So to preface this post, I bought an old Kodak negative album online in January of this year. The album was made in the early 1900s and it had close to 100 negatives inside. When I bought the album I knew it would have some negatives in it but no description of what they were of. It turned out that the negatives were from the early 1900s throughout the Southern United States which is coincidentally where I am from. It seemed like fate that they ended up in Alabama since I bought them from someone in New York.
I’m asking for any and every piece of help along the way of trying to identify these places with ultimate hope of trying to figure out who the photographer of these photos was. Every post I have made about this project I’ve used #FinishingTheStory .
Here is the overview of the project this far:
The idea of the project is to help in #FinishingTheStory for this unknown photographer.
The story starts in New York, Kingston, New York to be exact. That’s where the negatives came from anyway. I’m not sure if our photographer has any tie to the area or if they just some how ended up there later in life. There are no indications of who this mystery photographer might have been, a tourist, a professional photographer, or an employee of company that required photographic documentation.
The story continues throughout the Southern U.S. I don’t know the order of his travels since I’m not entirely sure which direction he was coming from. So in no particular order our photographer traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia, Nashville, Tennessee, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Birmingham, Alabama, Montgomery, Alabama, Palm Beach, Florida, Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Starting in Fredericksburg, Virginia our photographer visited some places that were typical places that a tourist might see. There were images of the Mary Washington Monument, the Mary Washington Home, the Hugh Mercer Monument, the Rising Sun Tavern, and the home of President Monroe on Princess Anne Street. I have no indication of when the photos were taken by our photographer. I do know from my research that President Monroe’s home on Princess Street no longer exists so the photo was taken before the house was gone. I haven’t been able to determine the exact date of that at this time.
The next city our photographer visited was Nashville, Tennesee. Only a couple of photos that I have identified where from this area. I know the photographer visited the John W. Thomas statue but at this point that is all I have been able to identify from Nashville. What is interesting to me in this photo is the man standing next to the photo. I don’t know if he is the photographer and someone else is taking the photo for him or if he is traveling with the photographer but he does show up in multiple photos.
Next on the journey is Chattanooga, Tennessee. There were a lot of interesting photographs from this area. They were mainly photos of the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. There were photos of Umbrella Rock and Moccasin Bend as well. I’m working on finding out when the railcars on the Incline Railway were enclosed because the images do not look to be taken through glass. I’m hoping this information will give me a time frame for when the photographer was there.
The journey took our photographer to Birmingham, Alabama as well. The interesting part of these photographs is that they were the only images I have been able to set a firm date for. The exact date these photos were taken were May 16-18, 1916. The images were all of the Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans. This was verified by archivist at the Public Library in Birmingham. I can’t be certain, but based on clothing and other visual clues I believe that most of the images were taken around this time period. Nothing is certain though until it can be verified.
The photographer also visited Montgomery, Alabama. There were only a few images taken here and they were taken of the Alabama State Capitol building. I was able to determine that the images of men standing in front of cannons were taken here based on architectural visual clues that matched the image of the capitol building. It was verified by someone in Montgomery that there were indeed cannons on the State Capitol grounds but they had been removed. I’m hoping to discover when these cannons were removed to determine a time frame for when these images might have been taken. Also I am unsure if the men (there are two different photos of the same cannon with different men in front of it) in the photographs could possibly have been the photographer or traveling with the photographer. These men are different from the one in the Nashville photo however.
Next on the on our photographer’s travels was a visit to Palm Beach, Florida. Most of the photos from this area center around the Royal Poinciana Hotel. There are images of a Florida East Coast railcar as well, with a group of people in front of it. Again these may contain images of the person who took the photographs or give clues to who they might have been.
Another stop on our photographer’s journey was Jackson, Mississippi. Images from this area include the Old Mississippi Capitol Building and the (current) Mississippi Capitol Building. There are a couple of interesting things to note in these images. The pictures of the Old Mississippi Capitol building show advertisements in front of it for D.W. Griffith’s Birth Of A Nation film. The film was released in 1915 but the advertising signs could have been left from earlier times so I’m not sure it is a verifiable marker. Since the signs are readable in the image and look to be in good shape despite the fact the building looks to be falling apart leads me to believe that they hadn’t been there long.
The next stop on the journey is in New Orleans, Louisiana. In New Orleans there were images of St. Louis Street ( I was able to identify from a business on the street), City Park, and the Andrew Jackson Equestrian Statue in Jackson Square with Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis King of France. I was able to identify City Park from the Peristyle structure that is located in the park and it was built in 1907. That is really my only time frame for these images at this point, sometime after 1907.
That is where the journey of our photographer’s story comes to a halt. I haven’t been able to identify at least half of the images yet. There were no obvious markers in the images to me, but that doesn’t mean that someone out there might not recognize instantly where some of these images were taken even if they were taken close to 100 years ago.
Here are some examples of the unknown images:
I’m asking for help in trying identify these places and possibly any of the people. I want to figure out who this photographer was and possibly why he was taking the images (for work or for pleasure or maybe both). I will be posting more of the photos on my blog over time to highlight them individually. I have no idea if they were taken by one or more photographers, but judging by the style of the photographs they were taken by the same person in my opinion. They were all in one negative album and covered in dust so it didn’t seem that they had been disturbed in quite some time. They weren’t in any particular order and contained no written notes along with them.
Another strange thing is that someone, whether it was the photographer or someone else I’m not sure, cut off the edges of the negatives. So I have no idea what type of film was used because there is very little border around the negatives. Only that they were black and white negatives most likely all taken in early 1900s.
I’m no historian or expert on these topics, just a photography enthusiast trying to finish a story of a photographer from another time. If you have any information about any of the images please feel free to share on my blog or social media just use the hashtag #FinishingTheStory.
I hope to figure out this mystery and will keep you all updated on the journey.