hazardous undertaking?" "I don't intend any harm to the young man, for he is a friend of mine," replied the Kentuckian." "He volunteered for the work with a complete knowledge of the disastrous results that have followed all previous efforts to secure a likeness of myself."
This bit of history about Representative Rhea is very unique and constitutes the basis of a reputation at home that some peculiar influence precludes the possibility of obtaining a photograph of him. At present there is no picture of Mr. Rhea in existence. Several unsuccessful trials have been made, and Mr. Rhea was entirely friendly to the experiment.
Some years ago in Louisville a friend attempted to photograph him, and in the midst of the proceedings a conflagration of a very serious character started in the building, so that Mr. Rhea and the photographer had some difficulty in escaping with their lives.
Again, not long afterward, a photographer of daring in Frankfort undertook to get a likeness of Mr. Rhea. He succeeded in making the negative, but before the picture was printed the photographer was carrying the glass from one part of the building to another, when he stubbed his foot and fell, not only breaking the negative into a thousand pieces, but badly fracturing his nose.
Source List Entry:
McAfee, John J. Kentucky Politicians: Sketches Of Representative Cornhuskers. 1886. Digital Images. Google Books. http://books.google.com/books : 2008.
Unknown. "Can't Be Photographed." The St. Louis and Canadian Photographer. February 1900, p. 57.