Wilson family photographs, 1897-1939 (bulk 1897-1919)
(Document/manuscript/pamphlet/archival material)

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LocationCall NumberStatus
Special Collections - Closed StacksWorkroom range 3 section 1Library Use Only

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LC Subjects
Airplanes -- United States -- Photographs.
Amusements -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Belmont-Hillsboro (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Boscobel Street (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Bridges -- Design and construction.
Bridges -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Broadway Avenue (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Buildings -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Central business districts -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Children -- Southern States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
Children -- United States -- Photographs.
Children's clothing -- United States -- Photographs.
Circus -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Circus wagons -- United States -- Photographs.
Civil engineering -- Tennessee.
Clarkson family.
Clarkson, Bessie -- (Sarah Elizabeth), -- b. 1877.
Clothing and dress -- United States -- Photographs.
Commercial buildings -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Cumberland River (Ky. and Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Davidson County (Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Dwellings -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
East Nashville (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Families -- Southern States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
Families -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Finney family.
Finney, Lena -- (Paulina), -- b. ca. 1868.
Generals -- United States -- Photographs.
Grandmothers -- Southern States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
Interior architecture -- Photographs.
Junkers airplanes -- Photographs.
Junkers-Larsen JL 6 (Transport plane) -- Photographs.
Men -- Southern States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
Men -- United States -- Photographs.
Men's clothing -- United States -- Photographs.
Middle class -- Conduct of life.
Nashville (Tenn.) -- Description and travel.
Nashville (Tenn.) -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
Nashville (Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Northern, Mattie -- (Martha), -- b. ca. 1874.
Parades -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Parents -- Southern States.
Railroads -- United States -- Photographs.
Ridgetop (Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Robertson County (Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Seventeenth Avenue (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Shelby Street Bridge (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Sixteenth Avenue (Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Soldiers -- United States -- Photographs.
Steamboats -- Cumberland River (Ky. and Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Steamboats -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Streets -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Tennessee -- Centennial celebrations, etc. -- Photographs.
Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition -- (1897 : -- Nashville, Tenn.) -- Photographs.
Transportation -- Colorado -- Photographs.
Transportation -- Tennessee -- Photographs.
United States. -- Army. -- Coast Artillery.
United States. -- Army. -- Officers -- Photographs.
Vernacular architecture -- Tennessee -- Nashville -- Photographs.
Wilson family.
Wilson, Charles B., -- b. 1871.
Wilson, Mary E. -- (Mary Williamson), -- 1844-1911.
Wilson, Walter K., -- 1880-1954.
Women -- Southern States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
Women -- United States -- Photographs.

More Details

Document/manuscript/pamphlet/archival material
Physical Desc
.78 cu. ft.


