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.
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.
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.