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Many Historical Photographs Are Still A Mystery

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 24th, 2013

When photographs are made, their creators often overlook the task of recording identifications of their subjects, whether the names of people, locations, or special events.  This is not surprising, since the usefulness of photographs is apparently seen by their creators as limited to the immediate purpose at hand, where the subjects are already known by the photographer.  But when photographs outlive their creators, their content is often unknown to those who acquire them — this is a situation faced by all who work in museums and libraries when acquiring historical collections.  This situation becomes a problem when these materials are repurposed for historical research, since their potential can remain largely untapped until their content can be divulged through astute detective work or a “lucky break.”

The West Virginia and Regional History Center is no different from other repositories in sharing this problem.  And like other repositories, we sometimes publish our unidentified photos in the hope that someone may recognize a person, a location, etc., and help us identify our images of mystery.

To start, we are curious about the location of the company store in the following image:

This picture was taken by William O. Trevey, a photographer working in the New River coalfields of Raleigh and Fayette counties in the period ca. 1900-1930.  Other Trevey photographs in our collection can be found here.

Another photograph of interest is of a mill which we believe to be somewhere in West Virginia, since it came from the collection of James Boughner, a Morgantown resident.  We would like to know where this mill is located, and any related information:

Finally, we are interested in finding out anything we can about this photograph from the collection of Walter Mestrezat, the first director of West Virginia University’s wind band:

If you would like to share information about any of these photographs, please contact Associate Curator of Archives and Manuscripts Michael Ridderbusch at, or call the WVRHC at 304-293-3536.

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch.

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