approx. 3,000 vintage glass-plate negatives
Harry Cowles Mann (1866–1926) was a vastly prolific commercial photographer based in Norfolk, Virginia, specializing in industrial views, portraits, and landscapes, particularly artful Cape Henry beach scenes. Though he hailed from the large and socially prominent Mann family of Virginia (his uncle was Gov. William Hodges Mann and his father was Edwin Mann, a judge on Petersburg’s Hustings Court), little is known of his personal life other than that he was a confirmed bachelor, of fragile health for the second half of his life, and died—for reasons that remain unclear—at the State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded in Lynchburg. Sometime after being commissioned to photograph the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, Mann rented a studio space at 286 Main Street in downtown Norfolk, where he specialized in commercial photography, including “Buildings, Machinery, Landscapes and All Photographic Work for Half-Tone Reproduction.” Mann’s work was featured in National Geographic and his “nature portraits” of Craney Island and the Dismal Swamp won awards in photo competitions in Paris, London, and New York.
The Library’s collection of more than 3,000 prints and glass-plate negatives—more than half of which are available online—show Norfolk during and immediately after World War I. These include images of plantation houses; historic churches; public schools; department store display windows; architectural interiors of every description, including formal parlors, bedrooms, factory work spaces, restaurant dining rooms, and retail spaces; and even some technically innovative underwater shots. An unofficial collection within the collection is a group of more than 500 portraits of anonymous children casually posing with teddy bears and tricycles outside what appear to be their working- and middle-class homes in Norfolk.
Arrangement and access:
1,600 images are available on DigiTool.
Transferred to the Library from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, 1941
“Mann’s Children.” Virginia Cavalcade, vol. 27, no. 4 (1978)
“Virginians at Play: A Galley of Photographs by Harry C. Mann.” Virginia Cavalcade, vol. 38, no. 4 (1989) Walker, Carroll H.
“A Look Back at Harry C. Mann, Photographer.” The Downtowner, vol. 2, no. 10 (March 1990)
Yarsinske, Amy Waters. Virginia Beach: Jewel Resort of the Atlantic (1998)
Related resources and collections:
Harry C. Mann Photographic Panorama Collection, C1: 159