Theodor Clemens Wohlbrück Photographs
of Towns in Worcester County, c.1905-1915
The photographer Theodor Clemens Wohlbrück (1879-1936) settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, as a young man. He set up a photography studio on Main Street and operated a successful business there until around 1911. Many of his images capture the people and streets of Worcester as well as urban events, such as parades, celebrations, and presidential visits. The American Antiquarian Society collection includes over one hundred glass plate negatives from Wohlbrück's studio that depict the cityscape.
The collection described here, however, does not include the Worcester material, but rather another part of the photographer's archive. This group of over one thousand printed proof photographs (both albumen and silver oxide prints) includes images of forty-one different towns in Worcester County. These images, many of which were mounted and hand tinted by the photographer, focus on the landscape, roads and bridges of the communities across the county, from small and rural Dudley in the south to large and booming Fitchburg in the north. Dating from c. 1905 to c. 1915, these images include historic houses and churches, modern dams and bridges, and scenic ponds and dirt roadways. Many are captioned by Wohlbrück on the reverse and include a negative number, although the glass plates for these prints are still unlocated. There is a box list of the collection, organized by town. An itemized inventory listing each photograph is currently underway.
It is unknown why Wohlbrück travelled around Worcester County recording these views. Perhaps he was considering a book or a project where they would be used to illustrate the development of the region. In 1904, he had published a medical directory for the city of Worcester that listed doctors, opticians and surgeons at work in the area. Regardless of their original intention, the photos today offer scholars and historians the opportunity to study some of the more out-of-the way towns and villages in the county.
Wohlbrück eventually left Worcester and by 1918 had settled in California. There he continued to practice photography and made successful use of the panorama photograph, which he had first used in Worcester, to capture portraits of whole classes of schoolchildren and the open spaces of the mountains and valleys of the Western landscape.
Lauren B. Hewes, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts
Theodor Clemens Wohlbrück Photographs of Towns in Worcester County, c.1905-1915 Box List