We’re on a worldwide search to bring historical photographs and other artifacts to the surface, leveraging the far-reaching influence of the Internet to share Chattanooga’s past with everyone. Not since Paul A. Heiner’s work in the 1950s with his publications, ‘Chattanooga Yesterday and Today,’ has an aggressive and organized attempt to crowd-source a new layer of Chattanooga’s legacy been attempted. It’s in Mr. Hiener’s spirit that the Chattanooga Historical Society endures.

Most of our collected items were acquired with the help of public support through crowdfunding. It started with the crowdfunded glass plate negative collection from the turn of the last century in 2015, and since, the archive has grown exponentially.

We challenge the public to donate their historical items to us. Some of our most significant finds have been locally sourced, and we know there are thousands of unique, unseen, and sometimes-endangered artifacts hidden in shoe boxes, old trunks, attics, storage lockers, or stuffed in an old piece of furniture. Donated items will be researched, cataloged, digitized, added to our online catalog, and offered as a free and open educational reference for generations to come.

Click the tabs below to see the material we’re most interested in receiving. If an image, piece of ephemera, or 3D object isn’t adequately identified with provenance, it doesn’t matter. If you have a hunch that there’s a local connection, we’ll do the research.

A cardboard box or a scrapbook filled with amateur snapshots often connects past generations with the present. They leave little clues about the people who lived and the places they visited.

Some of our favorite snapshot collections are found in abandoned houses, estate sales, and even the side of the road.

Whether they’re linked to your family or are orphaned strangers, a snapshot can reveal candid moments and locations from the 20th century that were missed in local professional photographers’ viewfinder.

We cherish the work from the studios of Schmedling, A. W. Judd, Slack and Berry, The Linns, The Hardie Brothers, T. M. Schleier, Smith and Webb, Stokes, Trogden, H. L. Dean, Lane, E. F. Blake, and others who were active portrait photographers in Chattanooga sometime from the Civil War into the early part of the 1900s. Their photographic artistry captured many early generations of families in the Scenic City.

After 1900, Horace Brazelton, Gravelle, Albin Hajos, Greene, Peoples, Violet Studios, etc., continued the studio photography tradition in Chattanooga.

We are interested in unidentified orphaned portraits and those identified with names and provenance.

Paper ephemera are items like old receipts, billhead, letters and correspondence, letterhead, pamphlets, brochures, catalogs, flyers, checks, maps, matchbooks, illustrated envelopes, trade and calling cards, business ledgers, books, signage, calendars, ink blotters, scrapbooks with news-clippings, or any item with a direct associating to a Chattanooga area business, person, or event.

We also accept work from local artists or art with imagery of the area.

Postcards often are a double-sided source of local history, and even the same or similar view can be unique because of the message on the back.

We have a lovely collection of postcards.  Some are pretty common, and others rare or scarce.  Some even push the United States Post Office restrictions, like postcards made of wood, leather, and metal.

Some were commercially produced by the tens of thousands, while others, called real photo postcards (RPPC), are unique images printed in batches of less than ten for immediate family and friends.

Chattanooga and its mountain communities produced many awe-inspiring landscape photo opportunities throughout the 19th, 20th, 21st centuries. Scenic shots like the one below highlight the area’s natural beauty. These views were sold as souvenirs to visitors so they could bring home and share their experience in the Scenic City with family and friends.

There are many images of Chattanooga’s suburbs and parts of the city that lack representation through historic photography. We are always trying to fill in and reconnect those gaps by era.

We’re looking for exterior and interior photographs of buildings, manufacturing plants, aerial photography, houses, train stations and infrastructure, bridges, and roads. Scenes can include events (like the pictured example) with people, buildings, interiors, and street-level photography.

Any kind of negative can be a gift that produces high-resolution images when scanned.  We accept glass plates, acetate, and image transparencies.  These could be of photographic images or maps.  Even if the negatives look like they are in rough shape, we’ll try our best to scan and save the image.  

If a negative smells like vinegar, it’s already begun to break down chemically.  Please contact us immediately.

Slides can also produce high-resolution images.  Also, Magic Lantern slides, are often positive images on glass and sometimes colorized. 

One of the smallest 3D items in our collection is a pocket watch key for Fischer and Bro. Jewelers from the 1870s. One of the largest is a Mr. Peanut suit from the Planter’s Peanut Store on Market Street from the 1950s.

We also accept architectural items from buildings and structures from the area.

In a partnership with the Appalachian Media Archives in Knoxville, TN, we can digitize old film and video of any size and format. If your film smells vinegary, contact us immediately as with acetate negatives.

We also digitize old records, tapes, and other audio media.

We will happily accept or can help digitize your corporate, business, or organization’s archives. Contact us below for more information.

Horace M. Brazelton was an affluent African American photographer in Chattanooga during the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, photos that Horace Brazelton created are now difficult to locate or have not yet surfaced from private collections, and his story is mainly unknown in Chattanooga. His forgotten contributions to the black business district are not the only example of lost stories, further hinting at the erasure of African American history in these southern states.

Horace Brazelton was the first recognized photographer for the African American community in Chattanooga, staying in business from the earliest years of the twentieth century until his death in 1956.

(From “First African American Photographer in Twentieth-Century Chattanooga,” by Stefanie Haire)

We have a small collection of his work, with plans for an exhibition. Knowledge of any of his work is appreciated, and we will accept digital donations to better chronicle his legacy.

2020 has been an eventful year. We’re looking for any items related to COVID-19, branded face masks, protest signs, and other artifacts to help interpret history for the future.

Use the donation form and attach a quick cell phone photograph of the items you wish to donate. If you don’t see an item on this list above that you have to donate, please contact us. 

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“We bring local history to the surface and make it available to everyone.”


Picnooga is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity. Copyright © 2022– Chattanooga Historical Society. All rights reserved.