Visions of the past

Monday, February 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:45 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

If you are looking for photographs of family members in the Boone Country area from about 1910 to 1936, the Boone County Historical Society has a new place to find them.

The historical society has placed 785 glass-plate negatives from this time period on the World Wide Web. These glass-plate negatives are from the Westhoff collection, the first major donation of photographs to the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum.


A 1919 portrait of R.B. Price of Boone County National Bank with his grandchild. (Courtesy of the Boone County Historical Society)

J. Francis Westhoff had a photography studio on 1106 E. Broadway in Columbia from 1936 to 1970.

The historical society has put these photographs online for everyone to see. Deborah Thompson, director of the Boone County Historical Society, said that online photo archives have two benefits.

The collection is easily accessible, and people who have old photographs will see them and, Thompson hopes, donate them to the historical society.

Three photographers are represented on the Web site, including Joe Douglass, photographer in the Columbia area from 1895 to 1910; Henry Holborn, 1910-1921; and Wesley Blackmore, about 1921-1936.

Douglass took the majority of the landscape photographs, which are rare for this time period; 90 percent of the collection is portraits.


Unidentified women, possibly theatrical students, onstage at an unknown location. (Courtesy of the Boone County Historical Society)

This project was made possible by a $4,000 grant from the Missouri Bibliographic Information User System, known as MOBIUS, a company affiliated with the UM system administration that seeks to catalog all materials for its member libraries.

The money was used to pay David Gold, a Rocheport resident and member of the historical society, who selected, indexed, researched and put the photographs online.

Gold first searched for images of the town, buildings, school campuses and sports teams to show what Boone County was like. He filled in the rest of the collection with portraits. Gold was chosen for his background in photography. He owned Gold Inc., a commercial photography studio for products in advertisements in St. Louis from about 1980 to 1995.

The society has a total of more than 506,000 negatives, which Thompson estimates will take a decade to index.

The oldest photographs are tintypes from the 1880s. They are not posted on the Web site because they are made with silver nitrate, which cannot be exposed to the light of a scanner.

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