Friday, June 26, 2009

Bicycle Betty

I bought a packet of negatives advertised as being farm scenes from the 1930's. This is the only image that I was able to print before the lab I was working at went under. The seller was from Iowa, though that doesn't mean that this picture was taken in Iowa. And no, I have no idea what this young ladies name was. Betty just goes well with bicycle.

A 1937 Wedding

I like these wedding photos because of the shots of the couple arriving for the ceremony. Dated May, 1937, the Honeymoon, with the couple wearing suits and dresses in the tropics, isn't' something we'd see today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


One of the things there will never be a shortage of are military pictures. In the twentieth century alone, we managed to slaughter hundreds of millions of people in one war after another. An American soldier practising with his bayonet. My guess is around the World War 2 era, sent to his family or girl friend. The thing about military pictures, is the wondering if this was the last image taken of this man before his death in combat.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coast Radio

This image is a perfect example of just how far an old photo can take a collector like me. I bought it because, as a cyclist, I love old bikes. The woman is riding a very distinct machine. The angle is just off enough that it can't be identified with any precision. Once beyond the bikes, things get even more interesting.

On the back of the picture, there is a processor's stamp. "PRINTED APR 8 1940 THE OWL DRUG COMPANY." That set me off in an entirely new direction. The Owl Drug Company was founded in 1892, in San Fransisco, CA. It would go on to become one of the biggest drug store companies in the world and would be taken over by Rexall in 1920. The Coast Radio store could be the name of a chain, or it could indicate that this picture was taken in an American coastal city like San Fransisco, or Seattle. Under the silk sign it says Rayons and Wools. Is the store next to it Molly Mae or perhaps Holly or Polly Mae? Is there a Masonic sign next to the silk shop? Quite a lot of information for a photograph that measures 2 3/8 x 4 inches.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Two From Maurice Seymour

Maurice Seymour was a Russian immigrant who opened a photography studio in Chicago in the 1920's. He specialized in theatrical portraits. The seller told me that these two images were of a stripper, and taken during the 1950's. There was type on the bottom, Pat Windsor. I've done an Internet search, and couldn't find any trace of this lady.
Time for a correction. According to the comment left by Mr. Charles Rosenberg, Pat Windsor, also known as Pat Windsor Mitchell was a singer. The dealer who sold me these photos was wrong about her being a stripper.

The Cleveland Motor Company

Three nice little urban pictures. I have no idea what city these pictures were taken in, but the ad in the window is for a Cleveland Automobile. Frederick C. Chandler founded the Chandler Automobile Company in Cleveland, Ohio in 1913. In 1919, he founded the Cleveland Automobile Comapny to make a lower cost car. He merged them in 1926, and sold out to Huppmobile in 1928. $550 is about a third of what a Cleveland went for new.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Beautiful Couple, 1939

One of the problems of being a collector of old photos is in the dating of images. Sometimes, the photographer writes something down or the lab stamps a date on the back, but more often than not it's a matter of guessing about clothes and hair styles. In the second image from this series, the lady is leaning against a wall, visible in the background is Morris Gest's Midget Town. Also known as Morris Gest's Little Miracle Town. Gest was a theatrical producer who had a distinguished career in New York presenting plays by the Moscow Art Theater, Max Reinhardt, and Elenore Duse. Things slowed down for him during the great depression, and for the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, he ended up putting on a midget show.
In looking at old photos, I often find myself thinking about historical proximity. In 1939, Japan had invaded China, and Germany was about to invade Poland. The gentleman in the first picture may or may not have ended up in combat. He may or may not have been wounded or died. His wife may have ended up building airplanes, or may have stayed at home. Of course, I can't tell what happened to them from these pictures, but I also can't help speculating. Whatever happened, it all changed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cat Fight!

These have got to be from the swinging seventies, and the sexual revolution. As a long time collector of old photographs, and as a former lab tech, I can attest to the fact that sexual imagery in photography goes back to age of Daguerre. The one thing I always ask myself when I see something like this is, "Was it done by an amateur for his own private pleasure, or was it a commercially made photo, printed for under the counter distribution." The only clue with these images is that one of them is fogged, which indicates that it might have been an amateur effort.

Alabama Police Wedding

I don't have a lot of wedding pictures in my collection, but this one was too interesting to pass on. Probably from the mid to late fifties to early sixties, this image shows the groom and best man in Mobile, Alabama Police uniforms. One of the things that, as a collector of old photographs, I often find myself doing is speculating about the people seen. These two gentleman, officers of a deep south police force, during the civil rights movement; looking at it, I couldn't help but wonder if the groom went from his honeymoon to beating civil rights marchers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Old Heidelberg, Chicago, Illinois

I have a number of these old souvenir photo folders in my collection. It was once fairly common for people to go out to night clubs or restaurants, where a photographer, usually a pretty young woman, would take peoples pictures for a small fee. The perfect remembrance of a night out.
I've done a little web surfing and have found plenty of references to an Old Heidelberg restaurant at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. This could be the same place, but there is a Sept. 20, 1949 stamp behind the photo. Printed on the back cover, "IMPORTANT WASH this photograph in running cold water for 30 minutes as soon as possible. This will make it permanent." What's really interesting about this particular photo is that there seems to be an African-American lady standing just behind the seated gentleman.

Men In Skirts

Entertainers or two guys on a lark. Who knows, maybe they lost a bet. Perhaps they just like to wear women's clothing. I spent years working in photo labs, and I don't think I ever had a week go by when I didn't get some sort of picture of naked people, people in some sort of sexual situation or men dressed as women. My guess is that this photo was probably taken during the twenties or thirties. I can see the skirts, but the shoes?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One Young Lady Over 20 Years

You don't find a collection like this too often. Photographs of the same young lady, in essentially the same pose, taken over a period of twenty years. I haven't spent a lot of time around children in my life, so I'm not very good at estimating their ages....I'm making a wild guess that the first picture was taken around age five. So that would make the last image of a young lady aged about twenty five.
There are dates written on the borders. In order, 1922, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1935, two from 1937, 1938, two from 1940, and 1942. Born around the end of World War 1, the last picture begins not long after the United States entry into World War 2.

Montana Glass Negatives

One of the reasons that I hate antique dealers is that they break up collections of photographs to increase their profits. I purchased these images in Montana. It's kind of the dream of all photo collectors to discover a large collection of images from an unknown, though clearly, talented photographer. Looking at this group of images, I think I may have found one, but with only a handful of the negatives still left together, we'll never know. I think the image of the farm family one of the strongest photographs I've ever seen. The portraits of the cowboy and beekeeper are amazing. I showed these to a movie costumer who dated the clothing to the late 19th to early 20th century. Because there is no mother in the farm scene, I think the photographer might have been the mother, making her glass negaties, at home, in the kitchen. Click on images to see them in a larger window.

I used to work in a photo lab where I had access to an 8x10 enlarger. I was able to use it to make high quality blow-ups. These images were made directly from the negatives, rather than copy negs made from contact prints.