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Biographical Information

Campbell William Witbeck, known as C. W. Witbeck, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on December 27, 1916. He became fascinated by railroads in his youth, eventually becoming a well known railroad photographer and railroad image historian. Witbeck came to Jackson, Mississippi in 1938 to work for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). He opened the Witbeck Photo Service in Brookhaven, Mississippi in 1948, and in 1955 relocated his studio to Hammond, Louisiana. He married Ruby Ardelle Johnson (1917-1997) on March 29, 1963, and died February 22, 1972.

Anecdotal information suggests he acquired an interest in railroads in his youth and focused much of his career photographing railroads in the American south. While known for his photographs of railroads from all over the United States, Witbeck is best known for his photographs of southern railroads.

Louis Saillard, IV, (1950-), is a well known rail photographer, author and historian. He is a native of Hammond, Louisiana, and resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1981 he published Delta Route: A History of the Columbus & Greenville Railway, which chronicles the story of the C&G from its pre Civil War roots to its rebirth and revitalization.

Collection Description

The Witbeck, C. W., Photograph Collection consists of three hundred thirty-three (333) images which were originally nitrate negatives. Many of the collection's images depict specific events that occurred between 1941 and 1955. It includes 35 photographs of Senator Pat Harrison's funeral (June 25, 1941), 11 photographs of the Whitworth College Coronation Pageant (May 29, 1950), 62 photographs of the United States Naval Training School in Gulfport (July 17, 1950), 19 photographs of the Mississippi Highway Patrol General Assembly (August 3, 1950), 18 photographs of the Masonic Building fire in Brookhaven (March 25-26, 1951), 13 photographs of a Wesson Lions Club event (March 26, 1951), 18 photographs of Governor Hugh White's inauguration (January 22, 1952), and 5 photographs of African-American Little Leaguers in Brookhaven (June 15, 1955).

Images Description

Image 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 negatives were originally a part of photographer C. W. Witbeck's collection created over the course of his life. In 1980, MDAH acquired the collection from Louis Saillard, IV. The MDAH Archives and Records Services Division's Image & Sound Section created prints from the original nitrate negatives. In 2010 the prints were scanned, creating preservation-quality TIFF images, which were then converted to Web-friendly JPEG images by the Electronic Archives section. They were made available online in 2012 using the MDAH Electronic Archives Graphic User Interface.


MDAH online catalog record for the Witbeck, C. W., Photograph Collection