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Collection

Admiral William Mead Photograph Album, 1893-1907

approximately 250 photographs in 1 album

The Admiral William Mead photograph album contains approximately 250 photographs related to the family and career of U.S. Navy Rear Admiral William Whitman Mead.

The Admiral William Mead photograph album contains approximately 250 photographs related to the family and career of U.S. Navy Rear Admiral William Whitman Mead.

The album (35.5 x 29 cm) has pebbled covers with partial leather bindings and "Photographs" stamped on the front cover and contains around 250 photographs of various sizes and formats, including collodion, gelatin silver, platinum, silver platinum and albumen prints, cyanotypes, and snapshots. The spine and edges show considerable wear. The photographs chronicle three periods in Admiral Mead's naval career: his time as lighthouse inspector in the Great Lakes, and his assignments as commandant of the Newport, Rhode Island naval base and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Additionally, there is at least one photograph towards the front of the album from the Lomaland School in San Diego as well as a series of others mostly located towards the back of the album that were taken in an unidentified tropical location (possibly Florida).

Some of the album’s captions, primarily in beginning and the lighthouse section, appear to have been first added when it was originally assembled and many are partially erased. The majority of captions, however, were contributed at a later date by Admiral Mead’s niece, Annie Adelia Mead Ferguson. Annie appears to have come into possession of the album at some point and added her own annotations identifying people and places she recognized in the photographs. She also added a handwritten note to the inside of the album’s front cover in 1970 indicating that the album had once “belonged to William Whitman Mead” before explaining that she captioned certain images herself and speculating on which of her children might want to inherit the album. It is unclear who originally took many of the photographs, though there are indications that Annie's mother Unadilla Gazlay Mead may have contributed some material. One photograph on pg. 32 shows Unadilla and her husband Omar C. Mead, Admiral Mead’s brother, posing together on a dock in either Portsmouth or Newport while the former can be seen holding a camera in her hands, while on pg. 44 there is a self-portrait taken in a mirror of a woman with a camera that appears to be Unadilla.

The album provides extensive documentation of lighthouses along the shores of Lakes Superior and Huron in the mid-1890s, as well as views from Great Lakes locations such as Duluth, Copper Harbor, and the locks at Sault Ste. Marie. Specific lighthouses represented include Seul Choix Light, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Sand Island Lighthouse, Huron Island Lighthouse, Isle Royale Light, an abandoned lighthouse on Isle Royale, a pair of unidentified lighthouses possibly located in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Windmill Point, a lighthouse in St. Clair Flats, Gull Rock, Stannard’s Rock, Rock Harbor Light, and other unidentified structures. Images related to Admiral Mead’s time at the Newport naval base include portraits of Mead both in and out of uniform, portraits of family members such as Julia Mead, a collotype postcard of Trinity Church, and various buildings and street scenes. Images related to Admiral Mead’s time at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard include views of the Commandant’s house, “The Admiral’s Yacht,” and portraits of various individuals including John W. Yerkes, Elizabeth O. Yerkes, Amelia R. Yerkes, Annie Meade Matthews, Omar C. Mead, and Annie Adelia Meade as a young child. Of particular interest are a number of candid shots of locations and participants in the Portsmouth peace talks that ended the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 (including several photographs of three unidentified Japanese men described as “servants” in one caption) that are present on pgs. 30, 36, 37, and 39. While most of the ships that appear in the album are unidentified, identified vessels include the passenger steamer North Land on pg. 16 and the lighthouse tender Marigold on pg. 23. Other individuals identified by caption include Robert A. Watts (Admiral Mead’s brother-in-law) and Margaret A. Watts (Admiral Mead’s mother-in-law). Also present are three outdoor portraits of unidentified African American men and women on pg. 21 captioned “Those good ole’ days!!” and “Same good ole days!” as well as a cyanotype of an unidentified African American girl on pg. 48.