University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Itinerant Photographer:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center



Creator: Itinerant Photographer
Title: Itinerant Photographer Collection
Dates: 1934
Abstract: The Itinerant Photographer Collection consists of 473 glass-plate negatives, taken between late January and early March of 1934, that document businesses in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the nearby cities and towns of Galveston, Sinton, Woodsboro, and Refugio. The images represent a cross-section of daily life in coastal Texas as they depict the workers, clients, and patrons of the businesses.
Extent: 473 glass plate negatives
Language: English
Repository: The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center

Biographical Sketch

In early 1934, a traveling photographer arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas, searching for businesses that would pay him to take pictures of their establishments. Part photographer, part salesman, he combed the streets of the city, going door-to-door and offering his services. He took portraits of the business owners and workers, made prints, and then offered the prints for sale to the people depicted. While some traveling photographers were swindlers viewed by townspeople with disdain, this one must have been considered respectable as he was able to take hundreds of photographs throughout the city. The photographer would arrive in a town, visit families or businesses and take their picture, develop the negatives and make prints, and then return to the people to sell the images.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, itinerant photographers such as this one were not uncommon. As a profession, traveling photography allowed independence, opportunity to see the country, and the ability to make money on one's own terms. Traveling photographers specialized in a variety of styles, such as postcard views or children's portraits. This photographer primarily took group portraits at businesses; the more people depicted in each image would have increased possibilities of print sales. Often he photographed several departments from the same business, such as at the C. E. Coleman Produce Company, maximizing profits from a single location. Photo historian Sybil Miller writes of his skill as a photographer: "It is apparent that he was a virtuoso in his specialty. But beyond that it seems that in spite of the daily concern of earning his room and board, he actually enjoyed making pictures, occasionally photographing a person or group repeatedly in an effort to get an exceptional image."

In the 1930s, Corpus Christi would have been an attractive location for a photographer; it had a relatively stable economy during the Depression because of its oil wells and chemical plants. Late January would have been an ideal time to travel to Texas as the mild weather would have allowed for easier travel than Northern winters.

The photographer's equipment would have included his 5x7-inch glass-plate camera, a flash, and a wide angle lens. In the late 19th century, magnesium flash-powder was fairly dangerous to use, but by the 1930s it had become relatively safe. Early photographers might have traveled by horse-and-carriage and then by train; this one probably traveled by car. While in Corpus Christi, the photographer used the local photography studio of George Tallmadge, either renting darkroom space from him or hiring Tallmadge to develop the plates and make prints. The photographer left town after a few weeks, abandoning 473 glass plate negatives at Tallmadge's studio since they were no longer of any value to him. Because he did not sign the plates, the photographer's identity remains unknown.


Scope and Contents

The Itinerant Photographer Collection consists of 473 glass-plate negatives, taken between late January and early March of 1934, that document businesses in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the nearby cities and towns of Galveston, Sinton, Woodsboro, and Refugio. The images represent a cross-section of daily life in coastal Texas as they depict the workers, clients, and patrons of the businesses. Included are men and women of various economic, professional, and ethnic backgrounds, such as business owners and employees, professionals and their assistants, government workers, and manual laborers, as well as African-American and Hispanic workers.

The negatives were grouped during the 1970s into eight business categories, and this arrangement has been retained. The categories are: Agricultural Industry, Building Construction, Business, Government, Manufacturing, Recreation, Services, and Unidentified Businesses.

More than half the collection falls under the Business category, which is divided into two subgroups, retail and wholesale. Retail Business, the largest group (228 negatives), consists of images of car dealerships, dry goods stores, drug stores, cafes, grocery stores, department stores, and hardware stores. Wholesale Business (26 negatives) includes images of beverage suppliers, grocery dealers, and oil field supply companies.

The Services category, also large in size, is divided into the following subcategories: Automotive, Business, Medical, and Personal. Automotive Services (23 negatives) includes images of repair shops, garages, and parts shops. Business Services (26 negatives) consists of images depicting law offices, real estate companies, telegraph offices, and transportation companies, among others. The images in Medical Services (11 negatives) depict physicians, dentists, and optometrists. Personal Services (56 negatives) is comprised of images of barber shops, dry cleaners, laundries, hotels, beauty salons, and shoe repair shops.

