Austin History Center

Austin American-Statesman Photographic Morgue

A Preliminary Inventory of the Collection

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Austin American-Statesman
Title: Austin American-Statesman Photographic Morgue
Dates: 1958-1982
Abstract: The Austin-American Statesman, Austin's primary daily newspaper, dates back to 1871. They hired their first photojournalist in 1935 and continued to expand their photojournalism department. Hundreds of thousands of photographic negatives in this photographic morgue document newsworthy events in Austin from September 26, 1958 to November 1982.
Identification: AR.2014.039
Quantity: 245 linear feet (approximately 500,000 negatives)
Location: Outer Vault
Language: English
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library,
810 Guadalupe, PO Box 2287, Austin, TX 78768

Administrative History

The Austin-American Statesman, Austin, Texas' primary daily newspaper, dates back to 1871. Since the annexation of Texas, newspapers had been dominated by the "radical Reconstruction government" in Texas. However, following the Democratic State Convention in 1871, many saw the need for an opposition paper and the Democratic Statesman was born. The paper was published as a tri-weekly and weekly edition by John Cardwell; by 1873 it was a morning daily. With its continued success, the Democratic Statesman took over the Austin Tribune in 1914, and in 1916 the two merged to become the Evening Statesman. In 1924, the Austin American merged with the Evening Statesman, with the American as the morning paper, the Statesman as the evening paper and the Sunday edition being the Austin American-Statesman. Finally, in 1973, the three editions merged to become the Austin American-Statesman as an all-day edition. In 1987, the Austin American-Statesman switched from an all-day publication to morning editions.

The Austin American-Statesman did not have a staff photographer until 1935 and had no facilities for photography until 1936. Prior to this, the newspaper used the Jensen Studio, an Austin based photography studio, for portraits. In 1934, the Austin American-Statesman hired Neal Douglass, Jr. as a reporter. The following year, Douglass became the first staff photographer when the paper offered to send him to UT Austin for a "crash course in photography." Since the paper had no photography department and no darkroom for film to be developed, Douglass made a deal with the Austin American-Statesman: he used his home kitchen to develop negatives with the help of his wife Elnora, and he was allowed to run his own commercial photography business alongside his work for the paper. In 1936, the Austin American-Statesman moved to a new facility which included a photography dark room in the basement. Douglass headed the photography department until 1954 with a staff that included Mrs. Joe Jacks (darkroom coordinator); Mike Olive (office manager); Bill Monroe, Nolan Borden, Julian Hovey (photographers); and Ray Childs (laboratory technician). From 1942 to 1943 Douglass' wife Elnora oversaw the paper's photography department while he volunteered for service during World War II.

After Neal Douglass left the Austin American-Statesman, photos are credited with "Staff photo by…" rather than "Neal Douglass Photo by…". At this point, picture coverage was provided by the United Press International Austin Bureau (UPI) and staff photographers. Because of bad record-keeping during this time period, it is unknown whether UPI or the newspaper retains copyright ownership to the photographs from this era. In 1968 a "newly formed" photo department was staffed by Ike Baruch, Doug Campbell, John Yates, Johnny Jenkins (department head) and Raymond Adler. Later photo editors included Stanley Ferrar, Zach Ryall, and Jay Godwin.

The American-Statesman had many facilities over the years. In its early decades, it had a few locations on Congress Avenue. From 1915-1936 it was located at East 7th Street and Brazos. In 1936 it moved to West 7th Street and Colorado. In 1953, the Austin American-Statesman moved to a larger facility at West 4th Street and Guadalupe, and a full photography department was included on the second floor. An expansion to the American-Statesman building in 1969 included a new photoengraving department and photocomposition room. The newspaper was purchased by Cox Enterprises in 1976 and moved again in 1981 to its present facility on the south shore of Town Lake.

Scope and Contents

Hundreds of thousands of photographic negatives document newsworthy events in Austin from September 26, 1958 to November 1982. Subjects include: politicians, especially Lyndon Baines and Lady Bird Johnson, and political events, including local elections; high school and college sporting events, especially football and baseball; fashion shows, beauty contests, and "ballyhoos"; social clubs, such as Shriners, Elks, or the Headliners, wives clubs, Greek associations, and country clubs, especially Austin and Westwood country clubs; visitors to Austin; check presentations, groundbreakings, and other milestone events; fires and car wrecks; annual Austin events such as the Aqua Fest and kite festival; and other features. Most subjects are within Travis County, although occasionally events from outside the Austin area were documented.

