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.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Sepia Saturday 283: Laying New Rails at Derby

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett & Marilyn Brindley

Sepia Saturday's theme image this week was taken in the early 1890s shows a number of railway workers standing at the entrance to a large tunnel in County Mayo, Ireland. Some years ago I published a scanned and digitally retouched image of a roughly trimmed cabinet card from my collection which I entitled, "A group of railway navvies from Sheffield, Yorkshire."

Thanks to information later received from fellow photohistorian Simon Robinson, I discovered that the workers were more likely to be excavating water reservoirs rather than railway cuttings, but that hasn't prevented it becoming the most popular page on Photo-Sleuth, and "navvies" being the most common search term for visitors arriving via Google. If you type "railway navvies" into Google's image search, it should be in the top few images. According to Google Analytics tools, in the seven years since it was published it has received 1839 hits, a steady stream of visitors averaging 5 per week. I have no idea why, except that it is a great picture. It's also one of my most pilfered images, having been reposted without attribution on a multitude of other sites including, I was surprised to learn, the web site of the Smithsonian Magazine (who should know better).

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Railway workers
Print (97 x 141 mm) mounted on thick card
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Today I have a similar image of railway workers, likewise scanned from a roughly trimmed albumen print mounted on thick card. Sadly it's a little worse for wear, the photographic emulsion being considerably faded, the surface of the print showing a good deal of ly spotting, and having a large tear almost completely across the upper right hand quarter. the photograph shows a group of five railway workers standing across several sets of railway tracks, with several buildings visible in the background, including a possible railway station and platform at the far right. Judging from the clothing and headgear of the men, I suspect that it was taken in the late 1880s or 1890s, at roughly the same time as the theme image, and perhaps a decade or so earlier than my other navvies photo.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Inscription: Laying New Rails at Derby(?)
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The intriguing thing about this photo is the caption written in black (or perhaps very dark blue) ink on the reverse. It's rather difficult to decipher but it may read, "Laying new rails at Derby" (or possibly Darley), and that is how it was advertised when I purchased it off eBay not long ago. If any readers can shed light on where the photograph might have been taken, I'd be very grateful to hear from you, either by comment below or via email.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Sepia Saturday 282: Derbyshire Photographers: John Mellor Hampson

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

Instead of going with the Sepia Saturday image theme this week, I'm continuing my intermittent series of posts featuring Derbyshire photographers. Since 2002 I've been compiling a historical database of studio and portrait photographers operating in the English county of Derbyshire, with much of the accumulated data, research material and images presented online: Derbyshire Photographers & Photographic Studios.

The information about photographers and studios comes largely from trade directories, census records, historical newspapers, genealogical databases and a variety of other sources. Examples of portriats by these photographers come partly from my own collection, but mostly by kind contribution from several hundred contributers around the world who have been in touch with me since the web site was launched in 2002. The database now includes over 500 separate photographers, with detailed profiles on over a third of them, but due to other projects competing for my time and interest - such as Photo-Sleuth - updates to the web site have stalled in recent years. My research, database compilation and collection of relevant images continues, however, and I still welcome further contributions.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Portrait of unidentified child, taken c.1880-1885
Carte de visite by John M. Hampson of No. 9 Birch View, Birch Vale
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Although most of the documentary and archival sources where records of photographers might be found hve now been extensively scoured, I still come across the occasional name that is completely new to me, mostly from the discovery of portraits. This, a typical example, is a carte de visite portrait that I came across on eBay recently and purchased for my collection. Like most photos that are sold on eBay, it is not annotated, and has no documentation of provenance, so I have no idea who the subject was. It appears to be a child - possibly a girl, although the short hair makes me wonder a little - in a velvet dress with abundant ornamentation in the form of knotted braid. The chair on which she is sitting is covered with a plaid blanket, while another chair to her right has a floral cloth covering.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Reverse of card mount
by photographer John M. Hampson of Birch Vale
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The reverse of the card mount has a design which Roger Vaughan calls the Early Large Letter design, used in the late 1870s and early 1880s. I suggest this particular example is from the early to mid-1880s.

