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William R. "Pictureman" Mullins photography collection, circa 1935 - 1955

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Processed by Processed by Elizabeth Barret, Heather Fox, Caroline Rubens; machine-readable finding aid created by Heather Fox


William R. "Pictureman" Mullins photography collection


circa 1935 - 1955


Appalshop Archive, Appalshop, Inc.


Original negatives were numbered and sleeved after they came to the archive. Binders containing contact prints made from original negatives are arranged by general subject and are available on site.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to researchers by appointment.

Preferred Citation Note

PMC: [identification of item], William R. "Pictureman" Mullins photography collection, Appalshop Archive.


65 boxes of negatives, one box of ephemera, 9 binders of contact prints from originals negatives, 4 binders of duplicate negatives, 3 binders of contact prints from duplicate negatives.


Born in the mountains of southwest Virginia in 1886, William Richardson Mullins was a self-taught photographer who earned his nickname "Pictureman" traveling by foot, bicycle, or by hitchhiking to take pictures of the people who lived in the area of Dickenson and Wise counties in Virginia. He subsequently moved across the mountain and established the Mullins Studio in East Jenkins, Kentucky specializing in "portraits, paintings and frames."

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 3,600 black and white cellulose acetate safety negatives primarily in the formats of 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" and 3 1/2" x 4 1/4". After the negatives were deposited, Appalshop staff created prints from the original negatives, a full set of duplicate negatives, and contact prints from the duplicate negatives. The collection also includes one box of original prints made by the photographer in their original envelopes. Envelopes and original prints (2 1/2" x 4") are marked with what appear to be Mullins' notations and provide clues to his methods of keeping track of photograph orders.

Although the majority of the collection is comprised of portraits, Mullins also recorded scenes of ordinary life in eastern Kentucky and captured special events in the community such as weddings, baptisms, and funerals. One group of photos features African Americans who lived in the area. From 1943-1945, Mullins lived in Baltimore and worked in a shipyard. He continued to take pictures during this time and a small portion of the collection consists of images from this period.


  • African Americans--Appalachian Region
  • Appalachians (People)--Kentucky
  • Appalachians (People)--Virginia
  • Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Children--Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Families--Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies--Kentucky
  • Photography--Kentucky

User Restrictions

For information regarding use restrictions please contact the Appalshop Archivist at (606) 633-0108.

Related Material

In 1991-1992 Elizabeth Barret and Bob Gates interviewed eighteen people in and around Jenkins, Kentucky, where "Pictureman" worked. This collection of approximately twenty-three hours of audio on audiocassette is held at the Kentucky Historical Society as part of the Kentucky Oral History Commission (Collection number 18-62).

Collection Inventory

65 boxes
Scope and Content Note:

Original negatives are individually sleeved and numbered and contact prints are available on site.

1 box
Scope and Content Note:

Prints presumably made by "Pictureman" Mullins appear to be samples created for customers to choose from when ordering larger prints. Many of these photographs have notes penciled on the back.

16 binders
Scope and Content Note:

The binders contain contact prints from originals negatives, duplicate negatives, and contact prints from duplicate negatives. The 9 binders containing contact prints from original negatives are organized according to the following general subject matter: children; women with children, men with children, men alone; women; Black men, Black women, Black children; Families; Death, William R. "Pictureman" Mullins; Buildings, exterior and interior, street scenes, events.

Studio portrait of three men with cigarettes, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd1014] browse
Exterior portrait of an adolescent boy, elderly woman, and man holding a small dog, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd0112a] browse
Exterior portrait of a man, woman, and young child, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd0174] browse
Interior photograph of woman in bed with newborn twins, surrounded by her children and husband, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd0203] browse
Exterior portrait of large family with man holding a banjo, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd0206] browse
Exterior portrait of Hollyfield family, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd0325] browse
Exterior photograph of three funeral attendees standing behind an open casket, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd0434] browse
Interior photograph of the home wedding of Basil and Beatrice Hall by Preacher Ben Powers, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd0363] browse
Studio portrait of two women, believed to be sisters, in identical outfits, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd1646] browse
Exterior portrait of baby and dog, both in hats, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd2764] browse
William R. "Pictureman" Mullins in front of his studio in East Jenkins, Kentucky, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd3561] browse
Mary J. Mullins, sister of William R. "Pictureman" Mullins, with her cow, c. 1935-1955
[item: pmcd1379] browse

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