This publicity photo for the Columbus Pilgrimage (circa 1942) shows Whitehall, and standing beside the side porch steps are Delilah and Johnnie, who worked there. In the carriage are Ida Billups Ward and Emmaline Hardy Carrick, and the man in the Confederate uniform may have been a manager at the Gilmer Hotel. On horses behind the carriage are William Boyd and Virginia Boyd. The lady at the far right on the front porch may be Francis Thomas. Photo by: Provided photo
December 1, 2012 10:01:55 PM
My new book, "Columbus Chronicles, Tales of East Mississippi," came out a little over a week ago and I have had a whole slew of people ask me about the cover picture. To quote Rod Stewart, "every picture tells a story," and this one does too. The stories told by photographs are many layered. When and where was it taken? Who was the photographer and what was the event? Then there are the people, each of whom has their own story.
Though it looks like it could be a photo from the 1800s, this photograph is not nearly that old. It actually is a publicity photo for the Columbus Pilgrimage, probably taken in 1942. It was taken on Third Street South at Whitehall, then the home of Mrs. T. C. Billups, chairman and co-founder of the pilgrimage, in the background.
The photographer is unknown. Several local photographers took photos for the pilgrimage committee, as did the staff at The Commercial Dispatch. There is an interesting story that comes to mind when thinking of such photos. In 1943, Life Magazine came to a hoopskirt party in Columbus. The March 8, 1943, issue of Life featured nine photos taken at Whitehall and Riverview showing a party given for cadets from Columbus Army Air Field. Those photographs were all taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, one of the most famous of all photographers and the "father of photojournalism."
The publicity committee for the pilgrimage in the early 1940s did a wonderful job spreading photos, such as the one on the book's cover, across America. There was a full-page spread of Columbus photos featured in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Other photos appeared in papers ranging from the Atlanta Constitution to the New York Times. In 1942 the publicity committee was composed of Mrs. Francis Thielbar, V. B. Imes, Drew Shankle, Burgess Waltmon, T. C. Billups, Ed Kuykendall, Ralph Webb and Bob McRaney.
With the passage of 60 years, the identity of some of the people in the photo on the cover has been lost. A few though can still be recognized. Standing beside the side porch steps were Delilah and Johnnie, who worked at Whitehall. In the carriage are Ida Billups Ward and Emmaline Hardy Carrick, and the man in the Confederate uniform may have been a manager at the Gilmer Hotel. On horses behind the carriage are William Boyd and Virginia Boyd. The lady at the far right on the front porch may be Francis Thomas.
However, the best story is told by the carriage that is in the photo. It had been Sarah Bailey Hardy's (Mrs T. W. Hardy) carriage.
On Nov. 2, 1909, President William H. Taft visited Columbus accompanied, by his Secretary of War, J. M. Dickinson, a Columbus native. That day, he spoke and attended a barbeque at the Industrial Institute and College (MUW). Taft was to ride through Columbus in the finest carriage available. That was said to be Mrs. T. W. Hardy's Victorian-style carriage. It is the same carriage shown in the book's cover image.
Mr. Hardy was approached with the request for President Taft to use his wife's carriage. Although his wife was a "yellow dog Democrat," he replied that since she was in Greenwood visiting her daughter, Lucille Hardy Kimbrough, he thought it would be all right.
When Mrs. Hardy returned from Greenwood and was informed that President Taft (he was very much overweight) had used her carriage, she immediately exclaimed: "Well, I hope that fat Republican didn't bust the springs."
There is a story to be told by every picture, and the photograph gracing my book's cover is no exception.
The book may be purchased at the S. D. Lee Home, the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million.
I will also be at The Commercial Dispatch 5 - 7 p.m. for a book signing during Wassail Fest this Friday.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at firstname.lastname@example.org.