Friday, 3 July 2015

Sepia Saturday 286: The Importance of Deciphering a Hasty Scrawl

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

I spend lot of time trying to decipher almost illegible scrawls inscribed on the back of old photographs, often the only clue to the subject matter of the image on the front. Quite frequently, it comes down to whether a flick of the pen was the start of a new letter or part of the previous one. There's not much point in dwelling on the matter of whether a little more care could have been taken at the time. You just get on with it and work with what you have.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Six years ago a tattered and threadbare velvet-covered album of family photographs came into my possession, having originally been purchased at a yard sale in eastern Pennsylvania. Jack Armstrong had intended to research it himself, but after several years the almost total lack of any clues left its origins as mysterious as when he bought it.

A number of the portraits in the album had been taken by studios in Derbyshire (England) - hence my interest - but all provenance had been lost, and clues to the identity of the subjects were almost completely non-existent. I subsequently used the album as a photo-archival exercise, with several articles published here on the standard photographing, scanning and documentation procedures that I use for such projects (here, here and here). I also used a photograph from the album as the introductory image for a Sepia Saturday article (SS 170) that I wrote about gamekeepers.

Image © 2015 Brett Payne
Geographical distribution of photographs (click image to enlarge)

In addition to scanning and documenting the collection, I also did some geographical analysis of the studios at which the portraits were taken. As shown in the pie chart above most of the 55 portraits were taken in the United Kingdom, and of those the majority came from Derbyshire (10) and Staffordshire (9). In the United States the bulk of the portraits were taken in Clevaland, Ohio (8).

My initial analysis suggested, therefore, that the family which owned the album may have emigrated from one of several locations in Staffordshire or Derbyshire to Cleveland, Ohio at some time within the date range of the portraits in the album.

Image © 2015 Brett Payne
Dates of portrait sittings (click image to enlarge)
N.B. 5-yr moving average of mid-points of date estimates

I then constructed a graph showing the frequency of portrait sittings over time, using five year moving averages of the mid-points of the estimated date ranges. I realise that the logic and methodology of using five-year moving averages to represent date range estimates is a bit dodgy, to say the least, and I have since revised my date estimates for several photos, but I hoped that this would smooth out the graphs and at least give an an overall visual impression of the main periods that the images were taken, which it does fairly well.

The graph (or chart, if you prefer) demonstrates that the US photos start to appear in the early 1880s, while from the early 1890s onwards, the preponderance of UK photos diminishes markedly. To me this suggests an immigration date range from the early 1880s to the early 1890s. It is conceivable that one part of the family immigrated to the US in the early 1880s, while a second part arrived in the early 1890s. This could have been a husband and wife's family arriving at different times, or indeed something far more complicated.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Cabinet portrait of unidentified group of women, c.1889-1893
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

There are very few inscriptions on the photographs, and none at all on the album pages. The only one that appears to offer any immediate clues to the identity of the subjects is on the back of a cabinet portrait of a large group of ten women taken in the very late 1880s or early 1890s by a professional, if somewhat hastily put together, studio. It has been mounted onto a standard cabinet card mount with no photographer's name, although the presence of a royal seal in the scroll work design strongly implies a United Kingdom origin.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Inscription on reverse of cabinet card mount

The text, handwritten in pencil, appears to read as follows:
H.H. Henschel
1223 E 111th St
10 x 12 Sep vig
The first line is almost certainly a name, H.H. Henschel or conceivably "Herschel," and is probably the client's name, not necessarily that of the subject. The second line, I think, comprises an address, (number) 1223 East 111th Street, while the third I have deciphered as instructions for a copy enlargement of the portrait to be made, 10" x 12" Sepia vignette. At the edge of the front of the card mount is a small arrow marked in pen or pencil indicating that the central figure is the one which is to be enlarged.

The surname appears to be of Germanic origin, and the address is in a style more likely to have originated in the United States than in the United Kingdom. I came to the conclusion, therefore, that although the original portrait had been taken somewhere in the UK, the vignetted portrait enlargement was requested by someone who no longer had access to the original studio negatives. In other words, it may have been written, and therefore the enlargement made, some years after the original portrait had been taken. It could have been a simple framed vignette or a much more elaborate glazed and framed, colourised portrait, examples of which I have posted here and, with my Tauranga Historical Society hat on, here.

