Mobile: Photographs from the William E. Wilson Collection (AL) (Images of America)
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Beautiful Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico, has a colorful history dating back to its founding in 1702. Few photographers have captured the essence of Mobile-its people, places, and events-to the extent of master photographer William Ernest Wilson. Wilson's photography vividly depicts Mobile life at the turn of the twentieth century and is the subject of this engaging visual journey. From nationally elected officials such as Theodore Roosevelt to local Mardi Gras royalty, from entrepreneur Gordon Smith of Smith's Bakery to Africa Town founder Cudjoe Lewis, from a stately cathedral to country churches, from thriving banks and theaters to lumber yards and banana docks, the people and places of Mobile are revealed through Wilson's camera as a kaleidoscope of life in a bustling seaport. Artistic shading and Wilson's innate ability to see beyond the lens give his photographs an air of the contemporary while reflecting a bygone era of simplicity. These images simultaneously reveal the height of Victorian photographic art and daily life in one of the South's first major cities. Covering the period from 1894 to 1905, the collection features personalities, street scenes, and architectural treasures of the past. Preserved on their original dry glass negatives, a significant portion of Wilson's Mobile photographs are collected and printed here in a single edition for the first time.
Sims, Miss Claudia Friendenthal, and Miss Marion Mahon. J.B. Webster’s decorated automobile pulled behind it an elaborately decorated cart. Miss C. Touart, Miss Rose Hayes, and Mrs. T.J. Touart were the passengers in T.J. Touart’s automobile in the floral parade. John van Heuval’s automobile was covered with waterlilies and transported these youngsters, from left to right, James van Heuval, John Damrich, Grace van Hueval, Marie Unruh, Irma Unruh, Mabel Hartwell, Allie Yeend, and Gabriella
until his death in 1935. This c. 1900 photograph depicts a group of African-American men who have apparently assembled for a religious meeting. Whether this was a group of clergymen or a single minister (front row, center) and his deacons or vestry members, this is an imposing group. After the Civil War, a majority of African-Americans living in Mobile chose to form their own congregations and worship independently of the white population. At the turn of the century, African-Methodist Episcopal,
temple, built in 1858. Once completed, the temple provided a place of worship for Mobile’s Jewish population, which has had a presence in the city since the early nineteenth century. Government Street Presbyterian Church was constructed in 1836 by noted architects James Gallier and the brothers Charles and James Dakin. It is considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the South. Prominent lawyer, judge, and politician Henry Hitchcock was a major contributor to
horse-and mule-drawn vehicles present. Government Street west of Water Street offered a central refueling spot of sorts where horses, mules and even people could stop for water at a public fountain. (The monument to Admiral Raphael Semmes by Casper Burberi, unveiled in 1900, is visible in the distance.) This photo shows Royal Street, south of Dauphin, with electric streetcars, wagons, and pedestrians. This photo includes turn-of-the-century businesses Zadek Jewelry, the Hotel Royal, Hammel’s
Building in 1903, and finally the towering Van Antwerp Building at 10 stories in 1906. A hotel boom brought the Bienville in 1900, the Cawthon in 1906, and the palatial new Battle House in 1908. Wilson’s numerous photographs of shops, waterfront merchants, and the arrival of the automobile reflect the period and its excitement. Only the tragedy of a World War would overshadow it. —Tom McGehee The U.S. Custom House, completed in 1856, and the City Bank Building of 1903, dominate this view of