Jack Sheaffer was born in southern Arizona in 1929. Soon after his birth the family moved to an 88-acre farm in Amado. He began working at another farm at age eleven for eleven dollars a day and worked hard throughout his life. Sheaffer originally wanted to become a boxer and competed as an amateur for a short time. He attended Tucson High School, graduated in 1947, and was awarded a scholarship to attend the Fred Archer School of Photography in Los Angeles for one year. Upon his return to Tucson, he worked for Sam Levitz, then a commercial photographer who was the head photographer for the Arizona Daily Star on contract, and paid by the picture. In October 1950, Sheaffer enlisted in the United States Air Force and was sent to England. He left the Air Force in November 1954 and returned to Tucson. The following spring Sheaffer joined Tunney Wong and picked up contract work for the Arizona Daily Star. They earned up to five dollars a picture, and were only paid this wage if the photograph was used in the paper. Sheaffer free-lanced widely taking portraits of individuals and families, visiting celebrities, civic events, tragic accidents, and life in a small city.