City amateur photographer fascinates local historian



By Taylor Murchison-Gallagher

Local Historian, Tom Dickau, presented “George Moulthrop: Amateur Photographer and Visual Historian,” the second part in a series about the Bristol-born photographer, on Tuesday, June 25, at the F.N. Manross Library, 260 Central St., Forestville.

“It’s the most extraordinary archive of Bristol pictures that’s ever been donated, and I’m the lucky owner of it at this stage. At some point in time I will return the archives to the benefactors so it can be shared elsewhere,” said Dickau. “It’ll go back to the benefactors so they will be the ones to make the donation, after all, it was their belongings. So I look at myself as, right now, the owner, but the facilitator and implementer, and I know they were thrilled by the first program, it was just- it was awesome.”

Dickau explained that Moulthrop’s step-granddaughters (Beverly McMaster Huntley, Linda McMaster, and Pamela McMaster Smith) were willed the collection, and during the last three years, he has catalogued over 5,000 images.

Moulthrop (1870-1964) never became a professional photographer, but he was hired by professional photographers, said Dickau, where he worked “as a sort of subcontractor as an amateur.” He also entered his photographs into national contests.

“He was so good that seven decades later, I’ve got a whole collection of Flood of 1955,” said Dickau, “pictures that he was hired to do for two photo companies in town, I mean, that’s how good he was, and these are pristine.”

The historian explained his process for developing programs such as these, saying that the first step is to decide “What is it that you want to capture in this program, what’s the essence of the program going to be?” Next, he said, is finding a balance between educational and entertaining in an effort to “conceptualize what was taking place in Bristol through the pictures of George Moulthrop.”

For the second program, Dickau chose to focus on the industrialization of Bristol and the transition from a “farming society to an industrial society”. It took Dickau about a month to carefully selected photographs and artifacts, and write a narrative that would help guide the audience through the presentation – each of which would last approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

“The thrust I want when I do these programs is to have the audience come in and feel like they’ve learned,” said Dickau, “but they’ve also been entertained in a way that’s historically accurate but also to a certain degree entertaining and meaningful.”

The next Moulthrop program Dickau is planning will focus on the development of education throughout the city. It would be the third of a proposed ten part series, each of which will concentrate on at least one aspect of his photography.

Beginning at the age of sixteen, Moulthrop took photographs of his city for at least the next 70 years.

At the end of each program, Dickau presents a selection of other images taken by Moulthrop. After the industrialization program, the historian displayed photos of babies and small children in a slideshow, all set to music. “He photographed everything – he photographed kids, families, buildings, landscape, natural science, he was everywhere, his interest areas were wide,” said Dickau.

Tom Dickau of the Bristol Historical Society speaks recently at the Manross Library. He shared photographs from George E. Moulthrop’s collection that his daughters donated to the society. Dickau returned the portrait of George Moulthrop, left, to his daughters this night. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)