The picture man....

Taken ca. 1914, this photo was taken when the picture man arrived at a local country store.

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, several traveling photographers roamed the countryside, stopping at homesteads, stores, churches, schools, and other spots to ply their trade.

Perhaps without realizing it, these artists were capturing vignettes of the past for us to study and treasure today. Not only did men, women, and children pose for the camera, but the backgrounds are filled with bits of history, too.

Gladys Norris Denton, our beloved “Mom Priss,” shared a photo of her mother, father, older brothers and older sister, with us. The picture was taken ca. 1908 at Templin’s Store out Bogard way. Mom Priss was about four years old and is scowling intently at the camera. When I commented on this, she laughed and said, “The photographer said to watch for the birdie, and I was mad because there was no birdie!”

She also said she remembered the day quite clearly. The Norris home was but a short distance from the store and word arrived that the “picture man” was there. Quickly her mother rounded up the children, scrubbed, cleaned, and dressed them appropriately and off they went. It’s been well over 110 years since that day and we still treasure that photo.

The picture accompanying today’s article was among those that recently came my way. The family from which the picture came lived in what is now part of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a short distance from Laurel Springs Christian Church.

Shane McGaha, who is my “go to person” for the history of that part of the county, says there were several stores in the area, both in Cocke and Sevier Counties. Sadly none of the signs give us the store’s name, but perhaps a reader will know.

I count 26 people, men, women, and children, in the photo. Someone has cut a portion of the photo away next to the woman at front right, so perhaps another person had been pictured there.

Obviously the neighborhood knew the picture man was coming. The fellows in the auto are dressed for Sunday services, and the musicians at front left are ready to play a tune. I’m going out on a limb and date the picture to about 1914 or so, because of the car. An auto expert will no doubt be able to name and date the vehicle.

A fence can be seen in the immediate front of the picture and what appears to be an gateway into the store’s front yard is shown at far right.

I love the advertising signs and just wonder what American Pickers would think about them.

Union Leader Cut Plug tobacco received the prime spot, front and center over the entrance. Black Draught is advertised at far right, and another sign is atop the Union Leader board.

The photographer was good. Everyone is placed in a clear spot, except for a young fellow at far right, who perhaps drifted somewhat out of sight just as the shot was taken.

The quality of the photo is amazing, as are many from this era.

Hopefully someone else has a copy of the same picture and will be able to shed further light on this remarkable find.

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