Image © The National Archives & courtesy of Ancestry.com
Census enumeration for 1221 E 111th St, Cleveland City, 23 Apr 1910
Image © The National Archives & courtesy of Ancestry.com

Given that Cleveland, Ohio features so prominently in the US portraits, I searched for the surname "Henschel" in census records for that city. Almost immediately I came up with the following spectacular discovery at 1221 East 111th Street, Cleveland in 1910:

Gifford Frederick / Head / 48 / Widr / b Eng / Imm 1892 / China Artist
Gifford Frederick J / Son / 10 / S / b OH
Henschel Herbert / SoninLaw / 23 / M 2y / b OH / Auto Co. Electrician
Henschel Agnes H / Dau / 22 / M 2y / b Eng
Henschel Herbert G / GdSon / 11m / S / b OH

Here was a family that fitted the bill, having arrived in the United States in 1892, settled in Cleveland, with a daughter who married Herbert Henschel in about 1908, and were living at in East 111th Street in 1910 - although at number 1221 instead of 1223. It seemed almost too good to be true but, as I investigated the family further through census records and the discovery of online family trees, pieces continued to fall into place.

Image courtesy of Ancestry.com
The Henschel family arrived on S.S. Cimbria in 1881
Image courtesy of Ancestry.com

Wilhelm (William) Henschel and his family emigrated from Berlin, Prussia in 1881. After a fifteen day voyage across the North Atlantic on board the Hamburg America Line steamship Cimbria, his wife Wilhelmina (Minnie) and three children arrived in New York on 6 October and joined William in Cleveland, Ohio.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Garfield Monument, Cleveland, Ohio, taken c. May 1890
Cabinet card by unknown photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Having arrived in the United States only a few weeks after the assassination of President Garfield, whose home town was Cleveland, it was natural that when a monument to him was unveiled at the Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland and dedicated in May 1890, the Henschel family should preserve a keepsake of such an historic occasion in their family album.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified child in christening gown, c.1889-1892
Cabinet card by J.M. Tuttle, 1672 St Clair St, Cleveland, Ohio
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

In the mean time, the Henschel family had grown. A fourth son William was born in September 1884 and a fifth Herbert Henry Henschel on 24 June 1888, nearly seven years after settling in Cleveland. Their only daughter Mamie arrived in July 1891. This baby in a christening gown could be either Herbert Henry or Mamie.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified woman, taken c.1891-1892 (click images to enlarge)
Cabinet cards by Rynald H. Krumhar, 225 Superior St, Cleveland, Ohio
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The two portraits of a middle-aged woman with a very close-fitting hair style and almost as severe an expression were taken by Rynald H. Krumhar who, according to Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary, operated a studio in Cleveland on his own in 1891 and 1892 before teaming up with his brother Robert F. Krumhar between 1892 and 1895. Minnie Henschel (1848-) was in her early forties at the time these two portaits were taken, and I believe must be the prime candidate.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified man, taken c. 1887-1892
Cabinet card by Copeland, 588 Pearl Street, Cleveland, Ohio
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

A head and shoulders vignetted portrait of a similarly aged gentleman with a luxuriant moustache and goatee may have been taken slightly earlier. I don't have dates of operation of the Cleveland photographer Copeland, but from the style of mount, portrait and clothing I suspect it dates to the late 1880s or early 1890s. William Henschel Sr. (1850-) is the obvious choice here, as he too would have been about 40 years old.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified young man, taken c. 1894-1897
Cabinet card by Pifer & Becker Photo-Palace, Wilshire Building, 94-100 Superior St, Cleveland, Ohio
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This young man appears to be aged in his late teens, and probably visited Pifer & Becker's Photo-Palace studio in the mid-1890s. I suspect that it is one of Herbert's older brothers, Max, Hugo or Fred, all of whom were born in Germany.

