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  1. Biography
  2. Collection Description
  3. Image Description
  4. Provenance
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John Calvin Coovert was born in 1862 to Mary and David Coovert of Danville, Kentucky. According to the 1880 Federal Census, he went to work "rail roading" in New River, Tennessee, before arriving in Greenville, Mississippi, around 1887. His studio, Patorno and Coovert, won a gold medal from the Paris Exposition in 1889 for "best state views." He went into business for himself in 1891, operating Coovert's Photograph Gallery in Greenville, Memphis, Vicksburg, and Yazoo City, among other locations. His photographs have become iconographic representations of cotton and river culture in the Mississippi/Tennessee region.

Coovert and his wife, Florence, took in his four-year-old niece, Mary Coovert, after his brother, George, died in 1890. The 1900 Federal Census lists John C., Florence C., and Mary R. Coovert as residents of Vicksburg, Mississippi. They eventually settled in downtown Memphis, where Coovert worked until his death, at age 75, on August 18, 1937.

Collection Description

This collection consists of eight (8) black and white photographs taken in the 1890s in Greenville and Vicksburg. Scenes include flood waters, refugees fleeing the same, levees, cotton pickers at work, the Delta Guards, and the Greenville Fire Department.

Image Description

Captions, possibly written/typed by J. C. Coovert, on the photographs and mats appear in quotation marks. Other descriptions were provided by the curator. Images may be accessed through keyword search on the Web site and by subject headings through the MDAH online catalog.


The eight photographic prints were a gift to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History from the Vigo County Historical Society in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1990. A Mellor family member had offered them to the Society but gave permission for them to be donated to MDAH, since they better fit the scope of Mississippi's collections. The MDAH Archives and Records Services Division's Image and Sound section scanned the photographs in June 2009, creating preservation-quality TIFF images. These were then converted to Web-friendly JPEG images by the Electronic Archives section and made available online within the MDAH Electronic Archives Graphic User Interface.