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Introduction

“Herbert Webster on Stratton Bald”

Herbert M. Webster first began chronicling his adventures into the Great Smoky Mountains on July 4, 1925 when, as a sixteen-year-old, he attended a Rotary Club camp for underprivileged boys on Little Pigeon Island in Gatlinburg. The next day, the boys from the camp hiked up the Rainbow Falls Trail to spend the night on Mount Le Conte in an old tar-paper pole cabin that stood just below Cliff Top. That evening the boys ventured out to Cliff Top and climbed a shaky-looking pole tower abandoned by surveyors, then returned to the cabin and bedded down for the night on boughs of balsams with a blanket for cover. On this first trip, Webster carried with him a small box camera, foretelling the beginning of a life-long avocation for photographing the Great Smoky Mountains.

Webster returned to Mount Le Conte the next summer and camped in a small balsam lodge built the previous winter by Paul Adams. Webster returned again the next year, venturing for the first time to Myrtle Point to enjoy the sunrise over the mountains and then descending by the old Bearpen Hollow manway.

Within a few years, he was visiting the mountains regularly, venturing into the backcountry with many of those whose names are synonymous with early twentieth century exploration of the Smokies—Dutch Roth, Jim Thompson, Carlos Campbell, Guy Frizzell, Wiley Oakley, and Harvey Broome—and capturing on film the vanishing way of life of the mountaineer, the Smoky Mountain backcountry, and his own adventures in the wilderness. The images in the Herbert M. Webster Photograph Collection rank with those of Dutch Roth and the Thompson Brothers as an enduring historical record of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Herbert M. Webster Photograph Collection is maintained as part of the U.T. Libraries’ Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project. For other photograph collections supported by the Project, click here.

The Herbert M. Webster Photographic Collection
MS.3338, The University of Tennessee Libraries, Special Collections. (View Finding Aid)