Digital Collection Highlights Photos Taken In Corpus Christi During Great Depression

Jan. 31, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has made available online the digital collection "The Itinerant Photographer: Photographs of Corpus Christi Businesses in the 1930s."

Unidentified itinerant photographer, "Barber Shop in the Nueces Hotel," 1934.Gelatin silver glass plate negative.

Unidentified itinerant photographer, "Barber Shop in the Nueces Hotel," 1934.Gelatin silver glass plate negative.

The collection, which can be viewed on the Ransom Center's Web site, highlights photographs taken of businesses in Corpus Christi during the Great Depression. The project to make these materials accessible online was funded by a TexTreasures 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.

Until now, access to the collection was limited, due to the fragility of the collection material and its uncataloged status. The Ransom Center has now constructed a Web site as a portal to the itinerant photographer collection. It is an introduction to the collection and its imagery, and a searchable gallery of the 473 glass plate negatives provides a comprehensive exhibition of this physically fragile collection. All the imagery on this Web site was produced from the glass plate negatives. An online finding aid of the collection has been created as well.

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 went door to door offering his services. He left town after only a few weeks and abandoned his glass plate negatives with a local photographer because they no longer had any commercial value to him.

The images portray a wide range of businesses operating in Corpus Christi, which was relatively prosperous in the midst of the Great Depression, including those in the agricultural industry, retail and wholesale businesses, city and county government offices, manufacturing businesses and those offering numerous types of services.

The Ransom Center received the collection in 1976 as part of the acquisition of work by Dr. John F. "Doc" McGregor, a Corpus Christi chiropractor-turned-photographer. McGregor had obtained the photographs from another Corpus Christi photographer named George Tallmadge, in whose studio the itinerant photographer had developed and abandoned his negatives.

High-resolution images from the collection are available.

For more information, contact: Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512 232 3667;  Jennifer Tisdale, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-471-8949.