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George Masa Collection

Identifier: MSS 80-29

Content Description

The George Masa collection is divided into the following groups: photographs and photo-albums, postcards, newspaper clipping notebooks, and books.

The major grouping is the newspaper clipping notebooks, mainly taken from the Asheville Citizen during Masa's Asheville period. These notebooks concern the Cherokee Indians, lumbering, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and western North Carolina themes.

The photographs are of western North Carolina scenes, including a Mt. Mitchell photo-album and a mountain scenes notebook. There are also a number of group photographs that include Masa as well as a 1933 aerial photo of Asheville.

Several pocket sized notebooks perhaps contain a trail of photograph references.


  • 1915 - 1934


Language of Materials

50% of the collection is in Japanese and 50% of the collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Use

No publication fee is made for use of Western Carolina University Library special collections material in scholarly publications. The Library retains sole right to judge what constitutes a non-scholarly or commercial publication. Permission to publish commercially, in circumstances where the Library is qualified to grant it, requires proper authorization. Please contact Special Collections at for more information.

Biographical / Historical

There is little information about George Masa's life prior to his arrival in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1915. It is known that he was a native of Japan and had been a mining engineer student prior to his immigration. After Masa came to the United States, he Americanized his name -- Masabara Izuka -- to George Masa.

In Asheville he found work as a valet at the Grove Park Inn. Later he opened a photographic studio, the Asheville Photo Service.

Masa was an active member and one of the founders of the Carolina Appalachian Trail Club. This group was instrumental in establishing the Appalachian Trail. Masa was credited with having a remarkable knowledge of the southern Appalachians and with solving many trail location problems.

Masa became a leader, along with his friend Horace Kephart (see MSS 80-24), in the movement for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He became so involved that he neglected his commercial work, preferring to go on photographic trips into the Smokies, sometimes waiting for days to get the right photographic effect. He hiked the woods with Kephart and with national park officials on their inspection trips and provided photographs to stir public interest in the park. Masa was also named to the Nomenclature Committee of the National Park Commission to complete a list of place names in the national park.

On June 21, 1933, George Masa died of influenza. He had no relatives in the United States, but it was believed he was survived by a brother in Japan. Like most of his early life, Masa's age at death was a mystery. His friends felt that Masa was in his forties at the time of his death.


6.25 Linear Feet

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Hunter Library - Special Collections Repository

Cullowhee United States