Pictures Out of the Past

February 21, 2011

Pictures, The Past, Video

NOTE: View a 2nd slideshow in this series by clicking here

If a picture says a thousand words, click the start button on the video above for tens of thousands of them. The photos are part of an exhibit up through March 12, 2011, at Glenville State College in Glenville, W.Va., titled “100 Years of Location Photography in Appalachia.” The show features early 20th century photos by Finley Taylor (1917 to 1949), photos by the staff of the Richwood News Leader from the ’40s through the ’60s, and contemporary shots of coal miners by West Virginia photographer Mark Romano, who pulled the show together.

The exhibit was featured in a Feb. 12, 2011 Charleston Gazette piece by Rick Steelhammer. Among the shows many treasures are photos by the staff of the now-defunct Richwood News Leader, including its legendary publisher Jim Comstock, with portraits from the newspaper’s “Past 80” feature on Richwood area octogenarians. “While the News Leader may not have had the best press in the world, they had the best camera gear that money could buy at the time, including 4-by-5-inch Speed Graphics,” Romano told Steelhammer.

A photo titled ‘A Hard Day’s Life’

A portrait by Finley Taylor

I did a short slideshow for the Gazette story that you’ll see at the link below, which featured some of the News Leader shots and Romano photos. I was struck by some of the older photos and wanted to do a slideshow just devoted to them. They capture many lost moments in Appalachian history and settlement. You can see from the piles of logs surrounding a country woman, the workers on theĀ  steam shovel and the horse-drawn coal cart photos the ongoing work of harvesting and exploiting the state’s abundant natural resources. You can also see from the faces of the old-timers the weariness that mountain living could produce (but then peevish, slightly pained expressions may also be attributed to the length of time it took the big old cameras to capture portraits – see the excerpt below).

A 1940s photo of John and Ida Carpenter from Erbacon, W.Va., part of the “Past 80” series.

Richwood Times Leader photo

Romano has pulled together a captivating exhibit. He says there is a wider treasure trove of historic photos from the Richmond News Leader files and we hope to share more in the future. An excerpt from Steelhammer’s story notes:

GLENVILLE, W.Va. — A milk cow dines on a tub of grain while a bevy of hens pluck cracked corn from a nearby stretch of yard. Interspersed between the animals, an unidentified Nicholas County family — a man, wife and four kids in their Sunday best — face photographer Finley Taylor with expressions ranging from mild curiosity to mild impatience.

This 1920s-era photo, titled “Dinnertime,” is one of thousands of portraits taken by Taylor, a professional photographer in Richwood from 1917 to 1949.

When not taking portraits in his Richwood studio, Taylor and his 5-by-7-inch format camera could often be found at one of the dozens of railroad-accessible logging camps that sprang up in the 1920s along the Williams, Cherry and Cranberry rivers …

Romano’s work with coal miners and coal mining is a modern-day extension of Taylor’s portraits of logging and logging camp life.

“I have the 5-by-7 camera he used to take the outdoor photos,” he said. “It’s in an old weathered brown case. …About 90 percent of the people in the portraits he shot are unidentified. The reason that most of the people in his portraits didn’t smile was due to the fact that time exposures were used. But another story that my wife’s grandmother told her was if you smiled in pictures, demons would go into your body.” | READ ON

“One Hundred Years of Location Photography in Appalachia” is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday through March 11 in the GSC Fine Arts Gallery. For information about the exhibit, call Sheri Skidmore at 304-462-6340.

(Click photos bigger)

A photo slugged “Early Coal Mining, Williams River WV 1930s

Portrait by Finley Taylor

The photo’s caption notes a “WW1 train” is leaving in the distance from Richwood, W.Va.

13 Responses to “Pictures Out of the Past”

  1. Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher Says:

    That slideshow is just stunning….while I realize it was not the time period when people cracked a big grin for the camera, it is powerful to watch the faces and process that not one is captured in delight or joy. Not even the children. The couples (presumably married) are interesting too. Great collection, thank you for posting!

  2. admin Says:

    Aren’t those photos remarkable? More to come.

  3. Rpoger Salisbury Says:

    The picture of the man sitting next to the woman holding canes is my grandfather William Bato Crites. I do not know where this was taken and I do not know the lady although her name tag says Mrs Hatfield.

  4. admin Says:

    Thank you for the detail. I will pass on your comment on to Mark Romano, who has been working with these photos.

  5. mark romano Says:

    Roger, Thats a great shot, it was taken at the past 80 party. they still have it today. I saw a News Leader that they used the entire front page of your grandfather that was known in Richwood as the Ramp King.

  6. Flora Heater Pulfrey Says:

    This is great, it gives our descendants a true picture of the past. One of the most inspiring thing about the old days, most families enjoyed music. Music makes the hard timnes easier…Thank you for sharing these with us.

  7. bob jones Says:

    wonderful photos. the best collection of west virginia old time pix i’ve seen. i hope there are more.

  8. admin Says:

    Actually, yes, Bob. We’ll have a new batch coming very shortly.

  9. admin Says:

    Check out the new musical slideshow of more portraits of long-gone West Virginians. Thanks again to Mark Romano:

  10. mark romano Says:

    Doug, Thanks so much for displaying these on WestVirginiaVille. What a great site for everyone to enjoy.

  11. Duane Landacre Says:

    Great pictures. I grew up in Richwood and Bato Crites was one of my “Most Unforgetable People.” My Grandfather, Russell Landacre and my Uncle “Will” Landacre, were two of the founders of the “NRA.” “The National Ramp Association. Ramps had a big part in my life. Like Bato Crites, I dug them every Spring and we always had a big mess. I can remember on time I was coming to back to Richwood and as soon as I hit town hill, I could smell the ramps. Later in my life, while living and working in Pennsylvania, I found a patch of ramps there and had a cookout at the company office. Needless to say, I cooked the outdoors.

  12. Naomi Cutlip Lasater Says:

    To Mark- I believe I know some of the people in the picture of the logging group. I believe the man and woman holding the horses are Nim and Ella Wright of the Williams River Road area. Nim and Ella were my Grandparents on my Mother’s side.I saw many pictures of them while growing up in the Cowen area. I went to school at Cowen High School where I believe Mark or Johnny Romano attended also. Thank you for the wonderful pictures.


  1. More Images of Long-gone West Virginia | WestVirginiaVille - March 14, 2011

    […] headline for this second round of remarkableĀ  portraits of “Long-gone West Virginia” (here was the first), I had to pause. Some of these photos by Finley Taylor (shot between 1917 and 1949), and by the […]