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Red Goose Shoe sign, Port Gibson, Mississippi. Photo by John Margolies, 1986.

If the Sign Fits

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I look at a lot of images in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) when I am making selections for a Flickr album. This was certainly the case when working on my latest set – If The Shoe Fits. There are always many images that don’t make it to the final group.

In preparing for the album, I browsed through photos of advertising signs related to shoes. I noticed that two photographers captured the same sign thirty years apart! The sign in question is located in Port Gibson, Mississippi, a small town that is the seat of Claiborne County. It advertises Red Goose shoes at the H. Frishman general store.

In 1986, John Margolies took this photo of the sign:

Red Goose Shoe sign, Port Gibson, Mississippi. Photo by John Margolies, 1986.

Thirty years later, in 2016, Carol M. Highsmith shot the same sign:

Shoe-store sign in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, November 9, 2016.

Seeing these two images got me thinking. Could I find any other photos of this sign in the vast holdings of the Prints & Photographs Division?

The answer to that question is – sort of.

By doing a search for Port Gibson in PPOC, I learned that in August of 1940, Marion Post Wolcott took over 60 photos of Port Gibson for the Farm Security Administration. Many of her photos were street scenes of the town. I started looking very closely at the photos. Sadly, the full sign wasn’t featured in any of her work. But I did see part of it in this photo:

Port Gibson, Mississippi. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, August 1940.

Can you see the sign? It is obscured behind a pole, but its distinct shape is still visible. Here is a detail from the photo:

Detail of Port Gibson, Mississippi. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, August 1940.

Now we’ve seen documentation of the sign from two centuries! Marion Post Wolcott took her photo 76 years before Carol M. Highsmith took hers.

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Comments (3)

  1. That’s so cool! Good detective work!!

  2. It’s interesting to see the difference in color rendering between the 1986 and 2016 photos. We tend to apply “looks” more in this century than at the end of the last one when Photoshop was in its infancy. Do you have a record of the cameras and stock used? The second, I’m sure, is digital. In 1986 I was still using Kodak, I think. My last film camera was bought in 1987.

  3. This is so fun!

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