John Mellor Hampson was born on 3 February 1846 at New Mills, Derbyshire, son of a wheelwright James Hampson and his wife Martha. By the age of 15, he had already left school and was working as a millwright in nearby Hayfield. He married Maria Bates Randle at Hayfield on 11 May 1870; she had been working as a cotton doubler in one of the local mills. The following year, John was a foreman/millwright at a print works in Hayfield, presumably associated with the cotton mill industry. The censuses of 3 April 1881 and 5 April 1891 both found him living at number 9, Birch View in the small village of Birch Vale, near Hayfield, describing himself as a millwright. By 1901 he and his wife had moved to Hayfield Road, Hayfield, and then by 1911 to Macclesfield Road, Staley Bridge (across the border in Cheshire), but he was still working as a millwright. He died at Whaley Bridge on 13 March 1913, aged 67, and was buried at Hayfield two days later.

I've found no evidence in the usual documentary records for John M. Hampson working as a photographic artist, although the Bulmer trade directory for 1895 lists him as a coal merchant. However censuses were only taken every ten years, while trade directories provide a fragmentary record at best, and it appears that he must have briefly tried his hand as a photographer during the late 1870s or early 1880s.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Sepia Saturday 281: Home Duties

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

I recently purchased a box containing nineteen exposed 4" x 5" glass plate negatives. They depict various women and children, some of whom appear to be members of the same family. Sadly there are no notes or provenance to provide clues as to their origin but, as I will show, the batch appears to have survived as an intact collection. In other words, they probably belong together. They have little in common with this week's Sepia Saturday theme, except that two of the images show children engaged in what might with some latitude be called "home duties."

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

As with my recent studies of small photographic collections, A Grand Tour of Europe and Summer Holidays in Derbyshire, this group appears to have been taken in the early years of the twentieth century. Unlike the other two groups, these 19 photographs appear to have been taken over and extended period of time, covering several years in the lives of a family living somewhere in New Zealand. None of the photographs are annotated, nor is the box that they arrived in, so all provenance has unfortunately been lost.

One of the purposes for my showing these images is to demonstrate the process that I go through when researching such collections, in an an attempt to decide whether they are linked to each other in any way and, if so, then to try and establish a theoretical framework around the subjects. In many cases this may never lead to an positive identification but occasionally I have breakthroughs.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #09 - Three teenage children ("Agnes," "Charlie" and "Bertha")
5" x 4" (127 x 102mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

I'll start with this nicely focussed snapshot of three teenage children, two girls and a boy, seated on a grassy bank in the shade of tree. Just for convenience I'l call them "Agnes" (left), "Bertha" (right) and "Charlie." The girls have taken their hats off, while the boy, who looks as though he never bothered with one, is eating what looks to me like a dark-skinned plum. The clear images of these three individuals allows us to follow them through several years.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #14 - Three young children ("Agnes," "Bertha" and "Charlie")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

This image is partly out of focus, possibly blurred from movement and slightly over-exposed, but I think that the same three children are pictured hanging up the washing, although this must have a few years earlier. "Agnes" is handing a peg to "Bertha" and barefooted "Charlie" appears to have carelessly dropped the tin of pegs on the ground.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #05 - Three young children ("Bertha," "Agnes" and "Charlie")
5" x 4" (127 x 102mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

The trio are probably at the beach on this occasion, younger still, with one of the girls wearing a rather impractical cap which must have been difficult to control when the wind got up. "Charlie," seated with legs apart at right, is "unbreeched."

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #16 - Young boy ("Charlie"), possibly with his mother ("Doris")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Young "Charlie," here dressed in a Fauntleroy suit popular in the 1890s and early 1900s, appears with a young woman aged in her late twenties or early thirties, seated on a wicker chair, who I think might be his mother and who we will call "Doris."

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #08 - Young child with doll on wicker chair (possibly "Charlie")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

An even younger child sits confidently in a different wicker chair placed on the lawn, holding a doll. Despite the presence of the doll, the child's facial features suggest to me that this, too, is our "Charlie."

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #10 - Young boy in school uniform ("Charlie")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Here is "Charlie" dressed in somewhat smarter attire, perhaps ready for his first day at school. The background to this photograph includes the wall of a house, possibly on a verandah or adjacent to an extrance, an upholstered straight-backed chair and a floral carpet.

