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  • Jerry King Musser

Anonymous Hippopotamus

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

As Columbia was an important rail hub during the turn of the 20th century, it stands to reason that many people passed through town. Some visited often as they made their way to another town, and others came for the first time as the destination. This level of activity drew photographers, thinking they'd enjoy a steady flow of customers. For such a small town, Columbia had more than their share. There were those who started in the 1850s. And, as less complicated cameras became available in the early 1890s (after Kodak released their #1 and 2A cameras for the upper middle class), even non-professionals began snapping memories.

Many of the professional photographers are well-documented due to the numerous cabinet cards and carte de visite left behind which embedded their studio name and address. Other images simply managed to be found with no documentation as to who shot the image and who the subjects were within the image. But, the real value of these images is the record they show of the style of dress and the town environment. One might even be able to extrapolate the contextual tone of the times by the subject's body language.

This short video incorporates a few of the images of the period. Most have never been seen before this short video was made. Rather than acknowledging the elephant in the room, it's more a case of the anonymous hippopotamus, because the photographers are unknown, nor are their subjects. Yet, there's still something to be learned about the time in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

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