A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall

By Maureen A. Taylor

Cathy Jordan found three panoramic photographs in her father’s old trunk. These oversize photos can cause eye strain and headaches as you try to find your relative in them!

Thankfully, Cathy’s been able to locate her father in two of them, but the third one baffles her. It’s a group portrait of students at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. Her father lived in Conway, but didn’t attend Hendrix.

She photographed it in sections to make it easier for me to see it and share it with you.

There are lots of clues in this long picture.

  • She contacted the Hendrix College archives. Staff told her that the building is College Hall. They looked in college newspapers and yearbooks for more information. The school’s 1918 Troubador yearbook contains a photo that shows the same 18 band members. The archivist felt that this photo was taken around 1917-1918. At that time, College Hall was called Martin Hall.
  • The clothing clues and hairstyles agree with the 1917-1918 time frame.
  • One of the mysteries is why this is an all-male group. Women attended the school at that time.

These military style haircuts were very popular. Just about every young man in the picture has the same cut.

In 1917, Hendrix was both a secondary school and a college. In the first image, you’ll notice some boys who look younger than college freshmen.

Hendrix did its part for the WWI war effort, building a Student Army Training Center during that 1917-1918 period. At the same time, more than half the student population contracted the Spanish flu. Two died of it.

No one knows why this picture was taken. There were no significant events at the school. The band played for football games and other school functions, but the all-male nature of the group rules out a school-wide event.

Cathy doesn’t know why her father owned the picture. He graduated from Little Rock Senior High in 1924. She has his report cards from the Arkansas Normal School, a teacher’s college also located in Conway. Maybe this is a joint event between Hendrix and the Arkansas Normal School?

Today the Arkansas Normal School is the University of Central Arkansas. I’d follow-up with the university archivist and see if they have a copy of this picture.

These yard-long pictures were very popular in the late teens and early 1920s. Identifying them is one problem but so is storing them. When I was a photo curator, we placed them in a large folder made from acid- and lignin- free cardstock in an oversize archival box.

Do you find vintage panoramic photos as fascinating as I do? Last summer I wrote about a panoramic photograph of the Pershing Family Reunion.


Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album