Government consists of 56 negatives of offices, all of which were located in the old 1919 Nueces County Courthouse. Included are images of the offices of judges, courthouse officials, and sheriffs, as well as a number that are unidentified.

The Manufacturing category consists of 33 negatives. Included are images of bottling companies, iron works, printing companies, and machine shops.

The smallest categories are Agriculture Industry (8 negatives), Building Construction (1 negative), Recreation (1 negative), and Unidentified Businesses (4 negatives). Agricultural Industry includes images of a cotton company, an elevator company, and seed companies. The Building Construction negative shows the interior of a commercial tiling firm, the Recreation negative depicts a group of men inside a pool hall, and the Unidentified Businesses negatives show interior views of offices.

The photographs were not intended as documentary images for advertising or journalistic purposes, but as mementos for the people depicted. The images are not as formal as studio portraits, but they are more formal than snapshots. Because the photographer was not directly associated with the businesses and took these photographs essentially on the spur of the moment, the images possess an improvisational quality. As a result, these images capture how these businesses actually appeared to the public, with the occasional stained and unswept floor, soiled uniforms, messy desks, haphazard wiring and bare light bulbs, etc.

The images contain detailed information about the histories of Texas and Corpus Christi, as well as life during the Great Depression. Specifically, seventy percent of the businesses depicted are identified by name, and hundreds of owners and employees are also individually identified. As a set of images the collection is a valuable resource for scholarship in a myriad of historical disciplines, as the details in the scenes document aspects of the period's culture. Images of automotive garages with various cars and offices with both telegraph terminals and telephones reflect changes in the technology of the time. Popular forms of entertainment are evident in images of cafes with slot machines on their counters. The differences between independent and chain businesses are revealed in merchandise displays. Images of full-service groceries with large cases and counters and self-service food stores with wicker baskets for customers and stacked goods show evolving business practices. Signage indicates prices of commodities as well as political inclinations (such as posters in support of the National Recovery Administration and portraits of President Roosevelt).

The Harry Ransom Center acquired the collection in 1976 from Dr. John F. "Doc" McGregor, a Corpus Christi chiropractor-turned-photographer. McGregor had received the glass plates in the 1960s from George Tallmadge, in whose photography studio the plates had originally been developed and then abandoned. The locations and people seen in the negatives were identified primarily by Corpus Christi resident Eric Warren, whose employment with the Delco Light Company had taken him to many of the buildings pictured, allowing him to recognize many of the pictured businesses. Ransom Center Photography Curator Joe Coltharp and photographer Ave Bonar assisted Warren with identifications and created an initial inventory and the subject categories. Later identifications and re-identifications were made in the mid-1980s by Sybil Miller while conducting research on the collection for her book Itinerant Photographer: Corpus Christi, 1934 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987).

Until 2010, the only access to the collection was through a series of binders containing contact prints of the negatives arranged by topic. While useful, the binders were not electronically accessible, and the contact prints lacked image detail visible in the original negatives. General access to the negative was summarily denied, because although the majority survived intact, some showed signs of age and wear in the form of cracked glass and peeling emulsion. In 2009, the Ransom Center applied for and received a TexTreasures grant made possible by a generous grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act. With this funding, the Ransom Center was able to preserve and digitize all the negatives and create a Web portal to the collection. The collection is now accessible online at http://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/itinerant/.


Restrictions

Access:

Open for research


Index Terms

Subjects
Agriculture.
Automobile industry.
Building construction.
Commercial facilities.
Consumers.
General stores.
Government employees.
Government facilities.
Industry.
Medical offices.
Merchants.
Mechanics (Persons).
Office workers.
Offices.
Restaurants.
Sales personnel.
Service industry facilities.
Sports & recreation facilities.
Stores & shops.
Wholesale trade.
Places
United States--Texas--Corpus Christi.
United States--Texas--Galveston.
United States--Texas--Refugio.
United States--Texas--Sinton.
United States--Texas--Woodsboro.
Document Types
Dry plate negatives--1930-1940.
Glass negatives--1930-1940.
Interior views--1930-1940.

