Carl Ackerman's Boneyfiddle

Visualizing Portsmouth in 1903

In the spring of 1993, Portsmouth Murals Inc, launched plans for their first mural, a birds-eye-view of Portsmouth in 1903. Imogene Howland chaired the Art Committee, which included Carl Ackerman, whose collection of historic photographs provided the basis for Robert Dafford’s murals. In his history of the murals, Robert L. Morton noted the Art Committee “looked at hundreds of photographs of the area before deciding on the 1903 panoramic view.” And, he quoted Howland, who reported: “We are especially grateful to Carl Ackerman for his valuable assistance in allowing the Committee to brows his photographic collection.”

Dafford’s mural was dedicated on May 27, 1993, “with a large gathering of over 150 people. Robert Morton served as the master of ceremonies and announced plans for a total of 50 murals, which would be completed over the next “4 to 6 years.” Robert Dafford spoke, praising “the community’s interest and cooperation. He commented on the project being made possible through donations from citizens.” County Commissioners Skip Riffe, William Ogg, Sr., and John Knauff, along with Mayor Franklin Gerlach, and Dr. Louis Chaboudy, also spoke, lending their support to a project that promoted the economic redevelopment of Portsmouth’s historic Boneyfiddle District.

From the first mural forward, the photographic collection of Carl Ackerman, which has since been preserved and digitized by the Southern Ohio Museum, would serve as the primary source of images in the Dafford murals. The Ackerman Collection, especially his images that document the city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were based in the photographic books and post cards of Henry A. Lorberg, a city booster, journalist, and publisher, who specialized in colorized post cards and other souvenir books.

It is to Ackerman and Lorberg (and ultimately Dafford) that we owe much of our current visualization of late-nineteenth century Portsmouth and its historic Boneyfiddle District. The full title of the first mural reads: “A View of Portsmouth from the Kentucky Side on its 100th Anniversary, Painted from Turn-of-the-Century Photographs in the Carl Ackerman Collection."