Herbert M. Webster began taking photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains as a sixteen-year-old on his first hike up Mount LeConte in 1925. On that excursion, he carried a small box camera he used to record vistas from the lookout on Cliff Top. That began a lifelong love of photographing the Smokies.
About 500 photographs taken by Webster between 1926 and 1955 form a new digital collection of UT Libraries. The Herbert M. Webster Photograph Collection is available online.
Within a few years after that first outing, Webster visited the mountains regularly, venturing into the backcountry with many whose names are synonymous with early twentieth-century exploration of the Smokies—Albert “Dutch” Roth, Jim Thompson, Carlos Campbell, Guy Frizzell, Wiley Oakley, and Harvey Broome. He captured on film the vanishing way of life of the mountaineer, the Smoky Mountain backcountry, and his own adventures in the wilderness.
Most of the images in the Herbert M. Webster Photograph Collection were taken between 1932 and 1937, before the dedication of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Among the subjects most frequently depicted are Three Forks, Greenbrier Pinnacle, Rainbow Falls, Ramsey Cascades, Clingmans Dome, Silers Bald, Mount Guyot, Mount Cammerer, Mount LeConte, Cades Cove, and the Chimneys. He also photographed sites outside the Smokies, including House Mountain, Grandfather Mountain, and Bald River Falls.
Webster graduated from Knoxville’s Central High School and later completed accounting courses at Knoxville Business College and UT. He began working for the House-Hasson Hardware Company about 1926 and served as treasurer, director, and credit manager before retiring in 1976. He was married to Edith Mildred Tillett. The collection, mostly in the form of photographic negatives, was donated to UT Libraries by their sons.
The images in the Herbert M. Webster Photograph Collection rank with those of George Masa, Albert “Dutch” Roth, and brothers Jim and Robin Thompson as an enduring historical record of the Great Smoky Mountains. Photos by the Thompson brothers and Roth also have been turned into digital collections, thanks to the UT Libraries’ Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project. To learn more, visit the website.
The digital collections provide greater visibility and wider access to unique library holdings. Digitization makes local content available to potential new users while protecting the source materials. Requests for use of photographs from the digital collections should be directed to Special Collections at UT Libraries, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Webster_DoubleSpringGap: At Double Spring Gap on the Appalachian Trail. Pictured, among others, are conservationist Harvey Broome, one of the founders of the Wilderness Society; George Barber, a charter member of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club; and “Dutch” Roth, another photographer whose work records the Smokies prior to creation of the Park.
Ken Wise (865-974-2359, email@example.com)
Anne Bridges (865-974-0017, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, email@example.com)