The Digital Watauga Project is excited to announce the online addition of two new major collections to its website, DigitalWatauga.org.
The first is the Lowery-Whiting Collection, a group of 51 historic images and several supporting interpretive documents that illustrate the history of the Whiting Lumber Company and the Boone Fork Lumber Company operations at Shull’s Mills, North Carolina, from 1915 to 1921. The collection came to Digital Watauga through the generosity of Michael Scott Lowery of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Lowery is the great grandson of William S. Whiting, the lumber baron and entrepreneur behind both companies that operated at Shull’s Mills. The full collection is now available for viewing online.
The second collection is the Palmer Blair Collection, which consists of well over 5,000 images taken between 1946 and 1958. The vast majority of the images are from original negatives and photographs produced by Boone photographer Palmer Blair, who operated a local photo studio and served as a stringer photographer for numerous publications between 1946 and his death in a plane crash in March 1957. Two assistants who worked for Blair—Frank Hartley and J. C. Boone—are believed to have taken photographs in the collection that were shot during the remainder of 1957. Additional photographs shot in 1958 and attributed to George Flowers, another significant Boone photographer who bought Blair’s photo shop in January 1958, are also present in the collection.
The Palmer Blair Collection comes to Digital Watauga through the remarkable generosity of Boone resident Sarah Lynn Spencer—Palmer Blair’s widow—and the logistical assistance of Spencer’s children. Because of the size of this collection, only the first box of 1,065 negatives has been digitized thus far. Rather than wait until the entire collection has been digitized, Digital Watauga is making the collection available in stages to the public as portions of the collection are completed.
This first wave of images from the Palmer Blair Collection documents numerous family reunions (Clawson, Cook, Daugherty, Edmisten, Farthing, and Walker), promotional shots for Grandfather Mountain, the interiors of several Downtown Boone businesses, various studio portraits, Senator Estes Kefauver’s visit to Mayview Manor in 1956, various bank and business meetings, several local car dealerships, early productions of Horn in the West, and a large number of car accidents. Also depicted are campers at assorted local summer camps and students from Blowing Rock High School, Cove Creek High School, Cove Creek Elementary School, Happy Valley High School, and Appalachian State Teacher’s College in various candid shots.
The Digital Watauga Project has been actively pursuing additional acquisitions this fall, including the following recently acquired collections, which are presently being catalogued and digitized:
*Clarence A. Price Home Movies Collection (1947-1953)—This moving image collection documents various Boone and Watauga County scenes, as well as the 1949 Centennial Parade and the 1950 fire at the Appalachian Theatre;
*H. L. and Gladys Coffey Collection—This collection includes several shots of the July 4, 1919, parade through Downtown Boone, as well as approximately 30 images of residents of the Grassy Creek vicinity of Watauga County;
*Linda Miller Slide Collection—This collection consists of various images of Downtown Boone, including the 1973 Wagon Train Parade;
*Henry DeWolf Aerial Surveys of Boone and Watauga County—This collection contains seven aerial shots of Downtown Boone and various county scenes taken circa 1972; and the
*Paul Armfield Coffey Collection (1950s to 1990s)—This collection of approximately 1,500 images consists of photographs shot for the Watauga Democrat while under the editorial leadership of the Rivers family and Paul Armfield Coffey.
Digital Watauga anticipates that these collections, along with additional content from the Palmer Blair Collection, will be added online over the next six months.
The Digital Watauga Project is a partnership between the Watauga County Historical Society and the Watauga County Public Library and was established in 2014. The principal aim of the Digital Watauga Project is the digital preservation of Watauga County’s historical images, documents, and other materials. By serving as a digital clearinghouse of Watauga County’s history, Digital Watauga encourages its members and the citizens of Watauga County to make our history more accessible to the general public while also allowing the owners of historical materials to retain ownership and control over their original images, documents, and artifacts. Digital Watauga also sponsors regular public events designed to highlight components of its digital collection and educate the Watauga County community about its rich, multifaceted, and important history.
If you have a collection of images or documents that chronicles the history of Watauga County and would like to share it with Digital Watauga, please contact us at DigitalWatauga@gmail.com, or call Eric Plaag, the Chairperson of the Digital Watauga Project, at (828) 773-6525.