You may have seen some of the images before – a man holding a basket over a 55-gallon steel drum of boiling water steaming crabs in Popes Creek, a young girl holding her hand to her mouth as she is crowned or a class of graduates taking their final step towards adulthood.
The Southern Maryland Studies Center (SMSC), housed at the College of Southern Marylands La Plata Campus, received these and thousands of other photographic images of life in Southern Maryland as part of the Thomas and Maxine Headen Collection, which was donated to the SMSC on Dec. 12 by their son, Thomas Peter Headen and his wife Jacqueline.
Thomas P. Headen (Sr.) was born Aug. 9, 1903 in Missouri. Prior to moving to Southern Maryland in 1950, Headen graduated from both the University of Missouri and New York University. One of his first journalism assignments, in a career spanning more than 50 years, was as a writer alongside Ernest Hemmingway at the Kansas City Star, a job that earned him $20 a week. In a few years, he moved to New York City where he would meet his wife Maxine Humeston and take a job at the New York Sun, where he stayed until he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943.
As a captain, Headen worked as a media specialist and was assigned to spearhead media relations after the invasion of Europe. His son recounts that in 1945 following the defeat of Germany, his father was given several assignments in information media including conducting a covert propaganda campaign to instill democratic thought in Germany, for which he received a bronze star. He also was instrumental in gathering, documenting and filming evidence of Nazi crimes against humanity for the Nuremberg War Trials. (These photos were donated July 11, 2006 to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.) After a brief retirement, the elder Headen, a lieutenant colonel, was called back to active-duty in 1950 to write a unified public relations policy for the Army, Navy and Air Force. He served for more than a year as the director of the publications division of the Federal Civil Defense Administration and was instrumental in the publication of the Duck and Cover Civil Defense Project and film, which featured Bert the Turtle.
In 1952, Headen resigned his post to return to civilian life and establish the Waldorf Leaf newspaper. After its purchase by the Times Crescent, he continued as the paper's editor. In his retirement, he worked on projects for the college and continued to write for the Times Crescent until his death in 1977.
His wife, Maxine, began her career as a teacher in Greeley, Colorado before moving to New York to pursue her interest in theater. Following her marriage to Thomas, Maxine raised two children, Judith and Peter, and followed her husband to numerous duty stations including Germany. Following Thomass retirement, the family settled in Charles County where they resided at Rose Hill before building Promise on Billingsley Road. Her son recalls that his mother became active in the Port Tobacco Players, earned a masters degree from Rutgers University, started the first Charles County bookmobile and worked as a traveling teacher in the area before being appointed librarian at the Walter Mitchell School, where her love of theater infused the teaching process. In 1974, the Port Tobacco Theatre and the Walter Mitchell library were dedicated in her memory.
The Thomas and Maxine Headen Collection contains 4,000 images (mostly negatives) of Charles County that were taken by Thomas and painstakingly catalogued by Maxine Headen, mostly as a hobby. According to their son, Peter, the collection was offered to area papers years ago but there were no takers. Then a month ago, he saw an ad in the paper requesting photos of Charles County to commemorate the countys 350th anniversary. He called and reached Michael Sullivan who is working on the countys commemorative book, Pathways to History and who helped arrange the donation to the SMSC.
People will be amazed by what they find in the collection. I have only seen maybe 1 percent and I am still shaking my head. This is the largest collection the SMSC has ever received and it will appeal to historians and community members alike, said Sullivan, who noted that the collection will be of particular interest to the African American community.
Charles County has had a large African American population from its earliest beginnings but unfortunately African Americans are not well-represented in our current photographic collections. The Thomas and Maxine Headen Collection contains everything from graduations at the then-segregated schools to NAACP events including civil rights marches and the freedom riders. The fact that Headen and his wife documented people and activities from all walks of Southern Maryland life, in addition to the sheer size of the collection, makes it valuable and unique to the SMSC, said Patricia McGarry, coordinator for the SMSC. McGarry noted that the negatives are already being scanned and images will start appearing on the SMSC website starting in mid-January.
My parents would be thrilled. They pushed for social change and encouraged people to consider the consequences of their actions and or inaction. In a sense, they grew up here along with the county. They documented what it was like during segregation and how it changed. Initially, when people asked where Charles County was my father would reply, 100 years from Washington, D.C. but that has all changed and we are all better for it and they would be proud, said Peter Headen, who noted that he would like to see people fully utilize the photos in the collection.
There is so much here for people to explore. [In addition to the African American photos,] there is a 30-year history of houses in Charles County, events and activities including Marshall Hall, county fairs, school graduations, tobacco barns, 4- H and even portraits and family photos, said Headen.
For information on the Thomas and Maxine Headen Collection or any of the holdings at the Southern Maryland Studies Center at CSM call 301-934-7606 or 301-870-2309, Ext. 7606 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7606 for St. Marys County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7606 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/library/smsc/.