The School Photographer
Schools could provide a sustaining source of income for a community's resident photographer. This was true for Hugh Morrison Jr. Of the numerous images he took outside of his studio, many were of Shenandoah County students. The earliest of these pictures show students of various ages grouped in front of rural one-room schools. Numerous such schools existed after the state-wide public school system was established in 1870. In 1882 there were about 80 one-room schools in Shenandoah County; by 1930 there were about half as many. Regardless of the size of the student body or the school, Morrison's photos went beyond picturing the students to recording the setting and architecture of the building itself. Some of these schools still stand, and a few serve as community centers or private homes. Morrison's images provide a valuable historical document of these early schools.

Edinburg High School was built in 1932, so it was still new when these graduates posed for this photograph. The school had 11 classrooms, a chemistry lab, library, combined auditorium and gymnasium, and two toilet rooms. The school's first principal, Alvin A. Lutz (1902-1974), is on the far left. The girl on the far right is Evelyn Louise Sheetz (1917-2010). She was the daughter of Sylvia and Elon Sheetz; he is featured elsewhere in this exhibition. The class salutatorian, Evelyn continued her studies at Massanutten Academy's School for Secretaries. She then moved to Washington, DC, to take her first job.
On May 26, 1921, the graduates of Woodstock High School donned their best attire to pose for Hugh Morrison Jr.'s camera. This image, like those of all student groups that Hugh Morrison photographed, serves as a reminder of the fashion differences between then and now. It is especially interesting to compare this image with that of the Woodstock High School graduates of 1935 that is displayed here, as well. Woodstock High School was built in 1908 on Court Street, just down the street from Morrison's studio.
It is telling to contrast this image with that of Woodstock High School's graduating class of 1921. Here the class is in the auditorium of a new school building. In addition, the size of the class has grown dramatically; there are 15 students in the earlier image and 42 students in this one. And, the ratio of male to female students has shifted dramatically; in the earlier image only four males are shown, but here there are more males than females. Finally, academic achievement is emphasized here by caps and gowns.
Photographs of school groups formed a significant part of Hugh Morrison Jr.'s work. These students dressed for the occasion in their "Sunday best," complete with flowers tucked into the lapels of the boys' suits. Headquarters School was built in 1891 at the northeast corner of routes 707 and 694, which placed it about four miles southwest of Edinburg, Virginia. The one-story building with a tin roof had just one classroom and served pupils in seven grades. Oil lamps provided the lighting in the school, and a wood stove served as the source of heat. Headquarters School closed in 1939.
Massanutten Military Academy, which opened in 1899, was a constant source of work for Morrison. In his body of school pictures, images of academy cadets far outnumber those of other students in the region. It helped that the academy was within walking distance of Morrison's studio. In addition to taking pictures of the cadets in his studio, Morrison photographed the academy's drill exercises, athletic teams, recreational activities, and grounds.

Photo Gallery
These images below are scans of glass-plate negatives taken by Morrison. Some of these images show areas of damage that have occurred over time. Others include distracting elements that Morrison likely would have cropped in a finished photograph, such as glimpses of equipment or props. Many images show numbers that have been added by the Shenandoah County Historical Society for archival records. Today the names of many of the people in the images taken by Hugh Morrison Jr. are unknown. Each image in this gallery speaks of his skill, and together they provide a window into half a century of Shenandoah County history and culture. Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge the images. To exit the gallery, click on the image.

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Beyond the Studio Door | For the Record | Focusing on History

Generous exhibition underwriting provided by Shentel.  Online exhibition made possible by the Wise Foundation.
Presented by the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in partnership with the Shenandoah County Historical Society.
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