Oberlin College had no formal publicist until James H. Ross was
hired to submit occasional Oberlin news items to eastern papers
during the administration of President John Henry Barrows (1847-1902).
Subsequently, the Faculty Committee; the News Bureau Committee,
1914-1929; the Publicity Bureau, 1929-1952; the Public Relations
Office, 1952-1984; and the Office of Communications, beginning in
1984, functioned as publicity agents for Oberlin College.
The paid position of college photographer was created in 1917.
The role of the photographer was to portray campus events, organizations,
and faculty and students. Pictures were used in the Oberlin
Alumni Magazine and in calendars produced by the College.
Arthur Ludwig Princehorn (1870-1931), the first photographer, held
the post until his death. He was assisted by his son Arthur E. (Pinky)
Princehorn (b. 1904), who took over following his fathers
death and served until 1969. Some of their successors include Robert
H. Stillwell (b. 1945), S. Joan Anderson, John Seyfried, Edsel Little,
John Corriveau, and Rick Sherlock.
Scope and Content
Consisting of approximately 250,000 items, the Oberlin College
Archives photograph collection contains images that date from 1848
to 1995. Included are black and white and color prints, negatives,
glass plate negatives, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, slides, transparencies,
and contact sheets of various standard sizes. Augmented over many
years, the photograph collection is an excellent visual source documenting
Oberlins built environment. The images document phases of construction,
exteriors and interiors, landscaping, monuments, streets, and so
Archivist William E. Bigglestone formed RG 32 as the central location
for photographic material, combining still images from a variety
of sources. The Oberlin College Archives unpublished, spiral-bound
Guide to Photographs, Negatives, and Other Visual Materials in
the Oberlin College Archives lists the photographic holdings in
groups. Of those pertinent to Oberlins built environment, some
images are housed in a vertical file (two steel cases), and others
are boxed and shelved. Photographic subject files in RG 32 are essentially
from the old working files of the Office of Communications.
RG 32/2 Miscellaneous Photos, ca. 1930s - 1950s, contains photographs
that are boxed and shelved. This category includes a small assortment
of folders applicable to architecture, from dining halls to the
Veterans Trailer Camp, ca. 1945.
In the Buildings category, RG 32/4, are photographs of 80 college
and non-college buildings, with both exterior and interior views.
This series contains a full range of structures from the Administration
Building to the Wilbur and Orville Wright Laboratory of Physics.
Included are views of some buildings that have long since been torn
down, such as those on Tappan Square prior to 1928. Photographs
of individual dormitories are filed in steel cabinets alphabetically
under the heading dormitories. The photograph collection also
includes a ca. 1961 scrapbook containing more than 20 pages of drawings
and photographs of the Kulas Organ Center, located in Robertson
Hall of the Conservatory of Music. Elevation, floor, and site plans
by architect Minoru Yamasaki highlight the Kulas Recital Hall; photograph
subjects include architectural models, interiors, exteriors, aerial
views, and construction progress. While most buildings photographs
are housed in RG 32, others are filed within an associated institutional
record group. For example, the Conservatory of Music prints are
located in RG 10.
RG 32/5, the Subjects category of photographs, is arranged alphabetically
by folder title in two steel cabinets. While some of these images
are of buildings like the presidents houses, others are of smaller
details of Oberlins built environment, such as the Chinese Bell,
classrooms and students rooms, and memorials and monuments. Interiors
of Finney Chapel, First Church, the old gymnasium, and several tents
are depicted in the 27 folders that provide a visual chronicle of
the Mock Convention, 1908-1968. Still other folders house visual
items clearly intended for artistic display; the researcher will
find these photographic essays under the headings 44074 Exhibit
and Pictorial Memories of Oberlin. Folders of interest to an architectural
historian include: Aerial Views of Campus (4 folders); Arboretum;
Architects Prints - rejected models; Architects Drawings, Mens
and Womens Dormitories, Conservatory of Music, Misc.; Bandstand;
Chapel Services; Chinese Bell; Class Rooms (2 folders); Floods in
Oberlin; 44074 Exhibit; Galpin Field; Grave Stones; Hall (Charles
M.) Statue; Haskell, Katharine Wright Memorial Fountain; Houses
- Historic, Presidential, Unidentified; Little Red School House;
Maps; Memorials, Monuments, etc.; Mock Convention; Monroe House;
Oberlin College ca. 1890; Oberlin (City of) Views; Oberlin Kindergarten-Primary
Training School; Oberlin Community - Childrens Home, Missionary
Home, Street, Skylines, Views; Pictorial Memories of Oberlin
(Rotary Club); Published Photos; Rocks, Boulders on the Oberlin
College Campus; Soldiers Monument (designed by Charles H. Churchill);
Student Rooms; Tabernacle Tent (for Oberlin Revival); Trees.
Finally, the photograph collection at Oberlin College Archives
contains many negatives. The Princehorns are responsible for 48
boxes of these negatives; Karl F. Geiser (see the papers of Karl
F. Geiser) contributed three boxes. Two other boxes contain negatives
solely of buildings, and 21 boxes of glass plate negatives house
over 100 individual images of buildings and monuments. Among the
more unique glass plate negatives are those of the Finney Chapel
in 1908 and 1910, the Memorial Arch in 1915, Peters Hall in 1890,
Wilder Hall in 1930, and Bridge Construction of Hales Gymnasium,
ca. 1937 (latter two in box 21).