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Walter Aegerter


Photographer Walter Aegerter (July 8, 1894-May 28, 1965) was born in Helvetia, Randolph County. He was the youngest son of Gottfried and Marianna Dubach Aegerter, who immigrated from Switzerland to Helvetia, in 1885. In addition to farming, Gottfried was an amateur photographer, an avocation he passed to Walter.

Gottfried and Walter took their hobby seriously, constructing a building on their farm that included both a studio, with a window facing north for good portrait light, and a light-tight darkroom where they developed their glass plate negatives and made photographic prints. By the 1890s, the Aegerters were turning out dozens of photographs of local families and the community. Subject matter included farming homesteads, family groups, celebrations, portraits and everyday scenes. At his death, Walter Aegerter left a large collection of hundreds of images documenting life in this small, German Swiss settlement between the years 1890 and 1930. The glass plate negatives survive to this day, and many photographs are housed at the West Virginia State Archives in Charleston and the West Virginia and Regional History Collection at West Virginia University. Aegerter died in Upshur County.

Written by David Sutton


  1. Sutton, David H. One's Own Hearth Is Like Gold: A History of Helvetia. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

  2. Sutton, David H. A West Virginia Swiss Community: The Aegerter Photographs of Helvetia, Randolph County. Goldenseal, April-June 1980.

  3. Sutton, David H. Portrait of a Community: The Aegerter Photographs of Helvetia. Permanent exhibit. Helvetia Community Hall. Helvetia.