At the end of the 19th century, railroads entered the mountains of eastern and central West Virginia for the first time. This opened up vast areas of virgin forest to the lumberman. Later, valuable coalfields were discovered beneath the forests. The development of the region was in full swing by the first decades of the 20th century. G. H. Broadwater, a photographer from Thomas, West Virginia, traveled the Western Maryland Railway and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in state between 1906 and 1912, taking over 2,000 photos of these budding industries, workers and developing towns. Broadwater’s photographs give vivid insight into the early development of West Virginia’s industries and a fascinating period in the state’s history.
Photographer concentrated on Western Maryland Railway
For the Cumberland Times-News
Published: August 25, 2006
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Quarrier Press has announced the release of its latest publication, “The Western Maryland Railway in West Virginia: The Photographs of G.H. Broadwater,” written and compiled by Alan R. Clarke.
Clarke has managed to uncover an enormous collection of Broadwater’s unique photographs. While these photographs were interesting when they were taken, they become even more compelling in retrospect, as they captured the changing face of West Virginia at the turn of the 20th century.
Railroads first entered the mountains of eastern and central West Virginia at the end of the 19th century, opening vast areas of virgin forest to the saw and axe of the lumberman. Soon thereafter valuable coalfields were discovered beneath those same forests.
By the first decades of the 20th century, the industrial development of the region was in full swing. And from 1905 to 1912, a young photographer from Thomas known as G.H. Broadwater traveled the state on the Western Maryland Railway and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, documenting the railroad and the industries it served.
Broadwater was unusual because few engaged in photography at that time. Even more unusual was his subject matter. Eschewing the traditional portrait or landscape, Broadwater proudly proclaimed his intention to take industrial photographs, and his large body of work alludes to that passion. Today, for those interested in West Virginia’s early mining, railroads and timbering, Broadwater’s documentation is invaluable.
Just how many photographs did he take? “Many of his photographs appeared on numbered postcards; the highest number that has appeared so far is 1,909,” said Clarke. But he also published postcards where the photographs weren’t numbered, or the photograph wasn’t used as a postcard. I believe the number of photographs Broadwater took is well in excess of 2,000.”
How did Clarke obtain so many Broadwater photographs?
“Some of them I purchased at postcard shows; others I have bought on e-Bay. The majority, however, were in the collections of individuals or organizations, who generously let me make copies for their use in the book.”
Clarke would love to do another book of these pictures “if I can find enough new photographs. I encourage anyone who has Broadwater photographs that they’d let me reproduce to contact me by telephone at (304) 842-4140 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Clarke hopes that this book will give readers an appreciation of Broadwater’s art as well as the industrial development of the highlands of West Virginia early in the 20th century.
“The Western Maryland Railway in West Virginia: The Photographs of G. H. Broadwater” is now available in hardback at 176 pages.