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Record Group Number: 900000
Series/Collection Number: M87- 30
Creator: Harper, Alvan S., 1847-1911.
Title, Dates: Photographic collection, 1884-1910.
Amount: 1600.00 photographs Glass negatives 5x7", 8x10"
Medium Included: photographs 5x7", 8x10"
Organization/Arrangement: Organized into broad categories: views; groups; men; women; and children. Numerical by negative number.

Restrictions: ***RESTRICTED:  Access to originals is restricted due to their fragile condition;  digital scans are  first-use copy.

Terms Governing Use: Digital scans are first-use copy; access to originals is restricted due to their fragile condition.

Biographical/Historical:     Alvan S. Harper was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1847. Between 1870 and 1884, he was a professional photographer in Philadelphia.  A chance meeting with Judge J.T. Bernard of Tallahassee, who was in Philadelphia as a commissioner from Florida to the 1876 Centennial Exposition, may have led to Harper's move to Tallahassee in 1884.

    Harper was soon advertising that he would take "artistic photographs" in his first studio, a room in the house he was renting.  He moved twice before buying a house and building his own studio where he worked between 1889 and his death in 1911.

    Some of Harper's best negatives were lost when his studio was torn down in the 1920s.  The negatives had been given to a Tallahassee history buff who, because they were dirty, left them on a porch where they were mistaken for trash and taken to the dump.  About 2,000 more Harper negatives were found in 1946 in the attic of the house he had owned.  A Tallahassee photographer printed 250 negatives and circulated the prints in the community for identification.  The negatives were turned over to the State Library and transferred to the Florida Photographic Collection after it was founded in 1952.

Summary:     This collection consists of the surviving glass negatives of noted portrait photographer Alvan S. Harper.  The collection includes about 200 portraits of Philadelphia people, some identified; about 100 views of Tallahassee buildings and street scenes, along with a few from Monticello, Quincy, St. Marks, and Panacea; and about 1,300 portraits of groups and individual men, women, and children, mostly unidentified.  Especially noteworthy are Harper's portraits of middle class African-Americans.

Finding Aids: Searchable index available on the Florida Photographic Collection web site at
Additional Physical Form: Contact prints are available in the photo subject files of the Florida Photographic Collection.
Reproduction Note:
Location of Originals/Duplicates:
Associated Materials: Collection M82-52, Alvan S. Harper Tallahassee Photographs, contains additional Tallahassee images taken by Harper.

Language Notes:
Ownership/Custodial History: The negatives were found in a home owned by Bernard Byrd and given to the State Library in 1946.  The State Library turned them over to the Florida Photographic Collection ca. 1953.

Publication Note: Photographs are published on the Florida Photographic Collection web site at .
One-hundred twenty-five Harper photographs are published in the book The Photographs of Alvan S. Harper, Tallahassee, 1885-1910 / edited by Joan Perry Morris and Lee H. Warner.  Tallahassee : University Presses of Florida, 1983.

General Note: Florida Photographic Collection ID:  "Harper Collection."
Electronic Records Access:
Subject Access Fields: Harper, Alvan S., 1847-1911
Photography, Artistic
African American women.
African Americans Florida.
Photographs. aat
Negatives. aat
Tallahassee (Fla.)
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