The John E. Palmer Collection is comprised primarily of studio portraits and informal
photographs taken by Palmer which document the everyday life and social activities
of the African-American community in Galveston, Texas, from the 1890s through
1960s (bulk 1940s-1960s). The collection has been arranged into the following
series: I. Palmer Studio, 1940s-1960s; II. Other Studios/Photographers, 1890s-1960s;
III. Special Format Materials, 1900s-1960s.
Nearly one third of the collection consists of studio portraits. African-Americans
make up the majority of the sitters depicted, but a few Hispanic and Caucasian
individuals are also represented. Most of the individuals are not identified,
names written on the photographs have been compiled in the finding aid. Informal
portraits document many activities such as weddings and funerals, as well as
functions of fraternal organizations, churches, military groups, schools, athletic
teams, and bands. Another one third of the images consists of candid shots of
in bars and restaurants. A smaller group of photographs documents occurrences
as automobile accidents, storm damage, and parades, presumably in and around
The majority of the photographs are black and white gelatin silver prints, ranging
size from 1 x 1-1/8 to 11 x 14 inches, or 35.6 x 28 centimeters or smaller. Some
color and hand-colored photographs are present, as are safety film and nitrate
negatives. Some materials are matted or mounted.
A smaller group of early photographs, presumably not taken by Palmer, date from the
1890s through the 1930s and depict women, men, children, and families. Other
photographers represented in this collection include The Teal in Houston, and
Kibbes’ Studio, Wallace Studios, and Witwer Studios, all of Galveston.
Materials other than photographs in the collection include a small selection of
correspondence to and from Palmer, some business and financial records, a 1955
Central High School Bearcat yearbook, clippings, and other ephemera.