Mike Meyer Disfarmer Gravesite

Mike Disfarmer was a Heber Springs (Cleburne County) mid-twentieth-century portrait photographer whose work gained fame and popularity some years after his death. His Cleburne County gravesite was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2009.

Disfarmer is believed to have been born in Indiana in the early 1880s and to have moved to Stuttgart (Arkansas County) at an early age. After his father’s death, he and his mother then moved to Heber Springs. By 1926, he had built his own photography studio, where he lived and worked, earning a simple living for over forty years by photographing rural people for a few cents a sitting. Many believe that he changed his fame from Mike Meyer to Disfarmer as a rejection of the farming world and the farming family in which he was raised. He died in 1959.

Disfarmer’s work came to light in 1973 when a collection of negatives was given to Peter Miller, editor of the Little Rock (Pulaski County) Arkansas Sun. After many of the photographs were published in the paper, their popularity grew rapidly. Within a few years, original prints were selling for up to $30,000, a sum that Meyer was never fortunate enough to share.

Disfarmer’s gravesite is located in the north-central part of the Heber Springs Cemetery at the northeastern corner of Oak Street and South 4th Street. The simple, ground-level granite headstone is inscribed “Mike Meyer Disfarmer 1884–1959.” The only decorations to the stone are an egg and dart design at the bottom center and a stylized floral design above the birth and death dates.

The gravesite was added to the National Register due to its statewide significance and Disfarmer’s status as a person of historical significance.

For additional information:
Disfarmer. http://www.disfarmer.com/ (accessed October 13, 2014)

“Mike Meyer Disfarmer Gravesite.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/!userfiles/CE0135.nr.pdf (accessed October 13, 2014).

Trachtenberg, Alan, and Toba Tucker. Heber Springs Portraits: Continuity and Change in the World Disfarmer Photographed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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