Image courtesy of Ancestry.com
Image courtesy of Ancestry.com
Passenger manifest for S.S. Etruria, arr. New York 27 Feb 1893

On 27 February 1893 Frederick Thomas Gifford (1862-1932) and his wife Ellen arrived at Ellis Island, New York on board the SS Etruria from Liverpool, England with their four year old daughter Agnes Hammersley Gifford (1888-1967), giving Cleveland, Ohio as their destination on the ship's manifest.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Vignette of unidentified woman marked on cabinet card

Frederick Thomas and Ellen Gifford had a son, also named Frederick, born in Cleveland in July 1899. Their daughter Agnes married Herbert Henschel in Hutchinson, Kansas in February 1907. Ellen Gifford died in April 1908 at 1221 East 111st Street, Cleveland, and was buried at Lakeview Cemetery. It was to this same address that the vignetted portrait enlargement - perhaps looking something like the image I created in Photoshop, above - was sent.

We also know that the widowed Fred Gifford, his son and the Henschel family were living there in 1910. By February 1913, when Herbert and Agnes' second child was born, the Henschels had moved to Indiana. It seems a distinct possibility, therefore, that the enlargement is of Agnes's mother Ellen Gifford (1866-1908), and that it was commissioned some time in the five years between her death in April 1908 and their arrival in Indiana in February 1913.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified child, taken c. 1892-1895
Carte de visite by Krumhar Bros., 225 Superior St, Cleveland, Ohio
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

When this warmly dressed child visited the Krumhar studio on Cleveland's Superior Street both of the Krumhar brothers were in attendance, dating it to between 1892 and 1895. Probably aged between 7 and 9 years old, and I'm guessing a girl because a boy is unlikely to be in a dress at that age, my estimate is that she would have been born circa 1883-1888. I believe this could be be Agnes H. Gifford.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified group of 2 women & 2 children, taken c. 1892-1895
Sixth-plate tintype (63 x 84mm) by unidentified photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Inserted within the album are three loose, roughly trimmed sixth-plate tintypes, all taken in studio settings but without any indication of location. The clothing worn by the two women in this group portrait suggests they were taken in the early to mid-1890s, a time when the tintype was far more popular in North America than in England. The woman from the vignette appears seated on the right, wearing a broad-brimmed light-coloured hat, while the child from the Krumhar Bros. portrait is seated at left, also with a very flat hat. Are these two Ellen Gifford and her daughter Agnes? I think so, but then who might the other woman and younger child be?

Image courtesy of Ancestry.com
The Gifford family at 125 Becker Av, Cleveland City, 13 June 1900

The answer to the identity of the other child may lie in the 1900 Census record, which shows the Gifford family living at 125 Becker Avenue, Cleveland. In addition to (Frederick) Thomas, Ellen and Agnes, their ten month-old son Frederick J. is shown as having born in July 1899, probably too late to be the younger child in the tintype portrait. However, from the figures in the columns to the right of her age (Married for 13 years, Mother of 4 children, of which 2 living), we can infer that Ellen had two further children who died young. The younger child could be one of those who died, or alternatively belongs to the other woman who is standing at the back.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified young man, taken c. 1915-1925
Cabinet card (Carbonette) by Wendel Studio, 13 Avenue A, New York
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This very smartly dressed young man with a bowtie, fedora and a rose in his buttonhole probably visited the Wendel Studio in New York for a portrait in the late 1920s or early 1920s. He looks to me to be in his late teens, perhaps between 17 and 20 years old, so I estimate that he was born c.1895-1908. The birth date of Frederick J. Gifford (1899-1959) lies well within this range; he married in 1930 and died at Jamestown, New York in November 1959. His father had also died at Jamestown in 1932.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Card mount (114 x 182mm) with no photograph, c.1910-1925
By the Globe Photo Co., 309 Main St., Jamestown, N.Y.
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

My last image for the moment is, in fact, not a photograph at all. This card mount from the Globe Photo Co. studio in Jamestown, New York has lost its contents, so we may never know whose face was framed within it. However I believe that it probably originally contained a postcard format portrait, and the style of mount suggests to me a date of perhaps the 1910s or early 1920s. I found several postcard format portraits from this studio on the web, and they come from a similar era.


I have no doubt that at this point several readers will be thinking that I have amassed a good deal of circumstantial evidence, and may even have indulged in a fair amount of speculation, but have presented little in the way of proof except for the single inscription. To my mind that inscription, and more specifically the juxtaposition of name and address, establishes the connection between that particular portrait and the Henschel-Gifford family without a doubt.

