When Carl Smith Looked Through the Lens of His Camera,
He Found a Fascinating World
He saw scenes of hometown life, massive engineering projects, and a precious daughter. Because of his talent with the camera we are able to get a glimpse into one man's life in Fayetteville in the first half of the 20th century.
William Carl Smith (1900-1973) was born in Farmington to Moses Elbert "Eb" Smith and Minnie Lee Blackburn, a member of the prominent Blackburn family at War Eagle. When Eb died a few years after Carl's birth, Minnie moved the family to Fayetteville.
Carl graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1922 with a degree in civil engineering. He worked on several large construction projects in the area, including the Veterans Hospital in Fayetteville and the parks at Devil's Den and Lake Wedington. In 1926 he married Frances Slaughter with whom he had a daughter, Ada Lee.
He was a military man, serving as an Army officer in Europe during World War II, where he received several honors including the Bronze Star and the British Distinguished Service Order. Following the war he was a commanding officer in the 142nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Arkansas National Guard for six years.
In later years he served as water superintendant and city engineer for the City of Fayetteville and as director of Fayetteville Building and Loan. Through it all he kept his camera at the ready.
We have Minnie to thank for inspiring Carl's interest in photography. She loved to take photos with the camera Eb gave her, no doubt inspiring her young son. Our most grateful thanks goes to Carl's daughter Ada Lee Smith Shook who shared memories of her family and generously donated hundreds of his images to the Shiloh Museum.
Above: Carl Smith at the Slaughter home, Fayetteville, about 1925. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-37)
Left: Carl Smith's engineering drawings, Lake Wedington project materials, drawing and lettering pens and instruments, and slide rule. Ada Lee Shook Collection