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Samuel D. Isaly Library

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Bellville, OH 44813
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Richland County, OH - Whissemore Photograph Collection

In 1876 at the Centennial celebration in Mansfield, Richland Co., Ohio, local photographer, A. Whissemore, offered to take a free picture of every person over age 60 who had been a resident of the county at least 50 years.  The 1,194 item collection was purchased by the Richland County Historical Society in 1903, according to an article appearing in the Ohio Archaeological & Historical Society Publications, Vol. XIII, p. 90. The photographs remained in the Soldiers & Sailors Building, once home to the historical society, on Park Avenue West, Mansfield, for many years, but were given to the Ohio Genealogical Society Library by its curator, Mr. Wilkinson, when the former organization was inactive. Active again today as the Mansfield Memorial Museum (now separate from the Richland County Historical Society), the Ohio Genealogical Society provided Scott Schaut, the present curator, with color photocopies of the Whissemore Collection which are now displayed in the original cases. The original photographs remain in the manuscript collection of the Ohio Genealogical Society in archival sleeves and boxes. The cards, each measuring 2 1/4 x 4 inches, are sepia tone, and in excellent condition.  In some cases, the name has faded away, but the pencil impression may often be discerned.

653 identified portraits and 239 unidentified portraits (total 892) are in the collection of the Ohio Genealogical Society.  Until 2009, it was not known what had happened to the other 302 pictures, including surnames beginning with the letters "A" through "C".  That year, an anonymous donor (via Scott Schaut, Mansfield Memorial Museum) contributed 143 additional photographs, the A-B-C portion, to the Richland County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. In addition, the same donor contributed 23 identified and 22 unidentified larger photos, measuring 4 x 6 ½ inches. These are almost all reproductions of the smaller portraits. Although these additional Whissemore photographs are owned by the OGS chapter, they are stored in the OGS Library and are readily available to researchers. The numbers do not add up to the original 1,194 items, but it is suspected that many were pulled by local families at the time the Richland County Historical Society became inactive. Others in the collection may still surface.

Ninety percent of the photographs have the following inscription on the reverse side: "A. Whissemore, Photographer, Northwest Corner Public Park, Over Blymyer's Stove Store, Mansfield, Ohio, Negatives Preserved".  Additionally, some images were taken by Whissemore & Johnston (opposite the Opera House) and Campbell & Camp. 

Not all the pioneers were over age 60 and many were not 50-year residents, despite the photographer's initial request.  Many photographs may have been labeled at a somewhat later date, because the same names identify some obviously different images.  Many times, a note "see ----" appears; perhaps a step in the identification process.  This 1876 pioneer photograph collection is unique for Ohio. Besides being a treasure for genealogical researchers, many users have studied clothing and hair styles.

This index database to the Whissemore Photograph Collection was created 27 Oct 1992 by Thomas Stephen Neel, Library Director, Ohio Genealogical Society, and was submitted to the OGS web site on 14 Dec 2005 and resubmitted on 2 Sep 2009. Mr. Neel’s index was previously published in The Report, Vol. 33, Issue 1, Spring 1993 (quarterly of the Ohio Genealogical Society) and was also provided to the USGenWeb site for Richland County by the author in the mid-1990s. A selection of images from this collection was submitted by OGS to the Ohio Memory Project. A list of the newly discovered A-B-C portion of the collection was published in the Richland County Chapter OGS Pastfinder.

Copies of photograph(s) in this collection may be obtained from the Ohio Genealogical Society through its copy service. OGS Members may download a pdf copy of the collection in the members-only area of the website under Digitized Manuscipts.


This database may be searched in the following ways:

  • Fuzzy -- will search for that string of characters. Searching for Johns will yield Johns, Johnson, Johnston, etc.
  • Exact -- will search for that exact text only. Searching for Johns would yield only Johns.
  • Soundex -- will search for Soundex equivalent. Searching for Johns would yield Johns, Jonns, Jones, etc.
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