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Now online: Newly digitized E. O. Goldbeck collection

By Mary Alice Harper

A new digitization project provides access to 996 photographs from the E. O. (Eugene Omar) Goldbeck papers and photography collection, the largest photography collection in the Harry Ransom Center’s Texana holdings.

E. O. (Eugene Omar) Goldbeck (American, 1892­–1986), <em>San Antonio’s $2,000,000 War Memorial. Finest in the U.S. A.</em>, ca. 1926. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 19.6 x 49.9 cm. E. O. Goldbeck papers and photography collection, 967:0068:0092
E. O. (Eugene Omar) Goldbeck (American, 1892­–1986), San Antonio’s $2,000,000 War Memorial. Finest in the U.S. A., ca. 1926. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 19.6 x 49.9 cm. E. O. Goldbeck papers and photography collection, 967:0068:0092

A one-year, grant-funded project to preserve, catalog, and digitize 993 banquet-format, nitrate negatives, and three corresponding vintage, gelatin silver prints, is complete, and the collection is accessible via the Center’s digital collections website.

 

Many of the negatives, which date primarily from the mid-1910s through 1930, were taken by E. O.  Goldbeck (1892–1986), a San Antonio-based commercial photographer whose career spanned the better part of the twentieth century. Also included are those he acquired from his contemporaries including C. W. (Charles W.) Archer, W. W. (Walter W.) Mitchell (1890–1928), and C. A. (Charles Albert) Stead (1870–1932). Known as the “unofficial photographer of America’s military,” it is no surprise that more than one third of all the negatives are of military subjects. Documented are military efforts and camp life in and around San Antonio, during and shortly after the First World War. Many of the bases and training fields pictured, including Camp Travis, Brooks Field, and Kelly Field, were established at the start of the war to train men for service. Also included are images of civilian support staff and soldiers’ lives off-base.

Unidentified photographer, Rubber Neck Bus, ca. 1917. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 20 x 50.3 cm. E. O. Goldbeck papers and photography collection. Banquet negatives and prints, 967:0068:0041
Unidentified photographer, [Hot Wells Hotel, San Antonio], ca. 1917. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 20 x 50.3 cm. E. O. Goldbeck papers and photography collection, 967:0068:0091
Attributed to C. A. Stead (American, 1870-1932), QMC Shoe Shop, 1910–1940. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 20 x 50.5 cm. E. O. Goldbeck Papers and Photography Collection, 967:0068:0884
Attributed to C. A. Stead (American, 1870-1932), QMC Personnel Working on Army Clothing at a Supply Depot, ca. 1919. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 20 x 50.4 cm. E. O. Goldbeck Papers and Photography Collection, 967:0068:0887
Attributed to C. A. Stead (American, 1870-1932), QMC Tent Warehousing Division, 5/9/19, 1919. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 20.1 x 50.5 cm. E. O. Goldbeck Papers and Photography Collection, 967:0068:0889
E. O. (Eugene Omar) Goldbeck (American, 1892­–1986), Women Voters (Mrs. Brackenridge), or Campaigning for the Vote, 1916 or 1917. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 20.1 x 50.4 cm. E. O. Goldbeck papers and photography collection, 967:0068:0025
Unidentified photographer, Military Office, ca. 1919. Digital positive from nitrate negative, 20 x 50.4 cm. E. O. Goldbeck papers and photography collection. Banquet negatives and prints, 967:0068:0896

But perhaps of broader appeal are negatives that document a period of rapid growth and prosperity in San Antonio. Evidence of expansion include the construction of new housing subdivisions, like Palm Heights, and new or improved railroad depots like the mission-style Katy Depot. The increasing role of the automobile is evidenced in images of early auto dealerships, new makes and models of cars and their owners—like prominent resident and suffragette Eleanor Brackenridge—and car and truck fleets for private and public businesses.

 

Enhanced cataloging information created during the project includes the creation of a finding aid for the collection and a record in The University of Texas’s online library catalog.

 

The project to preserve, catalog, and digitize the banquet negatives and prints collection, within the E. O. Goldbeck papers and photography collection, was made possible with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

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