“Photographs of Houses and Public Buildings…” by Palmer and Worth

The New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library, located on 791 Purchase Street, contains a beautiful leather-bound volume titled “Photographs of Houses and Public Buildings in New Bedford, Fairhaven, Acushnet, Dartmouth and Westport.”  This unpublished volume, donated to the Society in 1907 by Herbert and Anna Cushman, contains photographs by Fred W. Palmer and text by local historian Henry B. Worth, who collaborated to document the oldest buildings still standing in the original township of Old Dartmouth.

The idea to recreate this book online, in order to bring it to a wider audience, came to us from local historian Bob Maker, who recently completed transcribing the entire text. Working with him to prepare images, and to improve the museum’s cataloging of the photographs, is NBWM volunteer Penny Cole.

West end of the old Ricketson house

This project runs through the NBWM’s Departments of Digital Initiatives, Photography, and the Research Library and is supported in part by grants from the Dartmouth and Fairhaven Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Beginning in 1904, Fred Palmer began taking photographs of over two hundred buildings in Old Dartmouth with construction dates ranging from the late 1600s to the 1840s. The photographs are predominantly exterior shots of individual residential buildings. They are currently held in their original form as nitrate and glass negatives in the Adaline H. Perkins Rand Photo & Digital Archive, located in the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library. There are a few residential interiors, a scattering of shots of public buildings, and a few streetscapes in New Bedford. In many cases, Palmer’s photographs are the only known images, especially for buildings outside downtown New Bedford.

Henry Worth visited and meticulously researched each of the buildings in the collection. He traced property deeds back to the very earliest records. He consulted town meeting records, maps and other documentary sources. He also interviewed property owners and descendants of builders and earlier owners. Worth’s text combines information from all these sources with his own extensive knowledge of architectural styles and construction techniques. He was a significant figure in the earliest history of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, the governing body of The New Bedford Whaling Museum. He wrote the annual “Report of the Historical Research Section” from 1904 to 1911, and authored a number of the early Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches.

We are in the process of building a set of images on flickr that represents these historic photographs.

2 responses to ““Photographs of Houses and Public Buildings…” by Palmer and Worth

  1. Henry Barnard Worth was my great-uncle. He was married #2 to Emma C. Higham.( my grandmother’s sister). I have a copy of his Historic Homes also. It is hand written and the pictures are glued in. It is a treasure!! I also have his handwritten copy of Families of Martha’s Vineyard and many of his articles. I am glad to see that he is still appreciated.
    Betsy Johnson

  2. michaellapides

    We’d love to see your copy, to compare to our own.

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