From that point, I agree that I'm on much more shaky ground, but I hope you'll bear with me as I continue to build up a family tree, and attempt to link portraits to individuals within that tree. Part of the difficulty is that one has to not only populate the family tree, but also show that individuals were in the right place at the right time to have their portraits taken. It's a lengthy and time consuming exercise to unravel the complex family relationships, which I'll have to spread over several articles in due course. Next week I'll turn to the English side of the family and look at portraits from Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Sepia Saturday 285: One Button Does It

Image © and courtesy of LiveAuctioneers
The Kodak, introduced by Eastman Kodak in June 1888
Image © and courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

The firm of Eastman Kodak of Rochester, New York is popularly associated with early amateur photography, bringing to most peoples' minds the Brownie from February 1900 (pictured below), or perhaps even their "original" Kodak box camera introduced in June 1888 (above). The Kodak and its immediate successor the No 1 Kodak used factory-loaded and processed rollfilm and over 15,000 cameras were manufactured before the line was discontinued in 1895.

Image © and courtesy of David Purcell
The Brownie, introduced by Eastman Kodak in February 1900
Image © and courtesy of David Purcell

The first Brownie was in production for less than two years from February 1900 until October 1901, during which time almost a quarter of a million were sold. Renamed the No 1 Brownie, but almost identical, it went on to sell over half a million more between then and 1916. The superficial similarity between the two rectangular black boxes, however, belies the technological advances that were made and the ideas that were brought together in Eastman Kodak's range of cameras during the last decade of the nineteenth century.

Image © Brett Payne
Eastman Kodak Camera Prices and Production Volumes, 1888-1901
Data extracted from Coe (1988)

In his book The Story of Kodak, Douglas Collins details many of these developments, including paper-backed, daylight-loading rollfilm, improvements in viewfinders, lenses and shutters, lightweight construction, mass production techniques, judicious acquisition of patents, recruitment of people with appropriate technical skills and fresh marketing ideas. In 1888, 5,200 units of the flagship Kodak sold at $25.00 apiece. In the space of just over a decade, the cameras were simplified and production costs reduced to such an extent that the No. 1 Brownie could be sold for $1.00, and it went on to sell more than half a million units. The No 2 Brownie was even more successful.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Pocket Kodak, introduced by Eastman Kodak in July 1895
Dimensions 3" x 4" x 2¼" (74 x 99 x 57mm)
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

In July 1895 Eastman Kodak placed on the market a diminutive new camera whose sales would outstrip all of their earlier models. The Pocket Kodak was tiny, easily fitting in the palm of one's hand, and very lightweight, the early models being constructed of aluminium in a leather-covered wooden case. It used a 12-exposure specially designed roll film (102-format) which produced a photograph measuring 1½" x 2" (38 x 51 mm), and at only $5.00, it was their cheapest camera, a fifth of the price of the No 1 Kodak which was finally phased out that same year. Sales increased spectacularly, and an initial daily production run of 200 units was quickly increased. By the end of the year the Pocket Kodak sold 100,000 units, more than five times the total 19,000 units which their previous most popular model, the No 2 Kodak, sold between 1889 and 1897.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
'96 Model Pocket Kodak, Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester NY
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Even though the camera was a runaway success, its designer Frank Brownell continued to tweak and make minor modifications to the design while it was in production. At least four models have been identified from the first year alone, followed by '96, '98, '99 and D model designations. My own example of this camera is a '96 Model and, judging by the latest patent date listed on the inside of the case, must have been manufactured after 12 January 1897. This example includes several modifications not seen on previous versions, including a wooden (as opposed to aluminium) film carrier, coarse-grained black leather covering, a rotary shutter (which replaced the Tisdell sector shutter) and a rectangular (rather than circular) viewfinder.

Image courtesy of Google Patents
Patent US575,208, F.A. Brownell, Photographic Camera, 12 Jan 1897
Image courtesy of Google Patents

Although the camera depicted in the 1897 patent drawing appears to be the Kodak No 2 Bullet, with a larger square 3½" x 3½" format compared to the Pocket Kodak's smaller rectangular 1½" x 2", the design is almost identical.


Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp

'95 Model Pocket Kodak with Plateholder inserted
Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp

The Pocket Kodak does not, however, have a side door on the case, a provision to allow the use of a double plate holder instead of Kodak's new cartridge rollfilm. Instead, a thin wooden panel in the back of the case housing the red celluloid window could be removed and a small, specially designed plate holder be slid into the slot in its place.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Wooden Case (left) and Film Carrier (Right), '96 Model Pocket Kodak
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Two strips mounted on the lens-shutter board, accesible by pull-up tabs on the top front edge of the camera, enabled shutter speed (Time and Instantaneous) and aperture (3 settings) to be set by the user. A red celluloid window at the back displayed the exposure printed on the film's paper backing and, with a fixed-focus meniscus-type lens (focal length of 2½"), it was a very simple camera to operate.

Image © and courtesy of Image © and courtesy of Duke University Libraries Digital Collections
Eastman Kodak Co. Advert, Pocket Kodak, from Cosmopolitan, Oct 1895
Image © & courtesy Duke University Libraries Digital Collections, K0549

In the words of an advertisement placed in Cosmopolitan magazine of October 1895, "One Button Does It." Despite the small size of the negative, the quality enabled either contact prints or enlargements "of any size" to be made.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Film Carrier with take-up spool, '96 Model Pocket Kodak
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The most convenient aspect of Kodak's three new cameras released 1895, the No 2 Bullet (March), Pocket Kodak (July) and No 2 Bulls-Eye (August), was that they all used the daylight-loading film patented by Samuel N. Turner, which Eastman purchased in August that year. The celluloid film sensitized with emulsion was backed with light-excluding paper, and then rolled on a flanged spool which fitted into a slot in the camera. The film was then led across rollers at the back and then wound onto a take-up spool on the opposite side of the carrier.

Image © and courtesy of Geoff Harrisson
'95 Model (First version) Pocket Kodak with 102-format film & "Primer"
Image © and courtesy of Geoff Harrisson

The 101- and 102-format films, each containing 12 exposures, were enthusiastically received by amateur photographers, who could now send the exposed film, rather than the whole camera, back to the Kodak factory for processing. Nor did they need to take a hundred snapshots before seeing the results. Eastman Kodak catalogues offered "developing and printing outfits" at very reasonable prices, and a few independent firms even began opening shops to process amateur films.


Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp

'95 Model Pocket Kodak in leather case
Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp

The Pocket Kodak ($5.00) came with two instruction manuals, a "Field Primer" and a "Dark Room Primer," and the owner could also purchase a leather hand-carrying case (75c) large enough to carry the camera and three extra spools of film (25c each). Home developing enthusiasts might order from the 1896 Kodak catalogue enamelled (glossy finish) or platino bromide (matte finish) paper in packets of a dozen 6½" x 8½" sheets ($1.10), enough for a couple of hundred contact prints, and white embossed card mounts at 10 cents for a dozen. Pocket albums to hold 50 or 100 prints were offered, as were "wire easels" for displaying mounted prints to full advantage. Eastman knew that, with burgeoning sales of his cameras, the real money was to going to be made in consumables.

Image © and courtesy of Geoff Harrisson
Negative envelopes for Pocket Kodak with mounted print
Image © and courtesy of Geoff Harrisson

Once processed the film negatives were returned to the customer in specially printed brown envelopes, together with any prints which had been ordered. Spaces on the front of the envelope were filled in by the processor - in this case Eastman Photographic Material Co., Ltd. and its successor Kodak Limited - with order number and how many good frames and failures there were. Sadly no dates were recorded. If prints had been ordered, and paid for, Kodak undertook to replace any failures with duplicates from the successful shots.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Nellie Ashley seated on front porch, undated, taken c. 1895-1897
Silver bromide print (50 x 37mm, 2" x 1½")
White embossed "Pocket Kodak" mount (86 x 73mm), Design A
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This example of a 2" x 1½" print pasted on the standard embossed white card mount sold for Pocket Kodak sized prints is from my own collection. Although undated, from the size and shape of the woman's sleeves I believe it to have been taken c. 1895-1897, which roughly equates to the period before a wider variety of mounts became available.