The earliest photographs in the collection, from the late 1950s and early 1960s, are predominantly medium format negatives, either 4x5 inches or 120 format. Some jobs, though not many, have contact prints with the negatives. In the 1970s the photographers started using 35mm film, though 120 format film was still occasionally used. By 1980, 35mm film was being used exclusively. All photographs were black and white until the early 1980s when 35mm color transparency film and negative film started being used as well.

A photographer typically took several photographs at an event, though only one or two images, if any, were published in the paper. Therefore there may be more images found in the collection than can be found on microfilm or clippings. However, some jobs may be missing, either misplaced or not kept for other reasons by the newspaper and therefore were never transferred to the History Center.

Basic information about the person or event shot was recorded in hand-written logbooks, which were more or less in chronological order. Some jobs, though not many, include identification sheets with more information about an event than is in the logbooks. The information about the photos in the logbooks was not necessarily the same as the caption copy printed in the paper. The photos are recorded in the logbooks by the date taken, not the date that they appeared in the paper. Photos may have been taken up to a week before they appeared in the paper.

Logbook transcriptions by AHC staff and volunteers have tried to be true to what was originally written while also making it easy for researchers to find things. Therefore, incorrect spellings have been fixed as much as possible although some misspellings may not have been caught. Information included in square brackets was added by the transcriber either to indicate questionable spelling or handwriting or to otherwise clarify the entry. Outdated terminology was not changed during transcription. For example, entries with the word "Negro" remain as such and were not changed to say "black" or "African American." Most abbreviations were spelled out, although common ones, such as UT, ROTC or IRS were kept as is. For keyword searching purposes, it is recommended to try variations on a term or spelling in order to find all pertinent entries.


The arrangement follows the original organization of the collection. The items are arranged by job number, which is largely chronological. Sometimes jobs were entered into the logbooks and assigned numbers slightly out of date order. Original job numbers were 5-digit numbers. The AHC has added a prefix to all numbers in the format of "AS-YY" where "AS" is an abbreviation for "American-Statesman" and "YY" is a 2-digit year. Some job numbers also include a letter after the 5 digits, such as "AS-60-28093A". This typically happened when a job was initially omitted from the logbook and needed to be inserted in date order later. Some letters were added to job numbers by AHC staff when duplicate numbers or other numbering mistakes were found in the logbooks. Within each job there may only be a single negative or there may be several. Individual negatives are in no particular order, but were individually numbered as they were found. Because a photographer may have used more than one roll of film, frame numbers as printed on the film are not used by the AHC to refer to an individual image, only numbers as assigned by the AHC. By 1981, the paper changed its organization of negatives. Logbooks were no longer used and the numbering system was re-started. 1981 has no original index at this time; 1982 has a subject card index in alphabetical order rather than chronological order.


Restrictions on Access

No restrictions. Advance notice is preferred.

Restrictions on Use

The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details. Written permission to use photos from this collection must be obtained from the American-Statesman.

Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Austin American-Statesman (Firm).
Austin (Tex.)--Pictorial works.
Document Types:
Black-and-white negatives.
Color negatives.
Contact prints.

Related Material

Austin Files: Newspapers - American-Statesman, N2405

Periodical: Austin American-Statesman newspaper microfilm

Archives and Manuscripts: AR.2005.048 Neal Douglass Photograph Collection

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Austin American-Statesman Photographic Morgue (AR.2014.039). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor #: DO/1963/004

Donation Date: Multiple donations beginning in 1980

Processing Information

The processing is ongoing. Not all negatives have been organized or re-sleeved, and therefore may not be accessible.

Numerous volunteers and staff members have assisted with the rehousing of negatives into archival sleeves and with the transcription of logbooks. Finding aid and EAD by Nicole Davis/2014.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Negatives, 1958-1982

Not all negatives have been rehoused and may not be accessible.
Negatives, 1958-1982
See attached spreadsheet for logbook transcriptions. Trascriptions from 1981 and 1982 are incomplete.