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Born 1856, Wernersville, PA; died 1922 Reading, PA

Goldman was born twenty-five miles from Reading in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. He became an apprentice in photography in 1876 and worked for a number of Reading photographers over the next fifteen years before setting up his own business in the city that he maintained until his death in 1922 … He served as the treasurer of the Photographer’s Association of the Middle Atlantic States. Goldman was also a 32° Mason, a Shriner, a member of the Elks, and an Odd Fellow. His 1922 obituary stated, "Billy Goldman, as his host of friends knew him, was one of the most popular and lovable men we have ever met and his death will be felt by many." In short, Goldman was seen as a pillar of society.


There were, however, two individuals in one. First there was William I. Goldman the upstanding local photographer who documented the citizens, their weddings, and social occasions. Then there was Billy Goldman, man of his times and its appetites, who we now know, used his camera, in secret, to capture the feminine beauty of the prostitutes who worked in his city. He did not distribute or sell them publicly. With an upstanding reputation to protect, Goldman ultimately made these photographs for his personal pleasure, and  they remained a secret for over a hundred and twenty years.


*Adapted from Robert Flynn Johnson’s introduction for the book “Working Girls” (An American Brothel, Circa 1892: The Secret Photographs of William Goldman). Gliteratti Editions, 2018. pp. 35-37.


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