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Architecture

The Oldest Known Photographs of Ellicott City

View at “Ellicott’s Mills” – (From the Hill), PP175.026, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS. The still existing Angelo Cottage can be seen on the hill overlooking Ellicott City. Built around 1831, the house is modeled on a French chateau, and became a major tourist attractions for B & O.

View at “Ellicott’s Mills” – (From the Hill), PP175.026, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS. The still existing Angelo Cottage can be seen on the hill overlooking Ellicott City. Built around 1831, the house is modeled on a French chateau, and became a tourist destination for travelers on the B&O Railroad.

Institutional memory is a vital component of any organization. Today, with increasing turnover rates and the decreasing probability of employees remaining with one employer for the duration of their working career, that memory is a dwindling resource. In an archive, where an in depth knowledge of objects that may number into the millions can only be achieved over a period of years, the loss of this knowledge is particularly challenging.

Yesterday, during a conversation about the recent tragic events in Ellicott City, Baltimore City Archivist and former Maryland Historical Society Curator of Prints and Photographs, Rob Schoberlein casually related to library staff that some of the oldest existing photographs of Ellicott City could be found in the society’s collection. Although Schoeberlein left the MdHS over fifteen years ago, his knowledge of the photograph collections allowed us to post these photographs today.

The images, dating from circa 1857–1858, capture Ellicott City as it transitioned from the community of Ellicott’s Mills to the incorporated township of Ellicott City in 1867. George Washington Dobbin (1809–1891), a lawyer, judge, and founding member of the Maryland Historical Society was also an amateur photographer. An early practitioner, his work gained recognition by the mid-1850s with an article in Humphries Journal, an amateur photography magazine. His preferred medium was the stereoview.

Stereoview photographs (also called stereographs) are two photographs taken of the same view from slightly different angles and then mounted side by side onto cards. When the images are viewed with a special viewer called a stereoscope, they appear as one, seemingly three-dimensional image. Stereographs were produced continuously during the years 1851–1940, enjoying varying degrees of popularity during that period.

Although the three dimensional aspect of stereoviews are lost over the internet, thanks to the memory of a former employee, these rare photographs of Ellicott City are available for all to see. (Damon Talbot)

Ellicott Mills, Mill House and the BridgePP175.022, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

Ellicott Mills, Mill House and the Bridge
PP175.022, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

The Upper Mill (Ellicott’s Mills) taken from Angelo Cottage, PP175.023 George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

The Upper Mill (Ellicott’s Mills) taken from Angelo Cottage
PP175.023 George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

Ellicott Mills, Railroad Bridge, PP175.027, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

Ellicott Mills, Railroad Bridge
PP175.027, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

Village of Ellicott’s Mills, PP175.025, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

Village of Ellicott’s Mills
PP175.025, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

Ellicott’s Mills, PP175.024, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

Ellicott’s Mills
PP175.024, George W. Dobbin Photograph Collection, MdHS.

 

For more on George W. Dobbins see Maryland Historical Magazine, 95 (Fall 2000): 331–38.

 

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