E. O. (Eugene Omar) Goldbeck:
An Inventory of His Non-panoramic Photographic Prints Collection at the Harry Ransom Center
Born in 1892 to first generation German-Americans Benno T. Goldbeck (1855-1916) and Ida Schultz (1869-1975), Eugene Omar Goldbeck was a commercial photographer whose career spanned the better part of the twentieth century. San Antonio, Texas, was both his hometown and the headquarters of his business, which he eventually called the National Photo and News Service.
Goldbeck decided on a career in photography in 1901 after capturing an image of President William McKinley in a local parade. He bought a camera and began taking portraits of high school classmates and working freelance for the city newspapers. Upon graduating in 1910, he traveled throughout the western United States and to South America taking "kidnapped" photos--impromptu photographs taken of subjects and offered for sale afterwards. Around this time he purchased a Cirkut camera and began his specialization in large panoramic group portraits.
Goldbeck served in World War I, in the Photographic Division of the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. Subsequently he taught at the Signal Corps School of Photography at Columbia University in New York City. While in New York he met Marcella Fox, whom he married in 1919. He then returned to San Antonio, and after a brief stint with Fox Photo, he founded his own photography company. In addition to making panoramic group portraits, especially of military personnel, he captured events and scenes both locally and around the world.
Goldbeck died in San Antonio in 1986.
15,771 prints and approximately 15,000 negatives document American (especially Texan) cities, landscapes, people, and military life, from circa 1900 to 1985, particularly from 1910s to 1950s. The collection is arranged into the following five series: Series I. Military, 1917-1945; Series II. People and Events, 1901-1985; Series III. Places, circa 1910s-1970s; Series IV. Commercial Prints, 1910-1980; and Series V. Negatives. Most images are by Goldbeck, but work by other photographers, such as Stephen H. Willard, W. W. Mitchell, H. L. Summerville, and Julien Mandel, is also found throughout the collection.
Series I. Military, is the largest series with 8,207 items. It includes formal portraits and snapshots of officers and personnel, maneuvers and scenes from forts and encampments, including souvenir folders made for soldiers, various American Legion and other military parades, and scenes from the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
The second series, People and Events, consists of 2,467 items and includes Shriners parades, assorted clubs, rodeos, and individual and group portraits, including many prominent figures as well as Goldbeck and his family. Most events are located in San Antonio.
Series III. Places, contains 3,497 items which include travel and commercial photos from throughout the United States, including within several national parks, many European countries, and some locations in Central America and Eastern Asia. Scenes of Texas, especially San Antonio, are well represented in this series.
Commercial Photographs, the fourth series, includes 1,600 documentary photographs of various subjects presumably done as paid commissions. Imagery includes architecture, vehicles, airplanes and dirigibles, and construction equipment. The series also includes items collected by Goldbeck such as film stills and postcards.
The items in series I. through IV. are all black and white gelatin silver prints. The majority are vintage prints but some preservation prints made by the HRC are included. Box 74 contains oversize items removed from other parts of the collection. Series V. consists of negatives corresponding to the subjects in the above series. These are unprocessed and are not accessible.
Open for research. Part or all of this collection is housed off-site and may require up to three business days' notice for access in the Ransom Center's Reading and Viewing Room. Please contact the Center before requesting this material: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Davis, 2010