Image © and courtesy of Rodger Kingston Collection
Unidentified children, Cole's Photo Studio, undated, taken c. 1900-1905
Silver bromide print (approx. 50 x 37mm, 2" x 1½")
White embossed "Pocket Kodak" mount (approx 86 x 73mm), Design B
Image © and courtesy of Rodger Kingston Collection

Kodak's 1898 catalogue shows three different styles of mount sold for the Pocket Kodak, with variations of white and grey, embossed or enamelled faces, but by 1900 the range had increased enormously to a range of 11 styles in white, grey, green, black and brown, with beveled or square edges. The 1901 catalogue, reflecting the replacement of the Pocket Kodak by the Brownie in the company's small box camera range, lists no mounts at all for the Pocket Kodak.

Image © and courtesy of John Toohey
Cover of Pocket Kodak Album, used c.1896
"Full padded red Morocco cover, to hold 96 Pocket Kodak prints"
Image © and courtesy of John Toohey, One Man's Treasure

Of course not all photographs produced with a Pocket Kodak were mounted on card. Many went into albums such as the one shown above from John Toohey's collection which was advertised in the 1897 Kodak Great britain Price List as having a "full padded red Morocco cover, plate mark, india tint round openings, to hold 96 Pocket Kodak prints," and sold for 5 shillings (then equivalent to roughly $2.00).

Image © and courtesy of John Toohey
Page from Pocket Kodak Album, Paris, 1896
incl. views of the "Opéra," "Arc de Triomphe" and "Trinité"
Image © and courtesy of John Toohey, One Man's Treasure

The album has 12 pages, each containing 8 openings, totalling 96 prints of photographs illustrating a visit to Paris in 1896. John believes that they were probably taken in one day while the photographer was wandering around Paris, possibly trying out the new camera.

Image © and courtesy of John Toohey
Page from Pocket Kodak Album, Paris, 1896
incl. views of cycling, "Bois de Boulognee" and "Carrefour de Longchamp"
Image © and courtesy of John Toohey, One Man's Treasure

He has noticed that that same woman appears in several images, suggesting she was travelling with the photographer. They are framed, as described, with a grey india tint around the openings.

Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp
Unidentified location & date, probably taken c. late 1890s
Mounted Pocket Kodak prints pasted on album page, Designs A (top left) and Design C (others)
Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp

Jos Erdkamp has kindly shared from his collection an album page with eight mounted Pocket Kodak prints, four pasted on the front and four on the back. These too appear to have been taken in a city somewhere in Europe, although the location is not identified. Three of the mounts (shown in the image above) are of a third design, different from the two displayed previously.

Image © and courtesy of John Toohey
Page from Pocket Kodak Album, Paris, 1896
incl. views of the "Eiffel Tower" and "Champ de Mars"
Image © and courtesy of John Toohey, One Man's Treasure

It was the 1890s when amateur photographs first started to appear in any substantial number featuring everyday subjects instead of the usual scenic shots recording places visited, and it is interesting to note that the subject matter of extant Pocket Kodak prints appears to follow that trend. George Eastman recognised that keen amateur photographers who had the time, expertise and interest to learn the skills required to process negatives and photographs would be far outnumbered by those who wished merely to capture a snapshot of their daily life, with no interest whatsoever in getting involved with making the prints. With his famous marketing mantra, "You press the button, we do the rest," he separated the two photographic functions and developed an infrastructure that would take care of all the processing, as well as provide materials to the enthusiasts who still wished to develop and print their own.


Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp

'95 Model Pocket Kodak (black) and leather case
Image © and courtesy of Jos Erdkamp

Although the Pocket Kodak itself contained no ground breaking new technology, it was the combination of several recent inventions, often made by Eastman's predecessors or competitors, into one fundamentally simple device, cheap to produce and easy to operate, together with a supporting network of processing facilities, that turned turned it and the No 2 Bulls-Eye into runaway success stories. They also paved the way for the introduction of an even cheaper and simpler camera, the Brownie, which in 1900 would eclipse all in the quest for unpretentious sentimental photographic mementos of everyday life.

I'm very grateful to David Purcell, Jos Erdkamp, Geoff Harrisson, Rodger Kingston and John Toohey who have all kindly supplied me with images of items in their respective collections for my research, and permitted me to use them here.