Related Material

Researchers interested in learning more about the history of the collection and the role of itinerant photographers may wish to consult Sybil Miller's Itinerant Photographer: Corpus Christi, 1934, published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1987. Researchers interested in Corpus Christi, Texas, will want to visit the Corpus Christi Public Library either in person or virtually via http://archives.cclibraries.com. The Corpus Christi Public Libraries Digital Archives include over 3,000 photographs, some of which were made from the itinerant photographer's negatives, which form part of their Dr. John Frederick "Doc" McGregor collection.


Administrative Information

Acquisition:

Gift, 1976

Processed by:

Nicole Davis and Tami Sutton, 2010


Source:

Miller, Sybil. Itinerant Photographer: Corpus Christi, 1934. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987.


Arrangement

 

Series I. Agricultural Industry

Aransas Cotton Express (976:0021:0001-0003)
Eastern Seed Company (976:0021:0006-0007)
Roddy's Bluebonnet Elevator Co. (976:0021:0004-0005)
Seed and Implement Company (976:0021:0008)



 

Series II. Building Construction

J. O. Pinkerton, ceramic tile contractor (976:0021:0009)



 

Series III. Business

Retail
Auto dealers
Glover Johns Ford (976:0021:0010, 0012)
Glover Johns Ford, or Roy Murray Ford (976:0021:0011)
Harry Archer's Chrysler-Plymouth (976:0021:0013-0014)
Jim Fowler Pontiac (976:0021:0015)
Kinsel Chevrolet (976:0021:0016-0017)
Reed Buick (976:0021:0018-0022)
Shelton-Bailey Motor Company (976:0021:0023-0025)
Texas Motor Sales (976:0021:0026-0027)
Bars
Unidentified (976:0021:0028-0033, 0035-0036)
Wonder Bar (976:0021:0034)
Candy and cigar counters
Candy and cigar counter, Furman Building lobby (976:0021:0037)
Olympia Confectionery (976:0021:0039)
Cigar companies, E. J. Hitt Cigar Co., Store no. 2 (976:0021:0038)
Clothing and accessories
Bon Ton Millinery (976:0021:0040)
Braslau's Dry Goods (976:0021:0041)
Cardinal Booterie (976:0021:0042)
Cunningham's (976:0021:0043)
Cunningham's, or Abe Klein Clothing Store (976:0021:0044)
Edison Dry Goods (976:0021:0045)
Engle Shop (976:0021:0046)
Grossman's Dry Goods Store (976:0021:0047-0049)
Gugenheim and Cohen Dry Goods Store (976:0021:0051)
Lichtenstein's Department Store (976:0021:0050)
Loving Clothing Store (976:0021:0052)
Miss S. B. Clark clothing store (976:0021:0053)
Richardson Shoe Store (976:0021:0054, 0072)
S & Q Clothiers (976:0021:0055)
Stamm Jewelry (976:0021:0056)
Unidentified dry goods stores (976:0021:0057-0064)
Unidentified ladies' stores (976:0021:0065-0066)
Unidentified men's stores (976:0021:0067-0069)
Unidentified millinery (976:0021:0070)
Unidentified shoe stores (976:0021:0071, 0073)
Drugstores / Pharmacies
Barry-Hendrix Drugstore (976:0021:0074)
Davis Drugstore (976:0021:0075)
G. H. Drugstore (976:0021:0076)
Harding Drug Company (976:0021:0077)
Nueces Drugstore (976:0021:0078)
Southend Drugstore (976:0021:0085)
Sun Pharmacy (976:0021:0079)
Thomas's Model Pharmacy (976:0021:0080)
Unidentified (976:0021:0082-0084)
Welsh Drugstore (976:0021:0081)
Eating establishments
A-1 Cafe (976:0021:0086)
Brown Cafe (976:0021:0087)
Cardinal Drive-In (976:0021:0109)
Carl's Confectionery (976:0021:0088)
Coney Island Cafe (976:0021:0089)
Faust Cafe (976:0021:0090-0091)
Grigg's Pig Stand (976:0021:0092)
Heap O' Cream #1 (976:0021:0121)
La Rosa Cafe (976:0021:0093)
Mack's Cafe (976:0021:0094)
Manhattan Cafe (976:0021:0095)
Mayflower Cafe (976:0021:0108)
Novo Drive-In (976:0021:0096)
Nueces Hotel (976:0021:0097-0099)
Olympia Confectionery soda fountain (976:0021:0100)
Park Cafe (976:0021:0101)
Pleasure Pier Cafe (976:0021:0102)
Princess Louise Hotel dining room (976:0021:0103)
Purple Cow Cafe (976:0021:0104)
Texas Cafe (976:0021:0105)
Unidentified cafes (976:0021:0107, 0110-0119)
Unidentified confectionery (976:0021:0120)
