We spotted this photo from our collection in the opening credits of the TV show Selfie.
The image of Sada Roffe posing with a Kodak camera was taken in Tallahassee, Florida, ca. 1900 by photographer Alvan S. Harper. A professional photographer, Harper lived and worked in Tallahassee from 1884 until his death in 1911.
Selfie was cancelled, but don’t feel bad for Alvan Harper. His photographs have appeared in many publications over the years and helped to define how Americans view our past.
This group of local actors in a park Tallahassee, Florida was featured in the first book of the Time-Life series, This Fabulous Century. Notice the levitating hat?
Although largely unidentified today, Harper’s photographs of the teachers, business owners and leaders of Tallahassee’s vibrant African-American community are important records of this era.
Harper’s photographs also captured the trendy new Penny-Farthing bicycles.
Check out the rest of the Alvan S. Harper Collection on Florida Memory!
In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African American history in Florida.
Nellie Franklin, ca. 1900
Photographer Alvan S. Harper captured scenes of middle class African Americans in Tallahassee from the 1880s to the 1910s. Portraits such as those taken by Harper provide a small window into Tallahassee’s black community during the indignity of the Jim Crow era.
Many of the photographs in the collection remain unidentified, including two featured in this post. If you have any additional information about images in the Harper Collection, please contact the State Archives of Florida: Archives@DOS.MyFlorida.com.
Some of Harper’s best negatives were lost when his studio was torn down in the 1920s. The negatives had been given to a Tallahassee historian who, because they were dirty, left them on a porch where they were mistaken for trash and taken to the dump.
About 2,000 more Harper negatives were found in 1946 in the attic of the house he had owned. A Tallahassee photographer printed 250 negatives and circulated the prints in the community for identification. The negatives were turned over to the State Library, and later transferred to the Florida Photographic Collection after it was founded in 1952.
Contact the Museum of Florida History for more information about the Alvan S. Harper traveling exhibit, part of the museum’s TREX Program.