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BCA News: Fall 2020

One of Louis Schmidt's Etchings
Bob Turner, RBP, FBPA

When most BCA members hear the name Louis Schmidt they typically think of our Association's highest honor: the Louis Schmidt Award. Or perhaps they are aware Mr. Schmidt was one of our founding members in 1931 and that he also served as our second president. But beyond those facts most members are not aware Mr. Schmidt was a accomplished artist in his own right when not running the photography department at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City.

Louis Schmidt was known for making etchings of various iconic landmarks and landscapes located throughout greater New England when on vacation. He would then use the etchings as the source to print greeting cards which he mailed to friends, especially for holidays. But only a few of the original cards have survived since his passing in 1945. However, a few BCA members were the lucky bidders at the 1992 Annul Meeting auction when a handful of the cards, donated by Lew Koster, RBP, FBPA., came-up for auction.

The auctioned cards caused great interest and bidding was very competitive for the coveted Schmidt mementos. And today the cards are now in the private collections of a number of Emeritus Members. The late Wil Renner, RBP, FBPA was one of the fortunate bidders to take home a card which depicted a very old covered bridge. After Wil's passing in 2009, his wife, Kate asked my help in the final disposition of Wil's photography equipment, books, and the Schmidt card.

Covered Bridge Etching by Louis Schmidt

All of the equipment and books, except the card, were donated for auction at BIOCOMM 2011 with the proceeds going to BCA 's Endowed Fund for Education. The card illustrating the covered bridge was withheld from auction as I was still attempting to get the bridge's identification confirmed. I contacted a number of covered bridge societies for assistance, but without success, Finally, with help via social media (Facebook), I made contact with the group Covered Bridges. I posted a photo of the card on their site and requested help with the bridge's identification. Within a few days I had an answer…bridge identified!

Scott Wagner responded: "This appears to be Benton or Bank Street Bridge, over Mascoma River, which stood in Lebanon, NH from 1889 until it was replaced in 1934. This bridge had an unusual truss design that is shared with only two other bridges that I am aware of (both are still standing) but does not have a designer's name associated with it." Scott was also kind enough to include the URL to Covered Spans of Yesteryear which shows four photos of the original bridge from different angles and additional data about the bridge and a reference source.

Thanks to Scott Wagner, the mystery was solved regarding the bridge's identity. Plus, based on the fact that the bridge was replaced in 1934, Mr. Schmidt had to have made the etching before that date. I like to think he made the etching in 1931...the year BPA began!

As to the other etchings from the 1992 auction held by BCA Members, perhaps their stories will be told in future BCA News articles.

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