In 1888, before streetcars ran in San Francisco or New Orleans, Richmond, Virginia built the first successful electric streetcar system in America. Driving the streetcar was my great-grandfather's job but his passion was photography and his camera rode by him on the streetcar route. I recently discovered nearly 3,000 photos and negatives that provide a rarely-seen visual record of life in the early 1900s.
Richmond has stories to tell and the Stilson photos are part of that. I want Harry’s pictures to be seen, to be a learning tool and a way for Richmonders to connect with who we were a century ago.To accomplish this, I've compiled oral histories of elderly Richmonders. I wrote my first book, From a Richmond Streetcar, based on Stilson photos, which was released last January. My second book concentrates on the West Clay line, which included historic Jackson Ward, a neighborhood of African Americans and Jewish immigrants.
I've written the text and assembled my team for layout and printing. I now need oral histories transcribed and funds to complete the project. My website has attracted readers across the country. I've identified subjects in the pictures and gathered stories from relatives. One of my sources even knew my great-grandfather, who let him "drive" the streetcar. It sounds like fiction: while sharing the pictures at the Jewish Community Center, I overheard a 94 year old man saying "I knew a streetcar man named Stilson. He let me drive the streetcar." Morris Goldberg was talking about my great-grandfather, a streetcar driver who died in 1934! Incredible, but it happened. And it's in the book. All of it. I just need the financial means to complete the publishing process and that's where Kickstarter comes in.
Risks and challenges
My first book was published by a small publisher so I did a lot more than writing. I am familiar with the time necessary prior to printing as well as the marketing and follow-up involved in publicizing a book. My friends and I performed those functions on my first book, including contacting local media and scheduling presentations to educate and entertain audiences.
Creating interest is easy because the pictures are fascinating- everything from African-American soldiers returning from World War I to cobblestone work and an airship on our state capitol lawn. Articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper (front page) which were picked up by the Associated Press, our local Style Magazine, a segment on our local PBS station, local television shows, podcasts; all this media attention was because of our efforts. We've already started doing the same for this book.
As for possible mishaps, we've done everything possible to prevent them. The printing company produced notecards of Stilson photos for us so we are comfortable with their reliability and quality. The editor is well-respected and I've worked with him before. I'm well-organized because I'd rather be over-prepared than unpleasantly surprised. This attention to detail that I bring to my writing and publishing reduces challenges often experienced by writers.
Finally, I've been self-employed and a single mother for almost 30 years. If that doesn't teach a person to be flexible and creative, nothing will.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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