The Clement Studio Portraits: Wayne County Women and Children 1930-39

by Marty Tschetter

We celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, as a way to honor the mother of the family, motherhood and the influence of mothers in society.

Being a mother is a gift-to care for a life completely dependent on you for survival.

Motherhood is support, encouragement, and building self-esteem. As children grow, being a mother is learning to let go, letting them fail and teaching how to get back up and keep moving forward. My mother was a beautiful soul who loved her sons unconditionally, supported our dreams and taught us to respect people.

Helping to celebrate the holiday, the Wayne County Public Library and Wayne Woman magazine is featuring a beautiful collection of vintage photographs of local mothers and children that date from 1930 to 1939. The photographs provide tangible reminders of local people and citizens embraced fashion trends from the era. In the 1920s, many women started wearing daring new styles, such as straight and fl at outfi ts that highlighted their fi gure. Popular accessories like fur hats, fur coats, wool sweaters, silk fl at crepe dresses, delicate embroidery, large buttons and bow pumps are all illustrated through the photographs.

The Wayne County communities represented in the collection include people from Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Pikeville, Fremont, Eureka, Seven Springs, Smith Chapel, Rosewood and Dudley.

The Wayne County Public Library and the News-Argus recently started a partnership to digitize a beautiful collection of old negatives taken by the Clement Studio, which was once located in downtown Goldsboro. The studio namesake, Albert Oliver Clement, was born in Wallace, Duplin County, in 1882 and moved to town about 1906 as a photographer. Though he did capture Goldsboro’s emerging growth through his lens, his portraits of people easily convey that he approached his work as a form of art. In the early 1930s’ he played an integral role to establish a statewide photographer’s licensing act, which sanctioned higher standards to be considered a professional. Therefore, he had a statewide following.

Remarkably, to date the library has scanned portraits from 37 communities in 16 counties and four states other than North Carolina. Another welcome surprise is that he did a fair amount of restoration work, which is a photo of an older photograph. After Clement passed away unexpectedly in 1936, eventually sisters Ruth and Louise Womble operated the studio and kept the original name.

This will be a long-term, ongoing project and can use public assistance helping to research the names of people who were photographed and to also help with scanning. In accordance with the partnership, the library can use the images for public programs, but prints will need to be purchased through the News-Argus at a nominal charge.