How many times have you opened old family albums and can’t identify forgotten faces in photos of your ancestors because someone didn’t label them? Have you forgotten places and events for the same reason?
Our staff has casually spoken about running an occasional “Way Back Wednesday” column to help us piece together bits of history left behind from older publications.
Although we have previously donated boxes of old photographs to the Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants library, we have kept some of our archives.
Most small newspapers no longer have the physical images used in the older days of letter presses now that technology has advanced journalism into a digital age.
I can personally attest to the hustle and bustle of journalism and how busy and in a rush it constantly keeps us, even today. Despite all the advances in technology and conveniences going to a digital layout has afforded today’s journalists and publications, the news still keeps us on our toes.
Especially for smaller publications typically operating with fewer staff members expected to perform the same tasks that larger publications can devote more persons to accomplishing. It’s not unusual for our staff to “try to be two or three people at once” so-to-speak. We certainly have to cross roles from time to time.
Lost in this hustle of daily operation is the responsibility of categorizing and cataloguing pieces of history. Newsprint doesn’t last forever. It yellows and crumbles. Many of our own physical paper archives are in poor condition today, and we don’t touch them and hope we can preserve them.
It comes as no surprise to me that information gets lost when we fail to label images for future generations, particularly in a time when digital probably wasn’t even a fancy of the wildest imaginations.
The image I’ve included with this column is one that, for whatever reason, caught my eye. I included it in our annual calendar we recently distributed with our Wednesday paper (more copies are available at our office for anyone who wants extras or didn’t get one). It’s an image of several people all wearing hats. I don’t know what the occasion was or who they were, but I’d be interested in any information anyone in the public could help with.
I want to piece the history back together where and if possible. It wasn’t until a reader called the office that I decided to stop talking about “Way Back Wednesday” and just get it started.
Bill Henderson called after browsing through our calendar because he recognized a face. The man in the lower right-hand corner has appeared in multiple photographs he has of a wedding in Gilmer County. Henderson wanted to know information that I didn’t’ have to tell him. I could only say the photograph was labeled 1902, but due to the dates of his own photographs and the similar appearance of the man, he figured it might have to be more around the 1910s.
I’m not sure if the image was labeled incorrectly, but in the fast-paced, high-stress environment of news media, it’s always a possibility. Perhaps someone came back to the image years later, and mistook it for a different year, labeling it incorrectly. I have no way to know if it was labeled the same day the image was developed.
I’m too nervous to open the physical archives of the paper to search every edition in 1902 to see if I can find the photograph and story it went with, especially when I’m certain we have more photographs in our paper than what actually print, much the same way that we take more photographs at public events than we can possibly publish (AHEM, Rebecca Young).
Let me know if you are interested in more columns like this one, or even if you have a photograph you’d like published to gather more information about.
If you know anything about the image, please call our office at 304-269-1600 or email [email protected]
Mr. Henderson is seeking information about the man in the hat and would appreciate any knowledge about this individual. You can reach him at 304-269-3153 or [email protected]
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a vibrant holiday season surrounded by family. Take photographs, make memories, and don’t forget to label them for future generations!