Bathing in Mobile Bay, 1909

Inspect an early 1900s photograph of summer swimmers enjoying a forgotten Fairhope pier.

Old photo of swimmers enjoying Manure Wharf
Photo courtesy Fairhope Single Tax Corporation Archives

Beating the summer heat has always been a priority for the residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties, as demonstrated by this ca. 1909 photograph of Fairhope swimmers enjoying — Manure Wharf? Constructed in 1908, the wharf was intended to receive manure from Mobile with the purpose of boosting the agricultural prospects of the Fairhope Single-Tax Colony, founded just 12 years prior. Fairhope’s Red Wharf is visible in the background; the pierhead and some of the pier was destroyed when the General Lee bay boat burned in 1910. Its successor, the White Pier, was replaced in 1968 by the concrete pier that we know today as the Fairhope Municipal Pier.

The Picture Man

Silverhill The photographer behind this image, Frank Stewart, moved to the area in 1903. He bought 40 acres in Silverhill and began life as a farmer.

Photography During this time, Stewart, who was blind in one eye, became fascinated with photography. In 1913, he moved to 105 S. Section Street in Fairhope to set up shop. 

Postcards Stewart became known for his postcards, allowing for a message to be written on the backside of a Fairhope photo. Most of Stewart’s work can be identified by the white title painted with a liquid opaque at the bottom right.

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A Day with the Picture Man Stewart, advertising himself as ‘The Picture Man,’ traveled in a horse-drawn buggy as he recorded the everyday activities of Baldwin County residents. 

Death and Legacy Stewart died in 1942, but his pictures live on as an important record of Fairhope’s earliest history.

Read more about Stewart in the book “Stewart the Picture Man” by Donnie Barrett.

By the Numbers

1907 Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman is arrested on a Boston beach for wearing a swimsuit revealing her arms, legs and neck.

500 The population of Fairhope around the time that this photograph was taken (1908 – 1910).

4,500 Acres of land still owned today by the Fairhope Single-Tax Corporation, inside and outside the city limits. Lessees still lease the land via a 99-year lease and own all improvements outright. 

677 million The number of postcards mailed in the U.S. in 1908, kicking off what is known as the Golden Age of American Postcards.  

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