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About the Knox County Public Library Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection





The Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knox County Public Library System is able to share some of its photograph collections and other special materials online thanks to grants from the state of Tennessee, Knox County and a host of other generous donors.

The Thompson Photograph Collection

James E. (Jim) Thompson (1881-1976) was one of Knoxville’s pioneer commercial and professional photographers. He captured a rich visual legacy of East Tennessee from 1907 to 1960. This growing digital collection will eventually contain 10,000 images covering the years from the early 1920s to mid-1930s.

The Thompson Photograph Collection includes an estimated 75,000 negatives, providing a rich visual legacy of Knoxville and East Tennessee from 1907 to 1960. Preservation printing of these negatives has been the major focus of the McClung Historical Collection for two decades.

Jim Thompson and his younger brother Robin Thompson (1895-1977) were business partners from 1920 to 1926 as Thompson Brothers. Both men were pioneer commercial photographers. By the late 1920s, Jim Thompson’s photographs (Jim Thompson Co.) and those of his brother Robin Thompson (Robin Thompson, Inc.) were appearing in local and national commercial publications.

The Knox County Two Centuries Photograph Collection

During the celebration of Knox County’s two hundredth birthday in 1992, the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knox County Public Library System copied over 3,000 photographs owned by over 230 Knox County citizens and organizations. The aim of the project was to collect as large a body of photographs as possible documenting Knox County from the early days of photography in the 1840s to the 1970s.

Library staff went on-site to 28 locations in Knox County on 44 different days during 1991. The resulting collection of photographs documents the daily lives of individuals, families, communities, and institutions of Knox County during two centuries. The book Two Centuries of Knox County, Tennessee: A Celebration in Photographs, published in 1992 by the Friends of the Knox County Public Library, was able to offer only a small cross section of the hundreds of photographs copied during this project.

Women's Suffrage

Women from East Tennessee played a critical role in the women’s suffrage movement, especially Lizzie Crozier French, Mrs. Hugh L. White and Abby Crawford Milton. The Harry T. Burn Papers related to his decisive vote in favor of women’s suffrage in the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1920 is a key component of this collection.

Selected Photographs from the Holdings of the McClung Historical Collection

The McClung Historical Collection has a large number of small photograph collections, as well as manuscript collections with unusual and interesting photographs included in them. The Selected Photographs digital collection highlights some of these photographs.

Hugh Tyler Collection

These photographs from Hugh Tyler's album include photos of James Agee and his mother’s family, some of the few surviving photographs from the time immediately after Agee's father’s death. The photograph album has 37 pages and contains mostly family snapshots. Some photographs appear to have been removed from the album prior to its donation, and there are also several loose photographs. All of the photographs of the photographs in the album have been scanned, even those presently unidentified.

Although he was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Hugh Tyler (1885-1976) spent most of his childhood and young adulthood in Knoxville. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1905 and studied drawing and painting with a local teacher. Tyler attended Pratt Institute in New York for two years and worked for a time designing tapestries and rugs for Hunter Looms in New York City. In 1911 he studied landscape painting with John Carlson at Woodstock, New York. In 1912 Tyler travelled to Europe where he studied at the Academie Julian in Paris and at the French Academy in Rome. He pursued a successful career as both an artist and as a decorative artist. Hugh Tyler was especially noted for his marine landscapes, painted in a number of places such as the South Seas during his travels. Decorative painting projects were often in collaboration with Knoxville architect Charles I. Barber. Hugh Tyler’s twin sister, Laura, was the mother of Knoxville writer James Agee. The photograph album and manuscripts presented here chiefly cover the years from 1902 to 1922, but many of the dated photographs focus on the year 1917, two years after James Agee’s father’s death on May 18, 1915.

Great Smoky Mountains Photograph Collection — Thompson Brothers

Jim Thompson (1881-1976) and his younger brother Robin Thompson (1895-1977) were business partners in Knoxville from 1920 to 1926 as Thompson Brothers. Both men, individually and in partnership, were successful commercial photographers. Both brothers loved to hike and were pioneers in documenting the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in photographs in the 1910s and 1920s, which were used to help promote the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The photographs included in the group presented here were those specifically selected by Jim Thompson from among the entire body of prints and photographs that he and his brother created. Some additional photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains which Jim Thompson did not include in this collection are included in the much larger Thompson Photograph Collection.

George F. Barber Collection

George Franklin Barber (1854-1915) was a remarkably successful practitioner of American domestic architecture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Much of his success was due to his early and enthusiastic adoption of national promotion of sales catalogues for his own architectural plans for houses and cottages, with a complete willingness to customize the plans for any customer.

Barber was born in De Kalb, Illinois, in 1854. He lived in rural Illinois and later near Marmaton, Kansas. His rural upbringing prevented him from receiving anything more than a nominal education. Barber had an early interest in horticulture and farming, but his work as a carpenter and builder, in partnership with his brother Manley DeWitt Barber, seems to have led him to a career in carpentry, building, and finally architecture. In 1888 Barber moved to Knoxville for health reasons. He flourished as an architect in the rapidly growing postwar southern city. Barber published over a dozen mail order catalogs for residential architectural plans between 1888 and 1908. A sudden illness led to his untimely death in 1915.

Selected Materials from the McClung Historical Collection

The books, pamphlets, ephemera and maps included in this collection are selected from the rare and fragile print materials held by the library. These items are held in closed library stacks and may be missed by the casual researcher.

C. A. Wayland Collection

The C.A. Wayland Stereograph Collection consists of 323 stereograph images, most taken by Columbus Alexander Wayland (December 26, 1868-January 2, 1950), who lived in South Knoxville, Tennessee.

The last fifteen images in the collection were ones collected by Mr. Wayland rather than photographed by him. The subjects include Theodore Roosevelt, Alvin York, and President Taft, the 1910 Appalachian Exposition in Knoxville, 1907 Prohibition Parades in Knoxville, Old Gray Cemetery and other Knoxville cemeteries, Knoxville scenes, and photographs taken in Brunswick, Georgia. Mr. Wayland’s occupation was that of a specialty carpenter who created custom staircases in homes for his employer, the D.M. Rose Lumber Company.

Roger H. Howell Collection

Roger Hoffman Howell (1897-1962) was a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He came to Knoxville in 1936 to work as an engineering draftsman for the new Tennessee Valley Authority. He and his future wife, Alice Lynn, met hiking with the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. Roger Howell was a keen and meticulous photographer, who carefully labeled all of his photographs made on hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. Alice Lynn Howell donated this collection of black-and-white negatives and Kodachrome slides to the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection in 1984. The Roger H. Howell Collection contains 1,733 negatives taken from 1935 to 1940 and 400 color slides.

Photo usage or reproduction inquiries, contact: or (865) 215-8808.

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