New book a treasure trove of photos from county's past

October 03, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

HAGERSTOWN - Community response to The Herald-Mail Co.'s request for historical photographs featured in the new limited-edition publication, "Washington County, Maryland, Our Past Our People, A Historical Portrait, Volume I" was overwhelming - greater than book project director Michele Wills expected.

"As soon as the ads soliciting photos started to run, the phone didn't stop ringing," Wills said. "We collected close to 1,000 photos for the first volume of the book."

Clarence Eldridge Jr. was among more than 1,000 people who responded to The Herald-Mail's request. Eldridge submitted about 20 photographs, many passed on to him by his father, Clarence Eldridge Sr., a former Washington County Commissioner.


"He served on the commission from 1942 to 1958," Eldridge said.

The book's publishing team selected six of Eldridge's photographs for the glossy hardback pictorial, which features more than 300 black-and-white images from the 1800s to the late 1950s.

Eldridge, 83, an armchair historian with lots of stories about his family, said the pictorial collection can be used to educate future generations about the important contributions made by the people of Washington County.

"My father started the first pasteurizing dairy in Hagerstown, before he got into politics," he said. "People used to make fun of him for baking milk."

Eldridge said when he became old enough to help his father manage the Eldridge Dairy, his father got involved in politics. The dairy, which was on East Washington Street, now is the site of Washington County Hospital's parking lot, he said.

Wills assembled a team of historical experts from the Washington County Historical Society, the Washington County Free Library and other local museums and societies.

The photograph on the book's cover captures a scene from the 1946 Veterans Homecoming Parade in a thriving downtown Hagerstown.

"It showed the community as a whole coming together in celebration," said Wills, adding the photograph was submitted by Melinda Marsden, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.

A new venture for the newspaper, the publication highlights the area's rich cultural heritage and, like the parade, "it's brought people together," Wills said.

John League, editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail, said other newspapers in the Schurz Communications chain have published similar books, but the project was the first of its kind for the local staff.

"Above the cutlines are not just captions, they are ministories - the photo tells you something a little bit more than simply who's in the photo," he said.

"It's one thing to have a bunch of old photos of buildings, cars and geography," League said. "It's quite another to have the people who have lived here, worked here and started their families here. Being part of the book really brings it alive."

Of the 5,000 copies of the book printed, about 3,000 have been purchased already. The book costs $39.95 and is available at The Herald-Mail offices on Summit Avenue and at area bookstores.

Due to the tremendous community response, Wills said, The Herald-Mail Co. will start work on a second book in January.

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