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Image #04 - Older woman ("Eliza") & teenage girl ("Frances") on verandah
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

An almost identical background, only the chair having been changed, appears in two further photographs depicting three more women. In the first portrait an older woman (I'll call her "Eliza"), perhaps in her sixties, is sitting on the chair, while a different teenage girl (say "Frances") is seated on the carpet at her feet.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #17 - Middle-aged woman seated on verandah ("Doris")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

The third verandah portrait shows the middle-aged woman - I'm guessing she is in her late thirties to early forties - we've previous identified as the boy's mother ("Doris") sitting in the same chair. Unlike the others photographed on what may be the same occasion, who face directly into the camera lens, her gaze is off to the right of the photographer.

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Image #02 - Middle-aged woman seated outdoors ("Doris")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Within the same general time frame, but probably on a different occasion, "Doris" sat for another portrait outside her home. The same mouldings that appear in other images of their home are featured prominently in this shot, taken when the shadows were long, but still with enough light to make a decent picture. She has a low pompadour hairstyle and is wearing a leather-cased ladies' fob watch, both of which were popular in the decade immediately preceding the Great War, i.e. between c. 1905 and 1915. The jigsaw embroidery on the front of her blouse and hobble skirt with large buttons are typical of the same period.

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Image #01 - Two young women reading ("Agnes" and "Bertha")
5" x 4" (127 x 102mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Relatively few shots in this series show the surroundings of the house, but one that does is this view of the two girls ("Agnes" and "Bertha") seated in the garden, reading. "Bertha" has bagged the comfortable canvas folding deck chair, while "Agnes" has to make do with a dining room chair set partially in the shade. The presence of tree ferns indicates a strong likelihood that these photos originate here in New Zealand, where they were purchased. They both wear sensible wide-brimmed hats, Bertha's being of the distinctive cartwheel type. The house itself has a wide verandah along at least two sides, and a wooden railing in a stylish geometric pattern.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #12 - Teenage girl and apple tree ("Agnes")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

There are two further portraits of "Agnes" on her own. In the first of these she is standing next to what I believe to be an apple tree, dressed in the same clothing as Image #09, but with her hat on. More prominent in this photo is the narrow velvet choker around her neck, a fashion that arose with the appearance of lower necklines around 1905 to 1910.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #19 - Teenage girl, possibly in school uniform ("Agnes")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

In the next photo "Agnes" is seated in a chair, possibly on the verandah of the house, but in a different location from portraits #04, #08 & #10 displayed above. She is wearing what I think might be a school uniform, with a smart jacket or blazer, dark leather gloves, a tie with a shield and emblem embroidered on it, a straw boater with a broad striped hat band, and her hair tied up with a large bow at the back of her neck.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #11 - Three women in the garden ("Agnes", "Eliza" and "Gertrude")
5" x 4" (127 x 102mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

In a group portrait "Agnes" is seated with two older women, both on chairs placed on the path in front of the house, one of whom is "Eliza" from Image #04. She has a high-necked collar and is holding a pair of spectacles in her lap. The third woman, wearing a white blouse and tie, I will call "Gertrude."

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #03 - Two women on the garden pth ("Gertrude" and "Eliza")
5" x 4" (127 x 102mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

A view of the garden path immediately to the right of the previous image shows "Eliza" and "Gertrude" dressed warmly in furs and large feathered hats walking towards the house.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Image #18 - Teenage girl on windowsill ("Frances")
4" x 5" (102 x 127mm) glass plate negative, unknown photographer
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

The third girl ("Frances") is depicted in another portrait, also taken on the verandah, although she is seated precariously on the wide windowsill. Her clothing and hair style are identical with that worn in Image #04, and the two photographs are likely to have been taken on the same occasion.



The Picasa album slideshow above shows the full set of images in the approximate order that I believe they were taken, probably over a period about a decade some time between the years of c.1900 and 1915.

My analysis of the family is as follows:
- Agnes, Bertha and Charlie are siblings, probably born in the late 1890s to early 1900s
- Doris is the children's mother, probably born in the mid- to late 1870s
- Eliza is the children's grandmother, probably born in the 1850s
- Frances is possibly a cousin of Agnes, Bertha and Charlie, and a similar age to them
- Gertrude may be a friend or a relative, possibly a maiden aunt
I must reiterate that these aren't their real names; I've merely invented them for the sake of convenience.

It's possible that a positive identification of this family may be made eventually but, in the mean time, if you spot any further clues or even disagree with any of my rather tenuous deductions, please don't hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below.
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