Leo J. Beachy: A Southwest View of the Cove, Md.

Even without his name or the words “Mt. Nebo Studio” on the back, his distinctive handwriting marks this real photo postcard as the work of  Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927).

Following the wisdom of  RPPC  dating experts, “A Southwest View of the Cove, Md., From the Oakland State Road,” with its divided back and bordered CYKO stamp box, probably dates from ca. 1905.

Beachy seems never to have tired of the endlessly unfolding views from the State Road above the rolling farmland known as “the Cove,” and its vistas continue to be popular today.

Pinpointing the exact vantage point  near Oakland will have to wait for someone intimately familiar with this stretch of  US 219, aka Garrett Highway.

During the period Beachy took this photograph, 219 was still known as the State Road. South of Oakland, the road took a route different from its later incarnation: it snaked out of Oakland via 3rd Street, became Underwood Road, then swung east up Monte Vista Road.

For more about Beachy’s photography, life and the dramatic story of how his niece, Maxine Beachy Broadwater, rescued a portion of his almost forgotten work, see my earlier posts on Leo J. Beachy.

Then visit the online galleries of Beachy’s photos at the Garrett County Historical Society, where you can purchase prints of any of over 2,800 of his images. In them one glimpses the great and reverent affection Beachy  felt for the land and the people around him.

Leo J. Beachy: A Birdseye View of Grantsville Maryland

Grantsville, Maryland teacher, writer and photographer Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927) made and sold real photo postcards in his studio at “Mt. Nebo,” his parents’ Garrett County farm.

I can’t be sure, but I am  guessing this view of Grantsville is an early effort. Later postcards have his name and/or  “Mt. Nebo Studio Grantsville  MD” on the postal side.

According to what is known about Beachy’s life and work, he taught himself photography while still an instructor in local schools. A  brief biographical sketch of Beachy by the Maryland Historical Society says that Beachy began taking photographs in 1905 when he received a small Kodak camera and developing chemicals as a prize.

Beachy was frustrated that no professional photographer would come out  to make photographs of his school and environs, and he decided to take up the task himself. He took many photographs of country school classes, and then began turning his camera on the people, pastimes and landscapes of the place he loved.

In 1906, Eastman Kodak began marketing a folding pocket camera that made negatives the same size as post cards. The US Postal Service began allowing divided back postcards in 1907 (McCulloch, Card Photographs, A Guide to Their History and Value, p. 121) .

The Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City has an excellent collection of postage stamp imprints. This one has a postage stamp imprint used on Cyko bromide postcard papers produced by Ansco on its real photo post cards between 1903 and 1905.

Another source dates the availability of Cyko paper to 1906-1920.

The 3/-1/4″ x 4-1/2″ photograph has been printed on 3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″  paper, suggesting that Beachy used a smaller format camera and did not yet own an  enlarger (Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City). Eventually he was able to have a fully-equipped studio built on the family farm, and must have acquired a camera made specially for photo postcards.

The Cumberland Road Project has an example of a similar Beachy postcard entitled “The National Pike Eastward Through Grantsville Md” that helps pinpoint this view’s orientation.

Leo J. Beachy: Inauguration Day on the MD Hills 1917

Thanks to its title, we can date this photograph, a real photo postcard by acclaimed Garrett County, Maryland photographer Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927), to March 4th, 1917–the day President Woodrow Wilson was sworn into office.

Thanks to a Miss Ethel Handy, who probably bought this hand-made postcard in the town of Grantsville, we also know that it was mailed on August 23, 1917.

Beachy made postcards out of his thousands of glass plate negatives in a converted out building on his parents’ farm. He named it Mt. Nebo Studio, after the farm. A genuine vintage postcard will be identified on the postal side with “L. J. Beachy, Mt. Nebo Studio, Grantsville, Md.”

You can view an award-winning documentary, “Leo Beachy: A Legacy Nearly Lost,”  about his life, his work, and the miraculous story of the loss and recovery of his photographs on WQED’s website.

Thanks to the efforts of his niece, Maxine Beachy Broadwater, more than 2,700 of the glass plate negatives were digitized and restored and placed on line at the Garrett County Historical Society. Now, anyone can order a copy of one of Beachy’s beautiful photographs on line.

Leo Beachy: The Cove, Garrett County, Maryland

“Of all the early Maryland photographers whose work I have seen,” photographer Marion E. Warren said, “Leo Beachy had a sensitivity for human interest that was unique” (The Eye of the Beholder: Photographs by Marion E. Warren 1940-1988).

When I purchased this 5 x 7″ print of unknown vintage, a landscape entitled “The Cove Garrett Co., Md.,” I didn’t realize it was a photograph taken by the prolific Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927). It was the distinctive handwritten caption that made the connection.

Beachy, a teacher, writer and photographer who grew up in Garrett County, made a number of photographs of the Cove area. It may have been taken from Garrett Highway (US 219), which offers numerous viewpoints of the lovely country north of Accident. The lane that can be discerned snaking its way from the lower left toward the center of the photo may be Cove Road.

Beachy took many thousands of superb photographs of the area, its people and their pursuits during his life. He sold many as postcards at the Granstsville drug store. National Geographic even published one. But but his work was not fully recognized until decades after his death. His relations destroyed the majority of his glass plate negatives when they decided to turn his studio into a chicken house.

Through a remarkably fortuitous chain of events documented in WQED’s documentary “Leo Beachy: A Legacy Nearly Lost,” his niece, Maxine Beachy Broadwater, discovered and acquired 2,700 glass plates that had been kept by Leo’s sister, Kate Beachy.

Through her efforts and those of others who recognized Beachy’s remarkable body of work, the plates were conserved, digitized and painstakingly digitally repaired after years of neglect. Life magazine published a portfolio of his photographs in 1990.

Today the collection can be viewed at the Grantsville Museum in Grantsville, Maryland.

2,887 images can also be viewed on line via the Garrett County Historical Society website, and now, one can order prints on the web.

The Maryland Historical Society acquired a collection of Beachy’s real photo postcards, as well as 200 glass plate negatives, in 2010, and is engaged in cataloging the collection.

Beachy died from complications of multiple schlerosis on May 5th, 1927. He is buried, along with his devoted sister Kate, in Otto Cemetery, near Grantsville, Maryland.