General Note
Materials housed in Special Collections Division of the Main Library, Nashville Public Library.
General Note
Contents Box 1: 9 folders. The first two folders contain: 1) Researcher Aids: Family group sheets and photo identification aids; 2) DVD-ROM containing low-resolution (72dpi) scans from originals in albums. Seven additional folders contain original albums and photographs and feature the following subjects: 3) Album: Family and children, Walter K. Wilson in Philippines; 4) Album: Many children and babies on porch and in yard, sandpile, some hold Teddy Bears; 5) Small paper album of baby and woman; 6) Loose pages, family ca. 1897-ca. 1935; 7) Loose page, children ca. 1907; 8) Loose pages, family, children, trains, Colorado; 9) Loose photographs, various subjects, ca. 1908-ca. 1914
General Note
Contents Box 2: Four albums featuring the following subjects: 1) Circus parade, bridges, boats, riverfront, trains; 2) Tennessee Centennial Exposition; 3) Family at Ridgetop, Tenn., World War I era, bridges, airplanes, Wilson headstone; 4) Family scenes, probably at Ridgetop, children with masks, boy with flags, house at 602 Boscobel Street.
Restrictions on Access
In library use only. Available by appointment.
Restrictions on Access
Researchers who wish to casually browse the collection should use the DVD-ROM to view scanned images of many of the original photographs. The DVD is not useful for making photo duplication requests, or for visitors who are performing more intensive research. Use of the DVD-ROM is encouraged, because it aids in preservation efforts by lessening handling of the fragile originals.
Restrictions on Access
Special Handling Note: There are a few images which are cyanotypes. These items have a blue tone to them, and are extremely light-sensitive. Please use precaution, and minimize their exposure to light or UV sources. Thank you.
Restrictions on Access
Special Handling Note: Interleaving tissue has been used in some instances. Please do not remove this tissue as it serves a preservation function.
Scope and content: Seven small photograph albums, and numerous loose pages from one or two additional albums, containing a total of approximately 600 black and white snapshots showing the James E. and Mary (Williamson) Wilson family of Nashville, Tenn., their children, and grandchildren. Most of the photographs are from the 1897-1919 time period, but some photographs can be dated to 1939. Only one image is formally identified, although research by Library staff has enabled educated guesses about many of the people appearing throughout the collection. Most images are of various members of the family, especially the children (from childhood to adulthood) and grandchildren (primarily as children) of James E. and Mary Wilson. Scenes are typically on the porch, in the yard, or occasionally in the interior of various homes, a few of which can be identified based on research by staff.
The vast majority of images throughout the collection are believed to have been shot in Nashville or nearby, but other locations known to be included are: Ridgetop, Tenn.; Denver, Colo.; and the Philippines.
Library staff believe the following individuals and their families to be well-documented in this collection: Mary (Williamson) Wilson; Lena (Paulina Wilson) Finney; Charles B. Wilson; Mattie (Martha Wilson) Northern; Bessie (Sarah Elizabeth Wilson) Clarkson; and Walter K. Wilson, Sr. A number of photographs seem to relate to Charles B. Wilson, a civil engineer; and his brother, Walter K. Wilson, Sr., who had a lifelong career in the Army. It is unclear if there are any photographs of the patriarch of the family, James E. Wilson, who died prior to 1900.
Other images include scenes of bridges, steamboats, trains, railroads and some landscapes. One album (ca. 1913) has a number of images taken from a rooftop on the south side of the 600 block of Broadway in Nashville, Tenn. as a circus parade goes down the street, showing elephants, numerous circus wagons, and crowds lining the street. Another album features snapshots of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, showing buildings, the grounds, and other attractions. Of special note are a few photographs that appear to be of a Junkers-Larsen JL-6 airplane, which was often used by the U.S. Postal Service, though it is unclear if this particular airplane served in that capacity. Apparently only a limited number of these planes (perhaps only 25) were used in the United States around 1920.
At the beginning of the collection are two folders that contain supplemental material. One folder includes family group sheets for the various members of the Wilson family and a description of the process used by staff to identify photographs. The latter contains illustrations, and may enable the researcher to identify other images within the collection. The second folder contains a DVD-ROM of low-resolution (72 dpi) .jpg files, scanned from the original albums and images. This DVD was created by the donor. It can be very useful for casual browsing of the collection, and aids in preservation by lessening handling of the originals. However, the numbering scheme used on the files on the DVD does not bear any direct relationship to albums or photo order within the collection as a whole. Therefore, in-depth researchers or those who wish to request photographic reproductions, are urged to view the original materials.
Preferred Citation of Described Materials
Cite as: Wilson Family Photographs, 1897-1940, Special Collections Division, Nashville Public Library
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Extremely fragile - Handle with care - No photocopies.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
No duplication from the DVD-ROM is permitted.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
ThriftSmart;,Gift;,2013.,Acc. 2013.017.
Location of Other Archival Materials
Associated Materials: The Tennessee State Library and Archives holds the Clarkson Familiy Papers, which includes information relating to T. A. Clarkson.
Biographical or Historical Data
