This past week, through the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, we discovered about 25 photographs of the Westhampton campus that were taken by William Elton Beale, a Richmond College freshman in 1915. More specifically, the discovery was of several negative filmstrips that contained images of Beale’s prints. This was exciting because not only are they some of the only student-taken photographs we have of the campus during its opening years, but it also provided us with a fun opportunity to photograph negatives. After a couple of tries working with our light box and various camera settings, we were off and rolling with the digitization.
Once we completed the digitization process, we were even more excited to view the new images. Some of the pictures included buildings that we had not yet found photographic evidence of, such as the science building (which burned down in 1925) that was originally beside the steam plant. One of my personal favorites was an image of the trolley that brought students from the city all the way out to the “rural” Westhampton campus. Several more of Beale’s photographs included campus highlights like Ryland Hall, Sarah Brunet Memorial Hall, and of course, landscape shots of the lake.
While the majority of the images were of buildings and landscapes on campus, there was a single photograph of one of Beale’s classmates, who we have identified as “Burt” Robins, based on the 1915 Spider yearbook. In the photograph, Robins is wearing a baseball uniform with the words “Peconut Crisp” on his jersey. The words were a mystery to us at first, but after some searching, we found an advertisement in the Southern Planter that described Peconut Crisp as a candy made by the Westmoreland Candy Company, located in Richmond, during the time Beale and Robins would have been in school. It seems most likely that the candy name found itself on the jersey because the company sponsored a baseball game or team.
The images gathered from Beale’s photographs were a really exciting find for us. We were happy to see pictures from campus that we had not previously found and just as glad to practice our negative film photography. While it would have been even more exciting to see the original film, we couldn’t be more pleased with these recent additions to our Centennial collection.