Author continues to seek help identifying 1901 Mary and Kate Smith, telling their stories

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Stacke and the Hugh Mangum collection.
Two women from Christiansburg are prominent in a new book on a photographer from the early 1900s. The glass negative is dated 1901 and was taken by Hugh Mangum. It is part of the Mangum Photo Collection housed at the Duke University Library.

Marty Gordon

In  “Photos Day or Night: The Archive of Hugh Mangum,” author and photographer Sarah Stacke takes a look back at historic photographer Hugh Mangum, who once had a photo studio in Radford.

Mangum was from a prominent Durham family and traveled a rail circuit throughout North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia at the turn of the 20th century. During those travels, he took portrait photographs of a variety of people crossing racial barriers and telling their stories in his own special way.

Mangum’s collection is housed at Duke University. Viewing his work, which comprises 688 photographs, Stacke was fascinated with the distinct characters in each of Mangum’s pieces.

Stacke said her experience with the Mangum photographs has evolved into a family album.  In an interview with NPR radio, she said as she sifted through the images from the late 1890s and early 1900s, familiar faces gazed back at her.

In the midst of the Mangum photo collection are pictures of Radford and Christiansburg.  Apparently, Mangum kept a handwritten ledger of sorts on the inside of a trunk lid, which included the routes he travelled through North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

But despite having the ledger, Stacke discovered a majority of the negatives/photographs lacked specific geographic identification.

One of the photographs included two women, who are listed as Mary and Kate Smith, from Christiansburg. Stacke is hoping descendants can help identify the two and tell their stories.

“If anyone knows more about the identity of the two women photographed in Christiansburg around April 1901, we would like to know about it,” Stacke said.

Mangum once operated a studio in East Radford and was married to Anne Carden, whose family resided in Radford. He was also a partner in photo studios in Pulaski and Roanoke.

According to research, Mangum photographs are distinctive “for the level of comfort” exhibited by the subjects. In the collection, there are a large number of “penny-picture camera” negatives that contain multiple images of numerous subjects.

Mangum was self-taught and originally from Durham, North Carolina, and according to the collection’s listing, maintained an early darkroom in his family’s tobacco pack house.

During his travels, he would purchase advertisement in local newspapers to tell families he was in town.

The majority of his subjects were white men and women, but Mangum also reached out to the African-American community.

The listing shows local landmarks like The Radford Trust building (constructed in 1891), the Carden family home in East Radford, and La Belle Inn, a hotel in Radford circa 1890s that once housed the State Normal School for Women.

There are also many buildings and street-fronts, along with chickens, horses and dogs. The last printed piece in the collection is Mangum’s body in an open casket in 1922.

A Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography is at West Point Park in Durham and displays many of his photographs.

Please contact  Sarah Stacke. At SarahStacke.com

Stacke is a photographer and writer. Her book, Photos Day or Night: The Archive of Hugh Mangum, with texts by Maurice Wallace and Martha Sumler is available at Red Hook Editions.