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These seventeen photographs of the University of South Carolina campus were taken during the winter and spring of 1873-1874 by professor William Main, Jr., a faculty colleague of Richard T. Greener. Wishing to give his northern friends some sense of the University of South Carolina, on May 23, 1874, Professor Greener sent prints of Main's photographs, along with detailed descriptions of the images, to Harvard University where they were deposited in the library.

In the decades after the Reconstruction era ended in South Carolina, many of Main's images were lost in Columbia, and Greener's gift to Harvard was forgotten. The complete set of photographs remained in Harvard's library for more than 125 years, unknown to anyone at the University of South Carolina. However, in the midst of research for his forthcoming biography of Richard Greener, USC doctoral candidate Michael Mounter rediscovered the photographs and Greener's accompanying descriptions. Through the cooperation of Thomas Cooper Library's interlibrary loan department, the Bicentennial Celebration office brought these images back to Columbia, where Greener's entire collection, what he called "seventeen views of the grounds and buildings of the University of South Carolina" was digitally preserved before its return to Harvard.

These are the earliest known photographs of USC's campus, and Mounter's discovery is valuable for several reasons. First, the completeness of the collection gives an excellent sense of the campus during the 1870s, and nearly half of the 17 photographs were not already in the possession of the University. Second, Greener's descriptions provide a measure of first-hand detail about the grounds and the inhabitants of the various buildings. Third, though nine of the rare glass plate negatives of Main's photographs had survived and were in the collection of USC's McKissick Museum, the origin and a conclusive date of the photographs were unknown until Mounter's discovery. Lastly, the photographs give us a rare look at the University of South Carolina's historic horseshoe at a special moment, when, during the Reconstruction era, the University was racially integrated. While that period of "experimental" racial integration was brief (lasting only from 1873-1877), it proved a significant time in the lives of students and faculty who were a part of the institution in that era. These photographs, in a small sense, give us a glimpse of that time.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger image and photo descriptions. Note: photographs will open in a new window.

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