James E. Wilson was born around 1837 in British India. It is not known when he came to the United States, but he did serve in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, possibly with a South Carolina unit. He married Mary Williamson, sometime probably before 1868, and probably in South Carolina, where several of his children were born. In 1873, he and his wife and family moved to Nashville, Tenn., where he was a bookeeper and accountant. The family home was on 8th Ave. S. (formerly known as S. Spruce St.). He died sometime between 1880 and 1900.
Biographical or Historical Data
Mary (Williamson) Wilson was born in South Carolina in Oct. 1844. Not much is known about her before her arrival with her husband and children to Nashville in 1873. By 1900, she was a widow, and lived at 602 Boscobel St. In 1910, she was living at the same residence, but her son-in-law Thomas A. Clarkson (husband of daughter, Sarah Elizabeth "Bessie") was listed as the head of household. Mary was a long-time member of Woodland Street Presbyterian Church. She died on Sept. 18, 1911 at her residence of 1204 Ordway Pl. She is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Biographical or Historical Data
James and Mary had eight children. Two children apparently did not survive to adulthood. One child is unidentified, apparently dying before 1900; Mary E. b. ca. 1869 S.C., died between 1870-1880. Another child, Frank L. b. Dec. 1884 Tenn., grew to young adulthood and died probably between 1900-1910. Other children include:
Biographical or Historical Data
Paulina "Lena" b. ca. 1868 S.C. and in 1910 and 1920 living with her husband, Thomas R. Finney, in Decatur, Ga.
Biographical or Historical Data
Charles B. b. 1871 S.C., became a civil engineer, his wife's name was Mai (or May) - (possible maiden name Conklin), and their first child was Mary E. b. 1907. In 1910, they were living in Knoxville, Tenn.
Biographical or Historical Data
Martha "Mattie" b. ca. 1874 Tenn. She married Christopher C. Northern, and he died sometime between 1910-1920. They had one child, who died before 1910. In 1910, she was renting at 707 Shirley St. in Nashville, Tenn. and in 1945 she was residing at 1033 16th Ave. S. She died sometime between 1945-1954.
Biographical or Historical Data
Sarah Elizabeth "Bessie" b. Sept. 1877 Tenn. She married Thomas A. Clarkson ca. 1902. He was a clerk for the railroad. They had at least two children: Sarah E. and T.A. Jr. In 1910 they lived at 602 Boscobel St. in East Nashville, along with Bessie's mother. In 1945, they lived at 1026 17th Ave. S. She died sometime between 1945-1954.
Biographical or Historical Data
Walter K. Wilson, Sr. was born on 7 Oct. 1880 in Nashville. As a boy, he delivered the Nashville Banner newspaper, a fact which would often be highlighted in later news reports about him. He graduated from Fogg High School and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., graduating in 1902. He then went to Coast Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Va. He continued serving with the Coast Artillery until 1937. During World War I, he remained state side, where he was in charge of cable communications with the American forces in France. For his fine and distinguished work in this capacity, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He served for six years as the executive to the Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy. Prior to America's entry into World War II, he commanded the harbor defenses of Manila in the Philippines, and commanded the Third Army Corps in 1940. The highest rank he achieved during his Army career was that of major general. He transferred to the Secretary of War's office, where he was the director of army emergency relief. Although he retired from the Army in 1944, he continued to serve as the director of army emergency relief, in a civilian capacity, before poor health forced him to retire again in 1951. Sometime prior to 1906, Walter married the former Evangeline Taylor. They had two sons: Walter K. Jr. b. 1906 (who later became a brigadier general) and John N. b. ca. 1914 (who would die in 1944 during World War II in Normandy, France). Walter K. Wilson, Sr. was so moved by his son's death in wartime, that he wrote a poem, entitled "The Price of Freedom." Among Walter Sr.'s many military distinctions, he wore the General Staff Medal; the Distinguished Service Ribbon with Oak Leaf Cluster; the Legion of Merit; and service ribbons for the Spanish-American War and both World Wars. He died on Jan. 20, 1954 at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
In English
Cumulative Index/Finding Aids
Research aids: Family group sheets for the Wilson and related families have been compiled by Nashville Public Library staff and are housed in Folder 1 of the collection. In addition, a photographic reference file, highlighting several photographs which aided in identification of individuals or the collection as a whole, is also housed in Folder 1 and can be used as a visual reference for identifying other photographs in the collection.
Ownership and Custodial History
In 2012, these photographs were found in the sorting room at the south Nashville thrift store, ThriftSmart. A representative of the store recognized their historical value and importance, and in 2013 donated them to the Special Collections Division of the Nashville Public Library.
Background research and identification;,2013;,Beth Odle, Luke Herbst, Linda Barnickel.
Process;,2013;,Beth Odle, Linda Barnickel.
Accumulation and Frequency of Use
No further accruals are expected.


APA Citation, 7th Edition (style guide)

Wilson family photographs .

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation, 17th Edition (style guide)

Wilson Family Photographs. .

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities (Notes and Bibliography) Citation, 17th Edition (style guide)

Wilson Family Photographs .

MLA Citation, 9th Edition (style guide)

Wilson Family Photographs

Note! Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy. Citation formats are based on standards as of August 2021.

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