Unidentified diner (976:0021:0106)
Food stores
ABC Grocery Store (976:0021:0122)
American Fruit Store (976:0021:0123)
B. E. McGuill grocery store (976:0021:0124)
Biel's Self-Service Grocery (976:0021:0125-0131)
Carpenter's grocery store (976:0021:0132)
Dreyer's Self-Service Grocery & Market (976:0021:0133)
G. O. Garrett Grocery and Market (976:0021:0136)
Guy Bros., M & M store no. 1 (976:0021:0142-0143)
Ideal Bakery (976:0021:0137)
IGA Grocery (976:0021:0140)
Jett's Grocery (976:0021:0141)
"M" System store no. 842 (976:0021:0144)
M & M Grocery (976:0021:0145)
Model Grocery (976:0021:0146-0147)
Muttera's Federal Bakery (976:0021:0134-0135, 0163)
Pay-'N-Takit Food Market (976:0021:0148-0149)
Piggly Wiggly (976:0021:0150-0151)
Sam Salem Store (976:0021:0152)
Sam Uehlinger's grocery store (976:0021:0153)
Schroeder Grocery (976:0021:0154)
Smith Grocery, or Alamo Grocery (976:0021:0155)
Trebble's Meat Market (976:0021:0156)
Unidentified bakery (976:0021:0162)
Unidentified fish market (976:0021:0164)
Unidentified grocery stores (976:0021:0165-0185)
Unidentified meat market (976:0021:0186)
Valley Fruit produce stand (976:0021:0157)
Waters' Grocery and Market (976:0021:0158)
Weil Brothers grocery store (976:0021:0159-0161)
Furniture Stores
Jordt-Allen Furniture Store, or Allen Furniture Store (976:0021:0188-0190)
Nueces Furniture Store (976:0021:0191)
Satterwhite's (976:0021:0192-0193)
The Economy (976:0021:0187)
Unidentified (976:0021:0194)
General Merchandise
Edison-Mehan Department Store (976:0021:0195)
Lichtenstein's Department Store (976:0021:0196-0199)
Racket Store (976:0021:0200)
Gift Shops, Taylor Brothers (976:0021:0201)
Hardware and appliances
Cage Hardware (976:0021:0202-0204)
Corpus Christi Hardware (976:0021:0205-0208)
Nau's Hardware (976:0021:0210-0211)
Nueces Hardware and Implement Company (976:0021:0212-0215)
Unidentified appliance store (976:0021:0216)
Unidentified plumbing and electrical company (976:0021:0209)
Leather Goods, Joe Mireur Leather Goods (976:0021:0217)
Music stores
Lester Gunst Music Store (976:0021:0219)
W. G. Eubanks Music Store (976:0021:0218)
News stands, unidentified (976:0021:0220)
Nursery school supply stores, unidentified (976:0021:0221)
Office and stationery
Corpus Christi Book and Stationery (976:0021:0222)
Corpus Christi Office Supply (976:0021:0223)
Radio shops, Beynon's Radio Shop (976:0021:0224)
Second-hand stores
Muely's Trading Company (976:0021:0225)
Unidentified second-hand stores (976:0021:0226-0228)
Service stations
Callicote Texaco (976:0021:0229)
Humble Oil (976:0021:0230)
Jones Texaco (976:0021:0231)
Shell (976:0021:0232)
Sewing machine agencies, Singer (976:0021:0233-0235)
Spring and axle companies, Corpus Christi Spring Service (976:0021:0236-0237)
Tire companies, Moreman's Tire Company (976:0021:0238)
Trunk companies, Corpus Christi Trunk Company (976:0021:0239)
Wholesalers
Beer distributors, Southwest Texas Old Union Beer Distributor (976:0021:0240)
Cigar Companies
Hausler-Kilian Cigar Company (976:0021:0241)
Olsen's Cigar Store (976:0021:0242)
Coffee Companies, Nueces Coffee Company (976:0021:0243-0244)
Cotton exchanges, Corpus Christi Cotton Exchange (976:0021:0245)
Groceries
Hill, Cook, and Pope (976:0021:0246)
Ullmann, Stern & Krausse, Inc. (976:0021:0138-0139)
W. K. Shepherd (976:0021:0247-0248)
Hardware, San Antonio Machinery & Supply Company (SAMSCO) (976:0021:0249-0250)
Ice cream, Borden Ice Cream Company (976:0021:0251)
Oil company warehouses, Cities Service Oil Company (976:0021:0252)
Oil field suppliers, unidentified (976:0021:0253-0254)
Produce
C. E. Coleman Produce Company (976:0021:0257-0260)
Desel-Boettcher Produce Company (976:0021:0255)
Gerhardt-Hardwicke vegetable commission company (976:0021:0261-0262)
Unidentified vegetable commission company (976:0021:0263)
Tire companies, Goodyear Service Inc. (976:0021:0256)



