Page 79 - July2017

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JULY 2017 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
79
the Verkins to the island by 1896. Paul worked for
the J. B. Willyerd Photography Studio, which had
opened the previous year, and lived at 809 Winnie.
His former manager at the Wright Studio in
Houston, Thomas J. Harper, followed him two years
later and became a well-known photographer on
the island as well.
It was not long before the ambitious Verkin
opened his own island studio at 319 ½ 23
rd
Street,
and moved his family to a new home at 1927
Avenue O.
By 1900, the year of the devastating hurricane,
Verkin was well established in Galveston and had
begun creating now irreplaceable stereographs
of the Victorian grandeur and commerce on the
island. Though the family home was lost when the
hurricane struck on September 8, the family of five
survived and worked to re-establish their lives along
with their neighbors.
It was at this point that Verkin documented the
aftermath of the storm with a stunning collection
of photographs. These images, among the most
famous of the disaster, helped to communicate the
incomprehensible level of destruction to the rest of
the world.
Despite the experience of living through the storm,
the family remained in the city, and a fourth child,
George, was born to them in 1901.
Verkin created numerous photographs during the
next decade that documented the city, its port,
and public spots, some of which became popular
postcards. The photos he shared of Galveston
helped to reaffirm the image of a city that was
rebuilding itself and ready to welcome visitors and
business.
His images of Fort Crockett, the “new” causeway
bridge, Cotton Carnival festivities, buildings, and group photos for
organizations regularly appeared in the local newspaper.
When the annual automobile races began on the beach, Verkin set up his
camera on the seawall to capture the excitement of the crowd, speeding
vehicles and drivers. One of his photographs was featured in Popular
Mechanics magazine in 1909. An accidental double exposure of a ship and
a warehouse fire, it resulted in a ghostly image that became a conversation
piece among photography enthusiasts.
He became known as the “photographer on the bicycle” due to his
habit of riding around the island taking pictures of city life. This mode of
transportation was likely especially handy for the photographs he took at
the piers and wharves.
Both Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. had a deep love for ships, and spent countless
hours at the waterfront photographing vessels from around the world.
Some of the pictures were taken under contract for the Galveston Wharf
Company, and others were shot “on spec” to be printed and offered for
sale to officers and crewmembers as they disembarked in the city.
This avocation resulted in an invaluable legacy of maritime
documentation of commercial and naval ship portraiture. Over three
thousand of these photographs are housed at the Peabody Essex Museum
in Salem, Massachusetts, and referenced by researchers worldwide.
Schooner entering Galveston Harbor
Verkin created
numerous photographs
that documented
the city, its port, and
public spots, some of
which became popular
postcards. The photos
he shared of Galveston
helped to reaffirm the
image of a city that was
rebuilding itself after the
1900 Storm and ready
to welcome visitors and
business.
SS El Dia leaving Galveston to head to New Orleans