Leo J. Beachy photograph collection
This collection contains photographs made by Leo Beachy, a resident of Garrett County, Maryland. Images include portraits of Beachy's family, landscapes, towns, animals, and roads, circa 1889-1931.
- Beachy, Leo J., 1874-1927 (Person)
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
Leo Beachy (1874-1927) was one of the ten children of Jonas and Anna Beachy of Mt. Nebo Farm, Garrett County, Maryland, near Grantsville. He attended normal school, and taught at one-room public schools in the area from 1895 to 1905.
A mysterious illness, posthumously diagnosed as multiple sclerosis, began to affect him as a teenager and eventually caused him to give up teaching. He lived on the family farm, augmenting his income with bee keeping and selling E.L. Kellogg’s educational magazine and books.
As a schoolboy, he was noted for his artistic ability. While teaching, he received a small Kodak camera with darkroom chemicals as a premium for selling books, but did not take up photography until the summer of 1905. He was immediately enthralled, “I had given more attention to fine art before than I realized and when I turned to the medium of the camera to give expression to my thoughts, it was so easy and delightful for me…” He avidly studied the work of contemporary photographers in periodicals such as American Photography and identified with the Pictorialist Movement.
As Beachy’s photographic skills grew, he “dreamed day dreams of a studio, with sky light, office, dark room, a large camera and a painted background.” A relative helped him build a darkroom in the farm’s springhouse; the spring provided water for washing the negatives and prints. He estimated that he processed 13,000 photographs in the last year that he used this little darkroom. He eventually achieved his dream—“The Mount Nebo Studio”, a simple frame building with skylight and glass wall. Family members recall the local population lining up after church on Sunday to have their portraits made at the farm studio.
Beachy inherited the devotion to nature that passed down from Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites to American writers such as Gene Stratton Porter (both Ruskin and Porter were included in his library.) He incorporated these ideas in a book he produced, Letters and Pictures for Isabelle. Illustrated with his photos, this little volume addressed a cousin who had moved to St. Louis, extolling the virtues of the rural life over the urban. Beachy’s photos won several awards during his lifetime and his work was published once in National Geographic magazine. Beachy’s illustrated articles were also published in local newspapers, as well as in magazines such as Motor Travel.
Over his career, Beachy returned again and again to the same subjects: the National Pike, the stone arch bridge over the Casselman River, the mountain vistas and groves of trees of Garrett County and Southern Pennsylvania. The best of his landscape photographs possess a gently graded tonal range and use of atmospheric perspective that capture perfectly the misty, subdued light of morning or evening in hill country. He also printed his landscape plates on postcard stock to sell at Grantsville stores.
In his studio, he posed his friends and neighbors, often in everyday clothes, before neutral backdrops or a wall of pressed tin. The studio furniture-chair and pedestals-that feature frequently in the portraits, are homemade. Although it is clear that Beachys’ heart was in his landscape work; his portraits, especially of children, have a charming spontaneity and folk art quality. The photographer’s empathy with his subjects shines through.
9.88 Linear Feet (27 boxes)
Language of Materials
Series I: Prints (Boxes 1-4, Cased Photographs)
This series consists of prints made by Leo Beachy. There are many portraits, including images of Leo Beachy and his family, as well as landscapes, architecture, and people at work. (266 prints)
Note: 3 images have been removed from the collection and are housed in the Cased Photograph collection.
Series II: Prints by other Photographers (Boxes 4 – 5)
This series contains prints in the possession of Leo Beachy that were made by other photographers. The bulk of the items are unidentified portraits. Print types include tintypes, carte de visites, cabinet cards, and 4 stereoviews. (113 photographs)
Series III: 3 1/2 x 5 Postcard Prints (Boxes 6 – 9)
Series III contains postcard prints made by Leo Beachy. Beachy sold many postcards at the drug store and general store in Grantsville, Garrett County. Included in the collection are portraits of Leo Beachy, his family, portraits of men, women, children and people at work. There are also landscape scenes, images of animals, postcards with poetry, and images of the Casselman River.
Note: Boxes 8 and 9 contain duplicate postcards of those found in boxes 6 and 7. Many of the postcards in box 9 are damaged, have holed punched in them, or were developed improperly. (1426 postcards)
Series IV: 5 x 7 Glass Plate Negatives (Boxes 10 – 22)
The series is organized into subseries by subject, which include images of Leo Beachy and his family, portraits, animals, buildings, roads and mountains. Many of the negatives of the towns and landscapes are identified. (122 Negatives)
Series V: 4 x 5 and smaller Glass Plate Negatives (Boxes 23 – 24)
This series is organized into subseries by subject. Included is a negative that is identified as Leo Beachy’s first exposure and developed plate – an image of his sister, Anna Beachy. (12 negatives)
Series VI: 8 x 10 Glass Plate Negatives (Box 25)
This series consists of three glass negatives: an image of workmen at a sawmill, an image of a house and barn, and an image of a house with three children in the yard. (3 negatives)
Series VII: Film negatives (Box 26)
This series is organized into two series – People and Places. (27 negatives)
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Scope and Contents
The Leo Beachy Photograph Collection consists of 26 boxes of 2,235 prints, postcards, and negatives spanning the years 1889 – 1931. The collection is organized into 7 series by photographic type, the bulk of which are postcards prints. The series are then broken down by subject, which include Leo Beachy and his family, portraits, animals, landscapes, towns, and roads. Many of the images have handwritten notes identifying the image or providing additional information.
- Guide to the Leo J. Beachy photograph collection
- Under Revision
- Damon Talbot
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
- 2020-02-24: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.