Saturday, May 3, 2014

Willis Parker Hoover & The Easton Panorama of 1913

Image by Willis Parker Hoover (1913).
In the summer of 1913, a 29 year-old photographer from Williams Township climbed the massive, rocky, overlook at the forks of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers (known as Mt. Ida), and took three photographs. The fact that Willis Parker Hoover had this panoramic photograph copyrighted and registered at the Library of Congress that same year (the only photograph he would do so with) suggests that he understood the value it would have to those who were to view it over 100 years later.

Matthew T. Giobbi, 2014.
Hoover must have climbed the hill as I did, starting on the southeastern slope, where the railroad passes within feet of the formation. At the time of Hoover's photograph, the rock seems to have been barren of trees, with only some ground cover visible in the lower-left hand corner. Today, the tree growth is quite thick, and seems to be a popular drinking area and latrine. Upon my ascent, I was confronted with a strong stench of human urine and empty liquor bottles. I wondered if Hoover encountered this as well, in an industrial rail area on the outskirts of town?

I considered putting my mirrorless, digital, Fuji camera in my backpack, just in case I would encounter a dangerous situation. I really wasn't sure what I might find atop that rocky crag. Was this Hoover's concern too? I imagine he was probably carrying a 1913 Kodak Autographic, bellows camera. There is no way of knowing; however, the "autographic" came with a special feature for inscribing a photograph, which Hoover did on two of the three images.
Mt. Ida,

Willis Parker Hoover was born on March 14th, 1884 in Reading, Pennsylvania. According to the 1900 Census, his father was a minister in Reading. With his mother, Mary E., and a servant named Lizzy Lesker, Willis was raised with five other siblings.

On the 10th of November, 1909, Willis married Kathryn May Line in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The marriage certificate lists Willis's profession as "photographer," and shows that he lived at 19, South 15th Street, and she at 173, North 15th Street in Harrisburg. By the 1910 Census, Kathryn and Willis were living in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

In 1913, when the panoramic photos were taken, Willis must have been living and working as a photographer in Easton, Pennsylvania. On September 12, 1918, Willis registered for the First World War draft in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The Draft Registration card shows that he was a self-employed photographer, working in a studio at 343, North Street, in Easton. He and his wife lived at R.F.D. 5 in Easton.

In 1915, Kathryn and Willis had a daughter, whom they named Margaret. In 1930, Kathryn, Willis, and their daughter Margaret were living in Williams. By the 1940 Census, Willis (now going by "Willie") and Kathryn were still living in Williams, and are listed as proprietor and clerk of an "art gallery".

May, 2014 by Matthew Giobbi.
On April 27th, 1942, Willis once again registered for the draft; this time for the  for the Second World War. His draft registration card lists him as a 58 year-old photographer with a "ruddy" complexion. At this time, his photography studio was located at 22, South Third Street in Easton. The building currently houses a group of artists's studios. Willis still resided at R.D. 4 in Easton. He seems to have been living with someone named William Nickolas, whom he listed as an emergency contact on his draft registration card.
May, 2014 by Matthew Giobbi

May, 2014 by Matthew Giobbi.
Kathryn passed away in 1950, and Willis in 1954. They were laid to rest at Durham Cemetery in Williams, Pennsylvania. In 1917 a second photographer ventured to the top of the rock peak overlooking Easton. Wm. O. Bixler's image shows the change that the city underwent in four years. In the autumn, when the leaves have fallen from the trees, I will revisit the rock, and spend some time with Willis Parker Hoover. Further research has uncovered a panorama by William Herman Rau, taken in 1896. That archive refers to "Picadilly Hill," which seems to be present day Southside Easton.

William O. Bixler's 1917 panorama of Easton, Pennsylvania.
Matthew T. Giobbi 2014 panorama of Easton, Pennsylvania. 
1896 "Easton, panorama from Picadilly Hill," by William Herman Rau.

Postcard of Mt. Ida ("Coca-Cola Mountain"). Photographer unknown, around 1910.