George Flowers Collection


George Flowers Collection


The George Flowers Collection consists of a portion of a massive collection of images (estimated at four million negatives and prints) donated by Boone photographer George Flowers to the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce in 1998. According to his 2008 obituary, Flowers intended that his images would be "available to local people and area businesses." Following a series of water and sewage leaks at their facility on Howard Street in the early 2000s that partially damaged portions of the collection, the then-President of the Chamber made arrangements to move portions of the collection to other locations for safekeeping.

At this point, the collection was essentially split in two. The Chamber donated much of the large studio portraiture section of the collection to Appalachian State University's Belk Library, while the Chamber retained ownership of the remaining materials, most of which were news-related images that the Chamber perceived would be of value to local businesses. This remnant was then shifted to the Watauga County Maintenance Building for temporary safekeeping during the Chamber's move to its present facility. The Chamber's portion of the collection was rediscovered in the summer of 2017, at which point Chamber President David Jackson partnered with Digital Watauga for the entire Chamber portion to be digitized and made available to the public.

George Arthur Flowers, Jr., was born on August 13, 1923, in Catawba County and was the son of George and Mildred Parlier Flowers. He worked in radio for WHKY in Hickory before joining the US Navy in 1942. The Mine Sweeper USS Sentinel, AM-113, on which Flowers served, was sunk during the Invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943, resulting in serious injuries to Flowers during the Nazi attack on the ship. He was treated first at the New York Naval Hospital, then transferred to the Charleston Naval Hospital. He met his wife, Millie Thompson, who worked in the Admiral's Office, while he was at the Charleston Navy Yard. Flowers received the Purple Heart in recognition of his sacrifice.

Following the marriage of George Flowers and Millie Thompson in September 1944, the couple returned to Hickory, where Flowers continued to work for WHKY and United Press International. He later helped build radio stations in Shelby (WOHS), Waynesville (WHCC), and Culpeper, VA (WCVA). The couple returned to Hickory in 1957, and Flowers purchased the Boone photography shop of the recently deceased Palmer Blair on January 1, 1958. The Flowers Photo Shop continued to operate on West King Street in the Qualls Block until Kelly and Green Photo Company, a regional chain, bought him out, after which he operated Flowers Photography in the rear basement of the same building on West King Street.

Flowers was an active member of the Boone United Methodist Church and helped to establish the Watauga County Rescue Squad in 1962. He also played a critical role in establishing the Appalachian Shrine Club and served as an officer with the Shriners for nearly 25 years. As both a studio photographer and a stringer photographer for local news and numerous wire services between 1957 and 2004, Flowers captured millions of images of Boone, Watauga County, and surrounding communities. Flowers died on January 15, 2008.

When Flowers purchased Palmer Blair's Photo Shop in 1958 following Blair's tragic death in a small plane crash, Blair's widow, Sarah Lynn (Spencer), essentially left behind many of her husband's negatives and prints, promising to return to reclaim them after matters with her husband's estate were resolved. Years later, Flowers and Spencer finally made this exchange, but in the process, portions of Flowers's negatives ended up in the Palmer Blair Collection, and portions of the Blair negatives were retained in the George Flowers Collection. Part of this confusion was addressed in an exchange between the Chamber and Spencer in the early 2000s, but additional items have since been found in each collection that actually belong to the other. The Chamber and the Spencer-Blair Family are working together, with help from Digital Watauga, to appropriately repatriate items to the proper collections.

The George Flowers Collection consists of numerous series that will be appropriately described as they are added to the collection.

Series 1 consists of various films found in the George Flowers Collection and attributed to George Flowers. These films were shot on 8mm (all silent) and 16mm (some silent, some with sound) film between 1960 and 1980. They depict various parades in Ashe County and Asheville during the mid-1960s, various Flowers Family events, the recovery of a body from a fatal truck accident in 1969, disaster response exercises from circa 1970, and the installation of the Howard's Knob Windmill blades in 1979. Flowers also made an experimental film on the decline of the environment in Boone and Watauga County that dates to the early 1970s, although this film is not yet available online.

Series 2 consists of various color slides, all taken between the 1950s and the 1970s. These slides depict football games at Appalachian State Teachers' College, various parades, snapshots of the area in autumn and winter, images from Progress Day 1959, the Gateway Restaurant Fire of 1970, Horn in the West actors, and shots of an event at Union Square, Hickory, NC -- which was likely a celebration to honor the arrival of Tweetsie's Number 12 locomotive in 1956, where it was refurbished before its trip to Blowing Rock the following year. This series also includes footage from an airplane crash, as well as a car crash in 1976. We have restricted access to some of these images, due to their sensitive nature.

Series 7 consists of the George Flowers images that had ended up in the Palmer Blair Collection (mentioned above). Many of these have not been digitized at this time but 106 film negatives have been scanned and are available in this series. Thus far, the collection includes images of Broadstone Lodge, Camp Sky Ranch, Cove Creek School, and Tweetsie Railroad. These images are dated to early 1958, when Flowers first took over Palmer Blair's Photo Shop.


George Flowers


1960 to 1980


Boone Area Chamber of Commerce


Digital Watauga holds digital use rights to this collection. All other rights are presently held by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. No materials from this collection may be reproduced or redistributed without written permission from the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce and the Digital Watauga Project.


Moving images, still images, published material, and manuscripts.




8mm Film, 16mm Film

Spatial Coverage

North Carolina; Ashe County, NC; Asheville, NC; Boone, NC; Watauga County, NC; West Jefferson, NC

Collection Items

George Flowers Movie Collection #18: Watauga County Environmental Film, 1971, Dooley Edit
Reel #18 of the films in the George Flowers Collection, this undated (Circa 1971) 16mm reel originally contained silent footage of an environmental protest film created by George Flowers. Full of spliced together material, the film starts with about…

George Flowers Movie Collection #17: Watauga County Environmental Film, 1971, Original Can
Reel #17 of the films in the George Flowers Collection, this undated (Circa 1971) 16mm reel contains silent footage of an environmental protest film created by George Flowers. Full of spliced together material, the film starts with about five minutes…

Seven Devils in Autumn
A photograph showing mountains covered in autumn foliage near the town of Seven Devils, North Carolina. A large building, identified as the Inn at Seven Devils, and a parking lot are visible on top of the foremost mountain. The mountain is…

Men in Seven Devils
This image shows four men standing on the porch of a brown building with yellow trim in the resort town of Seven Devils, North Carolina. Two of the men are wearing shorts while the other two are wearing long pants. Flowers sit in the forefront of the…

Seven Devils Skiers
This image shows skiers on the slopes at a resort in Seven Devils, North Carolina. Given the lack of snow on the mountains in the background a snow making machine was likely employed by the resort.

Seven Devils Hillside
This image shows a hillside with picnic tables in the resort town of Seven Devils, North Carolina. A plowed field is visible behind a fence at the forefront of the image.

Rescue Boat, Image 3
This image shows three boats on a lake. The boat in the middle is crewed by members of the Watauga County Rescue Service.

Rescue Boat, Image 2
This image shows a man in white coveralls crouching in a small boat with an outboard motor. "Watauga County Rescue Service" is emblazoned on the side of the watercraft.

Lifting Car
This image shows emergency medical personal attempting to lift an overturned car with pry bars as a man in a suit looks on. Two of the people are wearing paramedic jumpsuits. One is holding a flashlight.

Crashed Plane, Image 6
This is a black and white photograph of a crashed small plane. Paramedics, firefighters, and others can be seen standing around the wreckage.
View all 510 items


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