SALISBURY, NC – On September 2, Rowan Public Library’s Edith M. Clark History Room will celebrate the 168th birthday of Theodore “Theo” Buerbaum with the release of a new digital exhibit of his Salisbury Postcard collection.
Born in Germany, Buerbaum came to Salisbury in his early 20s. He was a prolific amateur photographer, capturing scenes of everyday, local life. He also owned a bookstore/variety shop, and he sent his images to Germany to be made into postcards which he then sold in his shop.
He was also very involved in civic life and the development of Salisbury. He helped establish one of the first knitting mills and, along with Theo Klutz, launched Chestnut Hill Cemetery (which they later sold to the City of Salisbury). With a collection of 5,000 books in his store, Buerbaum even established the first “library” in Salisbury; in 1885, the membership fee was $2. Along with his father-in-law, Buerbaum published the “Salisbury Herald,” a weekly newspaper, from 1892 to 1900. His interest in history led to his being one of the organizers of the Rowan Historical Society.
Buerbaum’s perspective as an active, engaged member of his community likely influenced his chosen photography subjects: pretty scenes, real people, and daily events, like construction, operating a business, and attending school. He appreciated people, and by available accounts, his community appreciated him in return. In January 1926, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his arrival in Salisbury, Buerbaum published a thank you to his fellow citizens in the “Salisbury Evening Post.” He died two days later.
Even after his death, Buerbaum’s postcards continued to be collector’s items. Eventually his images were included in books and articles. Rose Post wrote articles about them in the “Salisbury Post.” RPL’s History Room holds books that include Buerbaum’s images: “Historic Salisbury and Rowan County in Vintage Postcards” and “Salisbury and Rowan County” both by Susan Sides, “Images of Salisbury” by Larry Neal, and “Postal Souvenirs” by Clyde Overcash. The History Room also holds two postcard collections acquired before 1999.
In the early 2000s, when online exhibits were just beginning, then-History Room Librarian Deborah Rouse led a project, scanning RPL’s collection of Buerbaum postcards and exhibiting them on the Library’s website. Over the years, as the website evolved with technology, the postcard images became unavailable.
This year, History Room Supervisor Gretchen Witt and Librarian Paul Birkhead worked to restore the Library’s Buerbaum Postcard Collection online and refresh its content and information links. There are over 80 images in the collection.
“Over the years people have enjoyed looking at postcards created by Theo Buerbaum. A great-grandson of Theo’s wrote after coming across the original exhibit on RPL’s website. I kept remembering his closing line which read, ‘Heartfelt thanks for your care in preserving the name and legacy of Theo Buerbaum.’ I feel strongly that we should continue to share it,” said Witt.
As of September 2, Buerbaum’s pictorial account of Salisbury during his lifetime is again available on the History Room’s website at bit.ly/RPL-Buerbaum. Take a minute and enjoy a tour of this bygone era.
To learn more about History Room collections, contact Witt at 704-216-8232 or Gretchen.Witt@rowancountync.gov.
Press Contact:Laurie Lyda704.216.8245 (voice)Laurie.Lyda@rowancountync.govwww.rowanpubliclibrary.org
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