 

Series IV. Government

Auditor's Office (976:0021:0270-0271)
Business Office to Commissioner's Court (976:0021:0275)
City Engineer's Office (976:0021:0264)
City Health Department (976:0021:0265)
Constable's Office (976:0021:0276)
Engineering Department (976:0021:0277)
Freight Tax Office (976:0021:0279-0280)
Nueces County Jail (976:0021:0297)
Office of Attorney Alston Terry (976: 0021:0267)
Office of Attorney Bob Sorrell (976:0021:0269)
Office of Attorney Isaac M. Singer (976:0021:0268)
Office of County Assessor-Collector (976:0021:0266)
Office of County Clerk Roy D. Cliff (976:0021:0272)
Office of County Commissioner Tom Abernathy (976:0021:0273)
Office of County Judge Joe Browning (976:0021:0281-0282)
Office of County Superintendent of Schools (976:0021:0292)
Office of County Surveyor Conrad Von Blucher (976:0021:0293-0294)
Office of District Judge Russell Savage (976:0021:0283)
Office of Judge George C. Westerveldt (976:0021:0285)
Office of Judge Joe Woodard (976:0021:0286)
Office of Judge Thomas B. Southgate (976:0021:0284)
Office of the County Engineer (976:0021:0278)
Office of the Justice of the Peace (976:0021:0287)
Office of the Port Authority (976:0021:0288)
Office to Commissioner's Court (976:0021:0274)
Sheriff's Office (976:0021:0289-0291)
Tax Billing Department (976:0021:0295)
Tax Department (976:0021:0296)
Unidentified (976:0021:0298-0319)



 

Series V. Manufacturing

Alamo Iron Works (976:0021:0331-0333)
American Bottling Company (976:0021:0323-0324)
Blueprint Company (976:0021:0322)
Boehmer's Blacksmith Shop (976:0021:0321)
Bowen Print Shop (976:0021:0338)
Corpus Christi Sheet Metal Company (976:0021:0347)
Crystal Water Bottling Company (976:0021:0325)
E. L. Caldwell Cistern Company (976:0021:0326)
Gulf Marine Iron Works (976:0021:0334-0337)
Jack Bonner Printing Company (976:0021:0341-0343)
Joe Early Welding and Machine Shop, or Texas Motor Sales Co. (976:0021:0348)
Lone Star Ice Plant (976:0021:0329-0330)
Mack's Welding and Machine Shop (976:0021:0349)
McCarthy Welding and Machine Shop (976:0021:0350)
Noakes Brothers Welding and Machine Shop (976:0021:0351)
Noakes Welding and Machine Shop (976:0021:0352)
Nueces Printing Company (976:0021:0344)
Safety Glass Company (976:0021:0327-0328)
Unidentified printing companies (976:0021:0339-0340, 0345)
Welch Sash and Door Company (976:0021:0346)
Zip's Battery (976:0021:0320)



