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The Quest for Early Billmeyer Photos, with some Success

Ballroom of the Billmeyer House at 225 East Market Street, York, PA (Prints & Photographs of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, March 1963)
Ballroom of the Billmeyer House at 225 East Market Street, York, PA (Prints & Photographs of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, March 1963)

The Estate Inventories of George S. Billmeyer (1849-1917), followed by his widow Fannie E. Billmeyer (1862-1932) contain many photographs; unfortunately none identified, at least not in the inventory lists.  Just imagine all the photos that hung on the walls and sat on the piano in the pictured ballroom of the Billmeyer House at 225 East Market Street in York, Pennsylvania.

This three-story, brick Italian Villa style house is topped by an ornate 10-feet square cupola.  The interior featured frescos by Costagini and Scataglia, two Italian artists who assisted in the painting of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Charles Billmeyer, a founder of the railcar-building firm of Billmeyer & Small, built this house in 1860. Upon his death in 1875, his son George S. Billmeyer owned the house.  Upon the death of George in 1917, this second wife Fannie E. Billmeyer lived there until her death in 1932.  From 1933 to 1959 the Billmeyer House, also known as the York House, was home to the Historical Society of York County.  In 1970, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Related posts include:

Continue reading to discover successes in my quest for early Billmeyer photos.



I wondered what happened to all those photos that show up in the Estate Inventories of George S. Billmeyer, and then followed by his widow Fannie E. Billmeyer.  I initially searched the Internet using combinations of terms.  An image of the Goodridge ambrotype of Charles Billmeyer still appears at the auction site on the Internet, even though the York County Heritage Trust purchased this item in 2004.

When Fannie E. Billmeyer died in 1932, her only heir was her sister Mary P. Evans.  I tried Mary P. Evans in searches without much success.  I eventually tried George Hay Kain with some success.  George Hay Kain was the attorney that Mary P. Evans used in handing the estate of Fannie E. Billmeyer.

It appears that George Kain attempted to distribute some of the photos to appropriate parties.  One such search returned the following information:

Printed in February 3, 1939 Issue of

The Princeton Alumni Weekly

(Page 364)

Gifts to the Library

George Hay Kain – 4 Princeton Photo-

graphs owned by George S. Billmeyer ’71.

George S. Billmeyer was involved in a sports’ first while attending college in Princeton, New Jersey.  During his Junior year, on November 6, 1869, George S. Billmeyer played in what is recognized as the first college football game ever played.  In the rules of the day, two men from each team played immediately in front of the opponents’ goal; they were know as “captains of the enemy’s goal.”  For Princeton, in that first football game, George S. Billmeyer and Homer D. Boughner were the “captains of the enemy’s goal.”  [Source: The First Intercollegiate Football Game, by Parke H. Davis, Member of the Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee; The Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 15, 1909, Page 186; Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library].

George S. Billmeyer did not attend college his Senior year, due to pressing matters at home.  So these 4 photos are likely from the 1869-1870 school year.  A 1901 letter in the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library from Homer D. Boughner notes that George S. Billmeyer is a good source for questions about the 1869 football team.  It makes one wonder if any of those 4 Princeton Photographs owned by George S. Billmeyer were related to that first 1869 football game at Rutgers, or possibly the return match the following Saturday at Princeton.

When I did some research at the Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University last month, they were not able to locate these 4 Photographs.  I was assured the photos are somewhere in their collections, however in 1939, donated photos were not indexed like they are today.

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