About the Collection
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was begun in 1935 during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal. The purpose of the program was to create work for the unemployed during the Great Depression. In addition to building and engineering projects, the WPA also oversaw the work of artists, writers, and photographers who documented the history and landscape of the United States under the Federal Writers Project.
HABS was established in 1933 by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Like the Federal Writers Project under the WPA, HABS was created to give work to unemployed draftsmen, architects, and photographers. The purpose of the photographs and drawings made by employees of the organization was preservation through documentation.
The University of Delaware's Willard Stewart Photographs for the WPA and HABS Collection contains 246 photographs of landscapes and buildings in Delaware. The collection includes images from throughout Delaware, although the greatest number are from New Castle County, with the architecture of New Castle and Wilmington being extremely well represented. In addition to historic buildings, Stewart also documented businesses, factories, farms, waterscapes, and undeveloped land. Most of the photographs are undated. The two that are have dates of 1936 and 1938, which suggests that the rest of the photographs also date to around these years, as does the fact that some of the images appear in WPA publications that came out also in 1936 and 1938. All of the images are black and white gelatin silver prints. See the online finding aid for more information about the collection.
The collection is arranged geographically by county (Kent, New Castle, Sussex), and subsequently by city or vicinity, with images that cannot be attributed to a particular location placed at the end of the collection. The photographs have identifying captions or descriptions written on the back, and many include a number such as "DEL-130" from the classification system used in the HABS catalog (see Historic American Buildings Survey: catalog of the measured drawings and photographs of the survey in the Library of Congress ...).
Three lists are provided on this Web site for browsing the photographs: "Browse by City/Town" presents the collection in the order in which the originals are arranged; there is one link per photograph. Selecting one of the links opens an image and information page, with a medium sized image, the title, caption, city or town, ID number, and HABS number (if any). Clicking on the image opens a larger image view. The "Browse by Subject" page lists several broad subject areas. Selecting one of the subject links opens a page with thumbnail size images. Selecting one of the thumbnail images opens the image and information page. Many of the photographs are listed under more than one subject. A third list, "Browse by HABS Number" provides links to the image and information pages for the photographs of structures with HABS numbers.
Willard S. Stewart was born February 21, 1915 in Wilmington, Delaware. During the 1930s, he became the primary photographer for the Delaware Federal Writers Project and photographed numerous Delaware buildings and landscapes. Many of these images were published in New Castle on the Delaware (1936) and Delaware: A Guide to the First State (1938), both of which were published by the Delaware Federal Writers' Project. Willard Stewart was also a project photographer for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Additional photographs taken by Willard Stewart of Delaware sites can be seen at "Built In America: HABS/HAER 1933 - Present," part of the Library of Congress's American Memory Web site. Stewart also served as the photographer for other WPA-sponsored projects, including the Index of American Design. Willard Stewart's photographs were also published in M. Thomas Clemons, Wilmington: Wide Is the City (Wilmington, Del. : Hambleton, 1947.)
For the better part of his career, Willard Stewart was one of Wilmington's most prominent professional portrait photographers. He maintained studios at Brecks Mill and 1300 Riverview Avenue in Wilmington until his retirement in the 1980s. In 1955, Willard Stewart was awarded the degree of Master of Photography by the Professional Photographers Association of America. The Masters Degree is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a professional photographer by the Association, and was awarded to Willard Stewart on the basis of excellence in technique and craftsmanship. He was also the recipient of the James B. Schriever Memorial Plaque from the Professional Photographers' Association of Pennsylvania. Willard Stewart was also an influential teacher of photography. He taught classes at the Winona School of Photography, in Winona, Indiana. He also lectured extensively at photographic seminars throughout New England and Canada. Willard Stewart died on July 12, 2003.
Willard S. Stewart Obituary. The News Journal. Wilmington, July 16, 2003. B5 - Retrieved Feburary 5, 2004 from http://miva.delawareonline.com/miva/cgi-bin/miva?obits.mv+30678.
"Welcome to the Willard Stewart Studio." Retrieved February 5, 2004 from http://www.willardstewartstudio.com/index.htm. Inactive March 2005.
United States. National Park Service. Historic American Buildings Survey: catalog of the measured drawings and photographs of the survey in the Library of Congress, January 1, 1938 / compiled by John P. O'Neill. Washington, D.C.: G.P.O., 1938.
Built In America: Historic American Buidling Survey/Historic American Engineering Record: 1933 - Present. Library of Congress: American Memory. Retrieved October 15, 2003 from http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/html/home.html.