Filling in the Blanks — Researching Georgia Photographers

My interest in Georgia photographers and visiting photographers who worked in Georgia, as well as their associates, began in the late 1970s. Throughout my career as an archivist and librarian I built upon this interest when time allowed. When I retired, this became a full-time pursuit, and since 2013, I have worked on researching and writing about these photographers in my blog Hunting and Gathering. 

For my Georgia Photographers Documentation Project, I use many research sources, and my database now has close to 3,700 records, documenting about 2,200 photographers. One of my all-time favorite sources, the DLG’s Georgia Historic Newspapers collection allows me to search for advertisements, notices of formed or dissolved partnerships, and personal information, including obituaries on these photographers and their associates. I also find some wonderful articles about photography itself. 

The addition of so many smaller town and city newspapers to this collection of historic newspapers has proven to be great fun! In the last week alone, I turned up four more women who worked in the profession just after the turn-of-the century–Amanda Cain in north Georgia, Mrs. Clark (possibly Mrs. H.S.) in east Georgia, Mrs. W. B. Standifer in southwest Georgia, and Effie West in southeast Georgia. Mrs. Standifer set aside Wednesday and Saturday especially for her African American customers, which is not as uncommon as it sounds, and I have written and spoken on this topic. Now I will pursue these women’s names both in and out of the DLG’s Georgia Historic Newspapers collection to flesh out each record in my database which now documents over 260 women. 

The other excitement for me these past few weeks has been the exploration of the added Columbus and Macon city directories which were made available this spring via the DLG in partnership with the Georgia Public Library Service City directories are another “must-have” in my research. I already had a lot of the directory information from these two cities, but I lacked the earlier years, and that is exactly what I found in this new resource–Columbus city directories beginning in 1859, and Macon’s beginning in 1860. It took me about a week to finish that task, but I was able to find new advertisements, and add or correct work years and work addresses for photographers and their associates working in those two cities. 

I have used the resources of the Digital Library of Georgia so often the last ten years, I know I have a stake in it, and all Georgians do. The fact that all this information is available to those in and out of state for free is wonderful. In my blog posts I try to remember to thank the DLG when I use any of the excellent data that they make available to us. I look forward to the upcoming new additions! 

E. Lee Eltzroth, independent scholar,

and president / CEO, Friends of the Peachtree City Library 


Sharing Columbus History in “Early Columbus Georgia” Facebook Group

Back at the end of April, during the early days of self-isolating (coronavirus pandemic), I was following a writer on a Facebook group called “Nostalgic Nawlins Memories.” Every day, this person, Derby Gisclair, posts a New Orleans-related photograph from the past – with a short commentary. As I was trying to think of something I could do to “help” during these trying times, I was inspired by Mr. Gisclair. I thought: I can write, I do genealogy, I love local history (Columbus, Georgia), and I like research (retired Columbus State University librarian). I got the idea to post something every day on the “Early Columbus Georgia” Facebook group I belong to. However, instead of using photographs, I realized I would use historic Columbus newspapers – available to all from the Georgia Historic Newspapers site. And that’s what I have done – starting on April 28, 2020, I began posting a “Today in Columbus History” piece on the Facebook group. 

May 1, 1856 – Ad for daguerreotypes by A.J. (Andrew Jackson) Riddle
May 1, 1856 – Ad for daguerreotypes by A.J. (Andrew Jackson) Riddle

 Every day I search the Georgia Historic Newspapers database for papers published on the date (month and day) I’m working with – no matter the year. I usually do a “Browse” search by “City” and randomly go through the titles; then I search the “Calendar” view. When I find an issue for the right date, I pull it up. 

 Usually, there are four pages. I have the best luck finding articles and ads on pages 3 and 4. Early nineteenthcentury Columbus newspapers basically had 4 pages. Page 1 would usually include a lot of ads and national news. Page 2 would usually be comprised of politics and reported news from other places. Pages 3 and 4 would have more local stuff – as well as ads and legal notices. 

 I try to find a piece that I know a little bit about. I have to remind myself I am just writing a short blurb – I’m not writing a paper for publication. I try not to spend over an hour on each piece – although sometimes I do. Footnotes are not required (although I do try to cite my sources – particularly for the pictures I use).  I also try to keep the commentary to one or two paragraphs. Sometimes I go over. And I usually include a couple of photos along with the newspaper clipping. 

 Subjects I have written about run the gamut: from sweet potato pudding recipes to the hiring of enslaved people to build a railroad, to picnics in the country, to the death of a little child.  I have used ads for sewing machines, fine silver, guano, and sheet music.  There is a lot to choose from! 

May 6, 1888 – Death of Mrs. Lucy McNorton due to ice cream poisoning
May 6, 1888 – Death of Mrs. Lucy McNorton due to ice cream poisoning

So far, the response to these posts has been good. I get a lot of “likes.” The number of comments may vary from five or six to forty!  There are many people in Columbus who have a much deeper and broader knowledge of Columbus history than I do. I love it when they add more to my short piece! 

I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up. It is time-consuming, but, nerd that I am, I enjoy it (the tedious research part).  Plus, what else do I have to do? Well, I could always be vacuuming or cleaning out closets or watching “Midsomer Murders” or talking on the phone or cooking up a fabulous dish or… 

–Callie McGinnis
former Dean of Libraries (now retired) 
Columbus State University