 

Series VI. Recreation

Legion Club (976:0021:0353)



 

Series VII. Services

Automotive
Auto Electric Service (976:0021:0354-0355)
Becker & Benk's Auto Repair (976:0021:0357-0358)
C. E. Russell Parts & Machinery (976:0021:0373-0376)
Electro Mechanical Company (976:0021:0356)
Nueces Garage (976:0021:0359)
OK Garage (976:0021:0360)
Unidentified auto and marine shop (976:0021:0368)
Unidentified auto repair shops (976:0021:0363-0367)
Unidentified paint and body shops (976:0021:0370-0372)
Waters Auto Top & Paint Shop (976:0021:0369)
Weinrich Garage (976:0021:0361-0362)
Business
Baldwin Land Real Estate Company (976:0021:0389)
Central Power and Light Company (976:0021:0386)
Crocker Transfer and Storage Company (976:0021:0399-0400)
Frank Sparks Insurance Agency (976:0021:0380)
Guaranty Finance Company (976:0021:0377)
Guaranty Title Company (976:0021:0396-0397)
Guaranty Title Company, Baldwin Land Division (976:0021:0398)
Gulf Coast Forwarding Company (976:0021:0378-0379)
Harrell Electric Company (976:0021:0388)
Law office of Jefferson Davis Todd, Jr. (976:0021:0383)
Law office of Linton Savage (976:0021:0382)
Neyland Real Estate Company (976:0021:0390)
Nueces Bus Company (976:0021:0402)
Nueces Power, Light, Ice, & Railway company (976:0021:0387)
Nueces Transportation Company (976:0021:0401)
Postal Telegraph Office (976:0021:0392)
Unidentified law offices (976:0021:0384-0385)
Unidentified shipping office for a steamship line (976:0021:0391)
Union Central Life Insurance (976:0021:0381)
Western Union Telegraph office (976:0021:0393-0395)
Medical
Examination room of Drs. Peterson and Thompson (976:0021:0407-0408)
Office of Carl Haltom, optometrist (976:0021:0404)
Office of Dr. Arthur Padilla, physician (976:0021:0410-0412)
Office of Dr. Bauer, dentist (976:0021:0403)
Office of Dr. H. A. White, physician (976:0021:0413)
Office of Dr. Travis M. Harrell, physician (976:0021:0409)
Office of Dr. William H. Gentry, physician (976:0021:0406)
Office of H. C. Liggett, Jr., optometrist (976:0021:0405)
Personal
Barber shops
Crow's Barber Shop (976:0021:0414)
Favorite Barber Shop (976:0021:0415)
McGregor Barber Shop (976:0021:0423)
Nueces Hotel barber shop (976:0021:0417)
Unidentified (976:0021:0418-0422, 0424-0426)
W. C. Shaw Barber Shop (976:0021:0416)
Beauty shops
Eugene Permanent Wave Shop (976:0021:0427)
Gladys Knight Beauty Shop (976:0021:0428)
Unidentified (976:0021:0429-0433)
Dry cleaners
G & R Dry Cleaner (976:0021:0434)
Sudden Service Cleaners & Hatters (976:0021:0435)
Unidentified (976:0021:0436-0443)
Hotels
Plaza Hotel (976:0021:0444)
Princess Louise Hotel (976:0021:0445-0447)
State Hotel (976:0021:0448)
Laundries
Blue Bonnet Laundry (976:0021:0449-0451)
Eureka Laundry (976:0021:0452-0455)
Texas Laundry (976:0021:0456-0459)
Shoe repair
Central Shoe Repair (976:0021:0460)
Corpus Christi Shoe Repair (976:0021:0461-0462)
Unidentified (976:0021:0463-0466)
Tailor shops
Gustavo Cuevas & Company (976:0021:0467)
Royal Tailor Shop Cleaning Department (976:0021:0468-0469)



 

Series VIII. Unidentified

Unidentified businesses (976:0021:0470-0473)