Early 1900s in the American South

I have done several posts on this particular photo project. I guess you could say it’s the one I just keep coming back to. It’s honestly the project that started this obsession of mine with early photographic processes and the history of photography.

A little back story for those of you who are just joining me on this journey– Almost  2 years ago I bought this Kodak Miniature Negative album off the internet.


The description of the item said it had about 100 negatives inside and it showed a couple of the negatives held up to the light and they were just an image of a building  and a couple of people.

It was nothing obviously stood out to me at the time and the description was very vague about the contents (the person I bought them from hadn’t really looked at the negatives, just wanted to sell them). I thought it could be a fun project and I might be able to use some of the images in some of my own art work. So I took a chance and purchased the album for about $28.

Photographic investigation was never really something I intended to pursue, but the day I got this album in the mail everything changed. I found it exhilarating to look at each image with these unique historical places and scenes. I couldn’t have told much about the images that first day, but I knew they were special the first time I looked at them.

So I started the process of researching the images. For me, that meant making prints of each negative and also scanning each negative to have a digital copy. As you can imagine, it took several weeks to get all this accomplished.

There were a few images that were pretty easy to identify right from the start with very little effort. Statues, for instance, were a good place to start. This image is of the Hugh Mercer Monument in Fredericksburg, VA.

Hugh Mercer Monument, Fredericksburg, VA.
Hugh Mercer Monument, Fredericksburg, VA.

Given, this photograph was not exactly a work of fine art, but it was starting point and I really had no idea it would begin my journey the Southern United States in the early 190os.

Over the next year and a half, I went on to discover many of the photographs were taken in the Southern United States including Birmingham, AL; Montgomery, AL; Mobile, AL; Jacksonville, FL; Palm Beach, FL; New Orleans, LA; Jackson, MS; Chattanooga, TN; Nashville, TN; and Fredericksburg, VA.

Before I knew it, I was glancing through images of the incline in Chattanooga, TN,

Chattanooga Incline Railway. Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga Incline Railway. Chattanooga, TN


In the streets of Birmingham, Alabama at the 1916 Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans,

1916 Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, Birmingham, AL
1916 Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, Birmingham, AL


Visiting the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana,

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana


Visiting the Mississippi capitol building in Jackson, MS,

Mississippi Capitol Building, Jackson, MS
Mississippi Capitol Building, Jackson, MS


stood on the steps of the Alabama capitol building in Montgomery, AL

Man at Alabama State Capitol Building, Montgomery, AL
Man at Alabama State Capitol Building, Montgomery, AL


Gone to a ceremony in Hemming Park in Jacksonville, FL

Unknown 3
Hemming Park, Jacksonville, FL


and so many more great historical images. It was a little overwhelming at first, but the more research I did, the more images I found to be right in my own backyard, the Souther U.S.

I’m so close to being able to identify almost all 100 images. There are quite a few images of people, which most likely I won’t be able to identify, but my goal is to identify all the places. In the last year, I have had some really good leads and have almost finished identifying the images.

There are still a few images that I really could use some help in identifying. These 3 images have been in the back of mind over the last two years. They are so distinctive and beautiful, and yet and I haven’t had any luck in identifying them yet.

So once again, I’m asking you guys, of the world and the photographic community, to help me out! I have no formal training in history or historical identification, so I’m hoping maybe some of you who read my blog might have some insight or know someone who might.

These are the specific image I need help with:

Unknown 4
Unknown Image 1

This image features some interesting signs. The “J.W. Lord & Co.” is featured on numerous signs on this street. There are also some generic signs that say things like “New York Meat Market,” “Plaza Hotel” and “Athens Hotel.” There is also a sign that reads “The Arcade Store J. Blumberg Prop.” The large hotel sign painted on the side of the building in the back of the image states, “Grand Central Hotel.” There are horses and buggies, but no automobiles in this image. Based on the other images in the album, I think it is most likely in the Southern U.S. somewhere. I thought it might have ties to a railroad in someway, as a lot of images that I have identified are in cities where a railroad was located. There is a water tower in the background, but no writing on it. I have no idea when this was taken or if it even still exists.


Unknown Image 2

This image features a large building (I think it might have held lumber) with the word “American” across the front. The “American” seems to have some type of animal on either side of the word (possibly a fox or wolf, but I can’t really make it out for certain). There is also a sign for the “Ever Ready Cleaners,” “Broadway Confectionery,” “Schneider Artistic Tailorino,” “Big Ax Tailors” and “White House Cafe.” The poster in the foreground advertises for a movie with actress Gertrude Robinson in it. 

Unknown Image 3

I don’t really have a lot to go on here except the unique architecture of what I am assuming is some type of church or synagogue. There is also a bright shining dome in the background that I assume is another building which might be unique to this city. The land is very flat and near the water.

I’ve looked at these images for quite some time now, and I’m hoping a new set of eyes might see a good clue or have insight on finding out where these were taken. Any information you might have or notice could be helpful so please feel free to comment and share with others.

Ultimately, I plan to create a book with all these images and writing a bit about my process and the journey of identifying these images. It has been a fun process and really started my fascination with working to unearth the stories of old film negatives and photographs.

I don’t know if any of these images were ever published or not by their original owner, but I hope to have them out there for the world to see and learn from in the near future.

There is so much history to discover through photography, and this is just the beginning of my journey.


2 thoughts on “Early 1900s in the American South

  1. Emily – I collect photographs of Northern Colorado and know how hard it is to definitively find the location of an image, especially when there are few unique landmarks. I’m impressed with your success and loved the story. Good luck on the last three images.

    1. Thanks Mac! It is very difficult, especially when you aren’t even sure if that place still exists! It’s always nice to meet another photo enthusiast, good luck with your collections as well!

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