A connection with this week's Sepia Saturday theme image, a postcard of the Chittenden Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, is somewhat tenuous, but you'll find several images of multi-storied buildings in my contribution, and no doubt you'll see plenty more if you pay the rest of those happy themers a visit.

References & Further Reading

Brayer, Elizabeth (2006) George Eastman: A Biography, Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press, 637p.

Coe, Brian (1976) The Birth of Photography: The story of the formative years, 1800-1900, London: Spring Books, 144p.

Coe, Brian (1978) Cameras: From Daguerreotypes to Instant Pictures, United States: Crown Publishers, 240p.

Coe, Brian (1988) Kodak Cameras: the First Hundred Years, East Sussex, United Kingdom: Hove Foto Books, 298p.

Collins, Douglas (1990) The Story of Kodak, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 392p.

Gustavson, Todd (2009) Camera, A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital, New York: Sterling, 360pp.

Niederman, Rob & Zahorcak, Milan (nd) Digitized Kodak Catalog Project, DVD

Rosenblum, Naomi (2008) A World History of Photography, 4th Edition, New York: Abbeville Press, 671p.

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett & Marilyn Brindley

Friday, 19 June 2015

Sepia Saturday 284: Panel Prints and Coupon Prints

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett & Marilyn Brindley

My contribution for Sepia Saturday this week features a photographic format that was popular for only a brief period, and which often receives only cursory attention in photohistory texts, even though they are fairly commonly seen. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, more or less at the same time as amateur photography was taking off, a profusion of new formats were introduced, presumably in an effort to entice customers away from buying their own cameras and back into the studio.

Image © and courtesy of Colin Harding/Photographica World
Charles Howell's early studio at Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, undated
Image © and courtesy of Colin Harding/Photographica World

Among these were the panel print and its smaller sibling the coupon print, which appeared shortly after the turn of the century, had their heyday between 1905 and 1915. Initially the new tall, thin shape was probably a draw, but I have little doubt that their low cost proved the main attraction for both studios and their customers. At half a dozen for sixpence from Charles Howell's beachfront studio in Blackpool, they were half the price of the already wildly popular postcard portraits.

The examples featured below include a few from my own collection, and may not represent the full range that were available, but at least they give a fair idea of the format. I've attempted to keep the colours as accurate as possible, and on my screen they are displayed actual size, although they may appear differently to you, depending on the device being used to view this page. I've also provided a number of references to Geoff Caulton's very useful PhotoDetective 1901-1953 pages, which gives many examples of the rapidly changing fashions in hair, hats, clothing and accessories during that period.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Two unidentified young women, c.1914-1918
Panel prints (56 x 121 mm) by D.A. Maclean of Middlesboro & Blackpool
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

These two young women probably visited Maclean's popular Blackpool studio during the Great War, judging by their practical swept back hair styles, V-necked blouses and white corselet skirts typical of that period. Since I acquired them in the same batch, the appearance of identical backdrop and wicker chair suggests they may have been taken on the same occasion.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Two unidentified teenage girls in costume, c.1912-1915
Panel prints (54 x 113 mm) by unknown photographer
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

The younger girl on the left has her hair swept back in a transitional hairstyle, tied with what must be one of the largest butterfly hair bows that I've seen, popular from 1912 to 1918. The older girl has her down in what was sometimes referred to as her crowning glory, although the metal wrist cuffs suggest a costume of some kind. These two panel prints also have similar poses and an identical backdrop, and I wonder if they were sisters appearing in the same stage performance. Perhaps readers more au fait with theatre of the time might be able to suggest a classical play and/or character. Troilus and Cressida is the only one that comes immediately to mind as being from that era.
Post Script Thanks to Rob from Amersfoort, we now have a probable ID for the role being acted, i.e. that of "Mercia" from Wilson Barrett's 1904 four act historical tragedy, The Sign of the Cross, as shown here and here. Thanks Rob.

