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Coale photograph collection

Identifier: PP 0176


This collection contains views along Falls Road to the northwest and along Windsor Mill Road, as well as farms, mills, hotels, quarries, train tunnels, bridges, houses, and ruins. Also included are images of Stricker's and Hollingsworth mills.


  • 1850-1863


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

George B. Coale (1819-1887), an amateur photographer, pursued a life-long career as an insurance executive in Baltimore, working with the Merchants Mutual Marine Insurance Company. His position allowed him to pursue his avocation even while at the desk; he once boasted that "I can . . . let my negatives print themselves in my office window while I am attending to my business". In his leisure time, Coale wandered over the country lanes surrounding Baltimore with camera, in pursuit of the perfect picture.

Sometime around Fall of 1857, Coale traveled Falls Road from the northern city limit (North Avenue) out towards the Ruxton area photographing buildings, mills, and outcroppings with his lens. In Coale's words, "Landscape, Architecture and similar subject (were) chosen for their exercise of skill," resulting in "views of marvellous (sic) accuracy, painted by Nature herself". Coale also travelled and photographed west from Baltimore along the Windsor Mill Road.

Coale's photographic experience prompted him to write an instructional book, A Manual of Photography, appearing in 1858 and purporting to be the first guide for amateur photographers published in the United States. He later joined the New York-based Amateur Photographic Exchange Club, founded in November 1861. These camera enthusiasts, drawn mostly from northern east-coast cities, exchanged copies of their work with fellow members at regular intervals.

By 1863, Coale's photographic activity seems to have ebbed. That summer a friend replying to Coale's earlier leter remarked, "I am sorry to learn you have to suspend your doings . . . with your enthusiastic temperament the weaning must be difficult". Possibly the movements of the Confederate Army throughout Maryland, or the string of protective forts ringing Baltimore interfered with Coale's camera "ruralizing". It is not known if he resumed his camera work with the same vigor following the Civil War. Coale's obituary in the Baltimore American makes no mention of his passion for photography, describing him merely as "a man of wide information and culture". He was known as an art collector, and was, as well, the second librarian of the Maryland Historical Society.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 full Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



The photographs are arranged according to PP catalog numbers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Possibly transferred from the Manuscripts Department, MS. 676, 1530, 1530.1, or 1530.3 (Gifts of Mary B. Coale Redwood or her estate, 1924, 1934, and 1941).

Related Materials

MS 676, Redwood collection, 1828-1918

MS 1530, the Redwood collection, 1694-1940

MS 1530.1, Redwood Collection transcripts, 1766-1938

MS 1530.3, George B. Redwood papers, 1767-1940

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one box with 35 folders containing 50 photoprints, made circa 1850-1863. Subjects are views along Falls Road to the northwest and along Windsor Mill Road to the southwest of Baltimore. Included are farms, mills, hotels, quarries, train tunnels and bridges, houses, and ruins. There are views of Stricker's and Hollingsworth's mills, Nelson's Hotel, a Catonsville blacksmith shop, and the Jones Falls and Patapsco Rivers. There is also an image of African-American men at a shanty/wash-house, and one carte de visite portrait of George B. Coale.

Guide to the Coale photograph collection
Under Revision
Katherine Cowan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-02-08: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States