Palmer Blair Collection

Title

Palmer Blair Collection

Description

The Palmer Blair Collection contains approximately 10,000 surviving negatives and prints, which Digital Watauga is uploading to its site as scanning is completed. Most of these images are attributable to Palmer Blair, although some images shot by George Flowers after December 31, 1957, were inadvertently mixed in with the Palmer Blair Collection while the work of both George Flowers and Palmer Blair was stored together at the Boone Chamber of Commerce during the early 2000s. In addition, a number of images attributed to Frank Hartley or J. C. Boone also appear in the collection. Hartley and Boone worked as freelance photographers for Palmer's Photo Shop between March 21, 1957, and December 31, 1957, covering Palmer Blair's remaining assignments after his death.

The collection is arranged by box as they are uploaded and follows no formal organization pattern that was original to Palmer Blair's operations. The collection also contains two 16mm reels of motion picture images shot by Palmer Blair.

That said, many images are grouped at the item level according to the sleeve in which they were found. For example, Palmer Blair might have taken six images of a family reunion, then labeled the sleeve in which they were stored as "Smith Reunion."

A finding aid to the collection will soon be available. This finding aid will be updated as new boxes are added to the collection.

Creator

Palmer Blair was born on July 8, 1922, in Watauga County, the second of two sons among five children born to Henry Neal Blair and Martha Sligh Blair. Born and raised on the 300-plus-acre working Blair Farm located on the southeast end of Boone, Palmer grew up attending local schools. He graduated as a history and science major from Appalachian State Teachers College (now ASU) in 1945, the same year he met his future wife, Sarah Lynn Rives, a freshman from Jonesboro, North Carolina. They were married in October 1947.

Palmer began exploring the world of photography and working in the field while a student in college. During that time he convinced his mother to allow him to set up a darkroom in a tiny room off of the kitchen’s back porch at the Blair home place. He opened his first photography business in 1947 in the basement of Wade Brown’s law office at 766 West King Street, the current home of Miller and Johnson’s Law practice. In late 1948, Palmer moved his business and studio to the Linney Law Office Building at 718 West King Street. By 1952, he had outgrown that building and relocated his business to 127 Depot Street, now Black Cat Burrito. The final home of “Palmer’s Photo Shop” was in the Carolina Hotel building at 597 West King Street, where “A Piece of the Past Antiques” is currently located.

While much of Palmer’s professional work involved consumer portraiture, stringer work for local newspapers, and commissioned photography for family reunions, high school and college yearbooks, private parties, police investigations, insurance documentation, and corporate marketing, Palmer also loved all the creative dimensions of photography and shooting images in his spare time. Many of the negatives in the Palmer Blair Collection document his fascination with aerial photography, the use of infrared film, and gorgeous compositions of snowy landscapes, which are often the most difficult scenes to capture on black-and-white film. In February 1957, three of Palmer’s images were featured as part of The 1957 Convention Exhibit, North Carolina Photographers Association, Inc., in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he received a “3rd Award” in the category of “Color Transparencies.”

Tragically, on March 21, 1957, Palmer Blair was killed in a plane crash doing what he loved—flying and capturing aerial images through his lens. That particular day was the first day that Palmer was using a recently purchased, state-of-the-art camera for his aerial work. He and his pilot, H. C. Sisk, a cousin by marriage and a World War II bomber pilot who was also killed in the crash, were completing a contract project for a mining company in Ashe County. Palmer left behind a young wife, Sarah Lynn, and three small children, Palmer Sligh Blair Jr., Sharon Rousseau Blair, and Susan Rebecca Blair. Palmer’s young widow operated her husband’s business for the remainder of that year. She sold “Palmer’s Photo Shop” to George Flowers on December 31, 1957.

--Susan Rebecca Blair

Contributor

Sarah Lynn Spencer

Format

Negatives, prints, and 16mm motion picture film

Items in the Palmer Blair Collection Collection

Palmer Blair Movie Collection #3: 1949 Watauga Centennial Parade, Part 1
Reel #3 of the home movies in the Palmer Blair Collection, this reel shows footage of the 1949 Watauga Centennial Parade moving west to east down West King Street in Boone, NC.

At the beginning of the reel, Blair appears to have been standing on…

Palmer Blair Movie Collection #4: 1949 Watauga Centennial Parade, Part 2
Reel #4 of the home movies in the Palmer Blair Collection, this reel shows footage of the 1949 Watauga Centennial Parade moving west to east down West King Street in Boone, NC.

At the beginning of the reel, Blair appears to have been standing at…

W.R. Winkler Home in the Snow
A photograph of the W.R. Winkler Home on Blowing Rock Road in Boone. Snow covers the stone home and the yard around it. Shoveled snow can be seen piled by the side of the road in front of the home.

ASU Administration Building
Similar to PAL-BLA-6-076. A photograph of the front of the Adminstration Building at Appalachian State University that later burned down. Trees obscure the view of the building. Four cars are parked outside and four people can bee seen near the…

ASU Administration Building
A photograph of the front of the Adminstration Building at Appalachian State University that later burned down. Trees obscure the view of the building. Four cars are parked outside and four people can bee seen near the entrance.

Newland Hall in the Snow
A photograph of Newland Residence Hall on Appalachian State University campus. Heavy snow covers the roof and window ledges of the building as well as the ground around the building and the single, bare tree that stands in front. At the bottom of the…

Appalachian State Teachers College in the Snow
A photograph of a building behind trees. The trees and ground in front of the building are covered in heavy, white snow. The photograph is marked A.S.T.C. on the left side and BOONE, NC on the right side.

Snow Covered Library
A photograph of a brick building with stairs leading to the door. Inscribed stone above the door reads LIBRARY. Snow covers the ground in front of the library as well as the two trees that stand in front of the building.

Brick Building in the Snow
A photograph of a multi-story brick building. The entire ground around the building as well as the trees that encircle it are covered with heavy, white snow.

Frozen Tree Branch
A photograph of a large, frozen tree branch. Behind the branch a brick building can be seen.

Comments

Allowed tags: <p>, <a>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, <li>