The wristwatch on the younger girl's left arm is an interesting accessory. It's actually a leather-cased ladies' fob watch popular during the Edwardian era.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified young women, 28 April 1913 (left) and c. 1910-1915 (right)
Coupon prints (39 x 86 mm) by unknown photographer
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

The most striking feature of these two women is their enormous cartwheel hats, no doubt kept perched in place with long hatpins and a low pompadour hairstyle. The large-buttoned and belted jackets, probably worn over hobble skirts, confirm that these were taken some time during the decade before the Great War. Also noted in the right-hand portrait is the very visible reference number (7141, reversed), probably written in ink on the negative.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified young woman and girl, c.1910-1915
Coupon prints (36 x 88 mm) by unknown photographer
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

The young lady on the left again has her hair in the transitional style characteristic of the pre-war period. The portrait of the girl is more difficult to date, because her clothing and loose hairstyle could be from any time during the period 1905 to 1920. The belted dress with slightly dropped waistline is similar to some seen in the early 1920s, but the lace collar is more akin to the pre-war period.

These coupon prints were designed so that four could be made from a single postcard cut into strips. The glass plate was probably exposed four separate times, using a card inside the camera, in front of the plate, to mask off all but the desired strip. The shadowing effects across the lower part of the portraits - light in the left-hand portrait, dark in the right-hand portrait - were produced by placing a vignetting card close to the camera, between the lens and the subject.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified woman, c.1908-1916
Coupon print (35 x 69 mm) by unknown photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The dark, simply ornamented and middle-waisted dress worn with a high frilled collar and long sleeves is also suggestive of the pre-war period. Her hair style, however, is suggestive of a couple of years later. Detailed painted backdrops became far less common after the war, photographers, and presumably their clients, tending to prefer plain or simply ornamented patterns.

Image © and courtesy of Paul Godfrey
Unidentified man and child, c. 1918-1920s
Coupon print (38 x 70 mm) by H.O. Seaman of Great Yarmouth
Image © and courtesy of Paul Godfrey

This coupon print by Herbert Oscar Seaman, scion of the well known Chesterfield (Derbyshire) firm of Alfred Seaman and Sons, is unusual in that it has a tiny number printed at the base, apparently with the aid of some kind of counter (better visible with an enlarged version of the image).

Image courtesy of the European Patent Office
Extract from patent GB190305361(A), 16 Apr 1903, by D.B. Seaman
"Improvements relating to Photographic Cameras ..."
Image courtesy of the European Patent Office

In 1903 Herbert's older brother Dennis Benjamin Seaman applied for a patent for a camera specifically designed to produce a series of such 1½" x 2½" images on a single photographic plate (Specification), while "a smaller lens projects an image of a ticket with a number or the like." It seems likely that the coupon print produced by Herbert Seaman, and likewise several others in the collection of Paul Godfrey, were made with an apparatus very similar to that designed by his brother.

Image © and courtesy of Peter Jones
Unidentified man in front of H.O. Seaman's Parade Studio, Yarmouth
Postcard print, Image © and courtesy of Peter Jones

The postcard photo shown above depicts the storefront of Herbert Seaman's Parade Studio in Yarmouth not long after the end of the Great War, and possibly with Herbert himself standing at the front door. In the window is a sign advertising "12 LARGE MIDGETS FOR 1/-." Given that he was selling a dozen postcard prints for two shillings, it seems likely that the "midgets" were commonly referred to as coupon prints.

Image © and courtesy of Robert Pols Image © and courtesy of Robert Pols
Two unidentified woman, taken c. late 1920s
Coupon print (43 x 88mm) by While You Wait Photographs,
The Beach Studio, 12 Lower Promenade, Whitley Bay
Image © and courtesy of Robert Pols

Image © Peter Fisher and courtesy of SmugMug
Bessie Fisher, 2 August 1929
Panel portrait (unknown dimensions) by Charles Howell, Blackpool
Image © Peter Fisher and courtesy of SmugMug

The popularity of the format declined considerably through the 1920s, and by the end of the decade they were largely relegated to seaside arcades (above) and photobooths (below) as a novelty format.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Novelty format displaying weight of unidentified woman
Panel print (47 x 103mm) from photobooth, dated 10 September 1935
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

I'm very grateful to Paul Godfrey who has shared his collection of images, extensive knowledge and the results of his research. I'd also like to extend my appreciation to Colin Harding, Peter Jones, Robert Pols and Peter Fisher for graciously permitting me to use images from their collections in this article.

For those who find the plethora of photo formats a little confusing, I've prepared a photo format size guide as a PDF file which you can print out and use to gauge photographs from your own collection.
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