Over 3,000 images of South Florida

Collection Number: M87-25

Creator: Fishbaugh, William A.

Title: Fishbaugh, William A. Photographic collection M87-25

Quantity: Over 3,000 images


The collection includes more than 3,000 images that offer a unique glimpse of South Florida in the first decades of the 20th century. In addition to the images that depict the rapidly changing architecture and landscape of the Miami area, there are a variety of other subjects in Fishbaugh's beautiful photographs. Local sporting events and visiting entertainers are shown, including early University of Miami football games, polo matches, fishermen with their catches, golf, and the visiting stunt performers from Mabel Cody's Flying Circus. There are several scenes of Miami and Coral Gables social life as well.

Included in the collection, and available upon request, are about 100 circuit negatives and prints. These images are 10 inches high and 60 inches wide and were produced using a circuit, or panoramic, camera

Historical Note:

William A. Fishbaugh was a professional photographer who worked in the Miami area for more than 40 years. Born in Ohio in 1873, he became the most significant commercial photographer during the early development of the greater Miami area, including Coral Gables. As the corporate photographer for George Merrick's development projects and through his later work, Fishbaugh made an invaluable record of real estate growth during and after the great Florida land boom of the 1920s in the region of the state that would become Florida's largest urban area. Fishbaugh was instrumental in Merrick's innovative promotional efforts, which comprised one of the first large-scale land development advertising campaigns for the nation's first planned community. Fishbaugh was able to capture the still largely undeveloped community with photographs that showed it as both a romantic paradise on the edge of wild lands and as a comfortable and sophisticated emerging city.

Fishbaugh sold his first photographs while serving in the British Mounted Police during the Boer War in South Africa. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1898 and continued to sell photographs while serving in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine Insurrection in 1902. Fishbaugh then worked as a photographer in Panama. After returning to the United States, he opened a photographic studio in Tampa in 1910. In 1920, he moved the studio to Miami, where he did commercial photography for Miami Beach developer Carl Fisher and later for Coral Gables developer George Merrick.

Fishbaugh continued photographing the Miami area until shortly before his death in the early 1950s. Quoted at age 77 in a newspaper article discussing his work, Fishbaugh explained his interest in architecture, saying "It's the best kind of photography. A building is there for everyone to see as he can—there's no vanity in a building." The photographs in this collection document the development of Coral Gables and Miami in the 1920s and 1930s. Coral Gables images include the Miami Biltmore, early town houses in several ethnic motifs, single family dwellings, street scenes, and individual businesses. Miami images include construction of some of the city's early skyscrapers, hotels, and other businesses, as well as many street scenes.

Many of the thousands of Fishbaugh images first donated to the Florida Photographic Collection in the 1950s had suffered hurricane and water damage and could not be printed. Of those that remained, the images deemed most valuable were printed, and all of the negatives were destroyed out of fear that the highly flammable nitrate film could cause a disaster in the storage facilities.