The Hays photograph collection –
Hagerstown and surrounding Washington County
In 1869 W. L. Hays began a stationery shop in Hagerstown, selling a variety of
goods including books, wall paper, slates and slate pencils. An advertisement
from 1874 shows a McGuffey Reader for 18 cents and the second reader for
35 cents. A 1888 column for the company in The Evening Globe offered
photograph albums, bibles, umbrella stands, cigar stands and ornamental hat
racks and whisk holders.
The business later passed to his oldest son, Rufus, who ran R. M. Hays and
Bros. for many years. The 1893 Hagerstown City Directory (also on this website)
showed the involvement of the family in the business:
Hays Chester R, (R M Hays & Bros) res 24 W Antietam
Hays LeRoy, (R M Hays & Bros) collector Globe res 24 W Antietam
Hays Rufus M, (R M Hays & Bros) res 9 S Potomac
Hays R M & Bros, (Rufus M, Ira W, Chester R and LeRoy Hays) books and
stationery 28 W Washington. See advt
Hays Susan Mrs, res 24 W Antietam
Hays Ira W, (R M Hays & Bros) pub Daily and Weekly Globe res 22 W Antietam.
(Ira began the newspaper in 1879 and ran it until 1911)
The W. L. Hays and later R. M. Hays store was located on West Washington
Street, Hagerstown, next to the Washington House, which burned in May 1879 and
was replaced by the Baldwin Hotel. In an article in the Hagerstown Morning
Herald of March 1937, Chester Hays, then the President of the firm,
noted that the store was the only one in the city that has been at the same
location for 68 years. He described the early days of the company:
“Of course there were no trolleys in Hagerstown in those days," Mr. Hays
declared. "People had not even started to think about automobiles. There were
no electric lights and no telephones. We had coal oil- lamps in the store. Out
in front, when I first went into the business, there was a watering trough for
horses." Mr. Hays recalled that horses used to be tied to the posts in front of
the store which supported an awning. The store was opened in the morning at 6
o’clock and remained open until nearly midnight. There were no typewriters or
adding machines and the bookkeeper was given some extra work.
This member of the firm remembers when the first automobile came to the city.
It was an old wood burner and was on exhibition at the Academy of Music.
Bicycles at one time were very popular. Mr. Hays had one of the first bicycles.
A toll was charged for the bicyclists.
The Hays family owned the business until 1949, when E. Leister Mobley, a
son-in-law of Frank Hays, bought a half share in the business. The Hays store
continued to serve the Hagerstown community until 1985.
The photographs were gathered by the Hays family. Most are early 20th century
photographs of buildings in Hagerstown and the scenery of the surrounding
county. Postcards became popular after 1896 when Congress permitted privately
printed cards to be mailed for one cent. Stationery stores at the time sold
postcards, and R. M. Hays and Bros. obtained the rights to make postcards of
the images of Hagerstown photographers like B. W. T. Phreaner and W. B. King.
Several of the photographs in this collection had instructions written on the
back – for example: Take off skyline and foreground to make this size,
(attached is a R. M. Hays postcard). There were also orders to block out
electric lamp and telegraph pole, presumably to create a more
attractive image. Some of the photographs show the start of editing the image
to make a postcard – people are blacked out, the color changed. Edited or
unedited, they capture a piece of Washington County history when horses and
trolleys were the means of transportation.
The collection was lent to Western Maryland Regional Library by Ellen DiBiase and Lewis Mountcastle of Boonsboro, Maryland, descendents of the Hays family. The assistance of Lewis Mountcastle is much appreciated. Thanks too to the Washington County Historical Society, St John's Lutheran Church and Alan Clingan, author of The Baldwin Story.
Fried, Frederick. Artists in wood.; American carvers of cigar-store Indians,
show figures, and circus wagons. New York: C. N. Potter, 1970.
Harwood, Herbert H. Blue Ridge trolley : the Hagerstown & Frederick Railway
: the heart of Maryland route. San Marino, Ca. : Golden West Books,
Seal, Rector R. Maryland automobile history, 1900 to 1942. Chicago :
Adams Press, 1985.