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Photographs for Charleston, come hell or high water

Identifier: Mss 0132

Collection Overview

The photographs were assembled primarily by Robert N. S. Whitelaw, and the text was prepared by Alice F. Levkoff for a book about the social history, natural disasters, and architecture of Charleston, South Carolina. Many images are classic views of the City, and many of the City's principal buildings are represented in some of the earliest and best photographs of them known to have been taken. A large number of buildings were subsequently damaged or altered, and some no longer survive. The natural disasters include the Earthquake of 1886, hurricanes during 1885 and 1911, and a tornado in 1938. The best represented photographers are Frances Benjamin Johnston, George L. Cook, Franklin F. Sams, and Howard R. Jacobs. Most of the approximately 400 photographs in the collection are 8X10 black-and-white prints. The original photographs that were copied for use in the book are primarily from the collections of the Charleston Museum, Carolina Art Association, South Carolina Historical Society, Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Service, Post-Courier, and Charleston Library Society. Numerous other sources include the Historic Charleston Foundation, Valentine Museum, and Southern Railway Company. Approximately 150 photographs collected for possible use were not published (particularly views of natural disasters and of the South Carolina & West Indian Exposition (1901-1902). Photographs taken after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 were added to the fourth and later printings. The photographs used in the book are arranged in page-number order, and the photographs that were not used are arranged topically. The collection also includes approximately 0.5 linear ft. of files relating to the preparation of the text and publication, about 50 copy negatives (4X5"), and a complete set of negatives for preparing printing plates.


  • Creation: approximately 1885-approximately 1989


Language of Material

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Historical Note

The first edition of the hardback book contained 232 pages and approximately 250 illustrations, and it was published by R. L. Bryan Company, Columbia, in 1975. It was reprinted by R. L. Bryan twice (including an abridged paperback with 146 pages in 1977). The paperback edition was reprinted five times by Kingsport-Arcadia (1984-2000) and twice by the University of South Carolina Press (2002-2005). The total number of copies printed from 1975-2006 is 40,500.


2.0 linear feet (4 document boxes)

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated by Mrs. Abner H. Levkoff.

Inventory of the Photographs for Charleston, come hell or high water, 1885-1989
Processed by: Special Collections staff; finding aid created by: Special Collections staff
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections
College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424
(843) 953-8016
(843) 953-6319 (Fax)