Friday, 24 April 2015

Sepia Saturday 276: Barr Brothers and Portland Studios, Nottingham

Sepia Saturday by Marilyn Brindley & Alan Burnett

Inspired by Marilyn's recent post of a newspaper article on Sepia Saturday's Facebook page about the dilemma of whether or not to save photos of unknown relatives, my contribution this week presents a series of cabinet portraits that have been "saved" from the skip, and may yet be identified, thanks to the habits of an early 20th century photographer.

Although certainly not unique (see W.W. Winter and Pollard Graham, both of Derby), it is rare to find a photographer who meticulously recorded the negative number and surname of every customer on the back of each portrait print that he supplied, but the Barr Brothers seemed to have just done that - at least with all 7 examples in my collection.

William Banister Barr was born in 1877, one of eight children of a Liverpool ironmonger. In early 1897 he briefly tried his hand as an apprentice merchant seaman aboard the ship Irby out of Liverpool. He later joined up as a gunner with the Royal Horse Artillery, but by March 1901 was a patient at the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich, adjacent to the artillery barracks, presumably recuperating from some illness, as it appears unlikely he served with the unit in the Anglo-Boer War.

Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne
Cabinet card by Barr Bros, Portland Studio, Nottingham & Cardiff, c.1905
inscribed "15786 Dalby" - taken c. 1905-1907
Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne

In the 1911 census, only two male children with the surname Dalby and appropriate ages are recorded as living in the town of Nottingham:
- William Hector Dalby, aged 13, son of Frank John Birch Dalby, a builder's foreman
- Samuel Dalby, aged 10, son of Edward Dalby, a builder's labourer
Could one of these two be him, I wonder?

In early 1904 he was working as a photographer, with premises at 1 Portland Road, Nottingham. By the time the above cabinet portrait of a young boy in a smart velvet suit was taken around 1905-1907, slightly let down by the studio's scruffy pot plant and rustic chair, it appears his younger brother Harold Cowper Barr (1879-1958) had joined him in the business. The card mount lists a branch studio at 47 Queen Street, Cardiff, which was operating in a building known as City Chambers for several years between 1907 and 1911. Harold was living in Cardiff in April 1911, and had presumably operated the southern arm of the business for some years.

Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne
Cabinet card by Portland Studios, Leicester & Nottingham
inscribed "26794 Gregory" - taken c. 1906-1907
Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne

Unfortunately Gregory was just too common a surname in Leicester and Nottingham (at least 13 of approximately the right age) for me to come up with any decent candidates for this woman.

In July 1905, when William was married at Fairfield, Lancashire, he was living in Birmingham and had studio premises in 52 New Street. He moved to 213 Moseley Road, Aston in 1906 and his first two sons were born there in 1906 and 1907. Within a couple of years, the "Barr Brothers" name was dropped from card mounts, and it simply became known as the Portland Studio, although the stylised ornate "B" monogram remained and they continued the use of their surname in trade listings. In 1908 William moved again, occupying a studio at 46, Imperial Buildings, Dale End.

Some time between 1904 and c.1908 they also briefly operated a studio at 68 Craven Park Road, Harlesden, London N.W.

Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne
Cabinet card by Portland Studios, Leicester & Nottingham
inscribed "32708 Tomlinson" - taken c. 1907-1908
Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne

There were even more candidates for Ms. Tomlinson, so all I can hope for is that someone, someday, will recognise her.

In 1908 a trade directory listed "Barr Bros" with premises at 20 Granby Street, Leicester, but despite the number of examples using the address in my collection it could not have lasted for very long, since by 1909 a photographer named Harry Clare was operating from that address. Of course it is conceivable that Harry Clare had previously been working for the Barr Brothers.

Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne
Cabinet card by Portland Studios, Leicester & Nottingham
inscribed "34562 Widdowson" - taken c. 1907-1908
Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne

The Widdowsons were likewise prolific in Nottinghams and Leicester, making any identification of this slightly older woman difficult, if not impossible, without further information.

The Barr Brothers had established a branch studio at 83a Bold Street, Liverpool as early as 1908, mosing to 103 Smithdown Road the following year. The Nottingham studio appears to have closed in 1908 or early 1909, and by 1910 listings for the Cardiff studio showed the head office of the business, presumably under the hand of William, as being located in Liverpool. William's third son was born at Hoylake, Cheshire in July that year, and by April 1911 the family was living at 107 Smithdown Road, Liverpool. William Barr described himself as a "master photographer" and an employer.

Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne
Cabinet card by Portland Studios, Leicester & Nottingham
inscribed "34683 Tomlinson" - taken c. 1907-1908
Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne

A second portrait of Ms. Tomlinson, a few months after the first, and this time it is full length.

Barr Bros. disappear from sight for the next few years, but the existence of branches in Belfast (109 Donegall Street) and London (132 Dalston Lane, N.E.) is suggested by the addresses on cabinet card mounts deduced to be from the pre-War period. I have also seen a postcard portrait of a merchant seaman, probably pre-War, that is blind stamped, "Portland Studio, 250 High St, S. Tottenham."

Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne
Cabinet card by Portland Studios, Leicester & Nottingham
inscribed "34772 Ellis" - taken c. 1907-1908
Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne

Young Mr Ellis could be any one of a number of candidates.

William Barr enlisted in the army in June 1916, and was called up for service for months later, at which time he gave his occupation as "photographer." Almost forty years of age, he spent the war in England with various units and was finally demobilised in March 1919.

Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne
Cabinet card by Portland Studios, Leicester & Nottingham
inscribed "35159 Pack (or Park)" - taken c. 1908-1909
Image © copyright and collection Brett Payne

I found a James Park, aged 21, working as a shoe hand in the Lasting Department of a factory in Leicester, in the 1911 census.

I have no firm evidence that William Barr returned to the photographic profession after the war. He died at Liverpool in 1949.

A list of studios known to have been operated by the Barr Brothers, not necessarily complete, so if you have any further information, please email me.

1904William Banister Barr, 1 Portland Road, Nottingham
c.1905-1908Barr Brothers, 1 Portland Road, Nottingham (Portland Studio)
1905-1906William Banister Barr, 52 New Street, Birmingham
1905William Banister Barr, 17 Lawrence Hill, Bristol
c. 1906-1907Barr Brothers, 68 Craven Park Road, Harlesden, London N.W.
1906-1907William Banister Barr, 213 Moseley Road, Aston, Birmingham
c. 1907-1909Barr Brothers, 109 Donegall Street, Belfast
c. 1907-1909Barr Brothers, 138 Dalston Lane, London N.E.
1907-1911Barr Brothers, City Chambers, 47 Queen Street, Cardiff (Queen Studio)
1908William Banister Barr, 46 Imperial Buildings, Dale End, Birmingham
1908Barr Brothers, 20 Granby Street, Leicester
1908Barr Brothers, 83a Bold Street, Liverpool
1909-1918Barr Brothers, 103 Smithdown Road, Liverpool
1910Barr Brothers, 39 (or 33) High Street, Merthyr Tydfil
1910Barr Brothers, Market St, Llanelly
1910Barr Brothers, 29 High Street, Newport
1910-1914Barr Brothers, 79 Taff St, Pontypridd
c.1912-1914Barr Brothers, 250 High Street, S. Tottenham
1913Barr Brothers, Regent Street, Wrexham (Queen Studios)
1913Barr Brothers, 88a Church Street, St Helens

References

Alderman, Mari (2006) Victorian Professional Photographers in Wales, 1850-1925, publ. online by GENUKI

Aston, C.E. John, Hallett, Michael & McKenna, Joseph (1987) Professional Photographers in Birmingham, 1842-1914, Supplement No. 116 to The PhotoHistorian, publ. Royal Photographic Society Historical Group.

Heathcote, Bernard & Heathcote, Pauline (n.d.) Pioneers of Photography in Nottinghamshire, 1841-1910, publ. by Nottinghamshire County Council.

Heathcote, Bernard V. & Heathcote, Pauline F. (n.d.) Leicester Photographic Studios in Victorian & Edwardian Times, publ. Royal Photographic Society Historical Group.

Hicks, Gareth (2003) Glamorgan Photographers (database), publ. online by GENUKI

Holland, Paul (n.d.) Chester & North East Wales Photographers, personal web site.

Jones, Gillian (2004) Lancashire Professional Photographers, 1840-1940, publ. by PhotoResearch.

Vaughan, Roger (2003) Bristol Photographers, 1852-1972, personal web site.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Sepia Saturday 275: Summer holidays in Derbyshire, an early Kodak album

Sepia Saturday by Marilyn Brindley & Alan Burnett

My contribution for Sepia Saturday this week has nothing whatsoever to do with the image prompt, I'm afraid. It does, however, follow on from my article last week, which featured an album of nitrocellulose negatives taken during a grand tour of Europe in 1904. Regular readers will recall that series of images as having been taken by an experienced and skilled photographer using a fairly sophisticated modern folding camera, possibly with a view to eventual commercial exploitation.

Image © 2015 Brett Payne
Cloth-covered Kodak photograph album, dated August 1903
Collection of Brett Payne

Today I'm featuring an album from my own collection which, although superficially similar in that it contains a series of 3¼" x 4¼" 118- or 119-format prints taken during a summer holiday in Derbyshire, England, is actually quite a different set in many ways. The album has 12 white card leaves bound in a light brown cloth-covered stiff card cover, now slightly grubby and showing slight wear on the edges, with "Kodak" printed in large black decorative writing on the front. Each of the leaves has paper sleeves on each side, designed to hold 3¼" x 4¼" paper prints.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Cloth-covered Kodak photograph album, dated August 1903
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

The inside front cover has "Kodak, Ltd. London" printed on the lower right, as well as the following inscription handwritten in black ink:
Summer holidays -
August 1903
Derbyshire (Matlock & Buxton)
I've been unable to find this specific album design advertised in Eastman Kodak Co.'s (U.S.) catalogues for the late 1890s and early 1900s. During this period they appear to have changed from albums with thick card leaves and standard-sized paper slots for different print formats, to loose-leaved albums with a higher number of pages constructed of thinner grey or black card, onto which the prints were intended to be glued with Eastman's Photo Paste ($0.25 per 5 ounce tube). Presumably this was in response to the rapidly increasing variety of print formats being introduced, and the large proportion of amateur prints perhaps not being mounted on card.

However, this particular paper slot-style album with 12 pages, designed to hold two 12-exposure films' worth of prints, was sold (and perhaps manufactured) by Kodak Ltd. at one of their six branch outlets in London, and may have been of a design not offered in the United States.



Each of the 24 sleeves in the album contains a print, some of which are trimmed rather roughly. Although the average size is around 3¼" x 4¼" (82 x 108mm) they range in size from 67 x 98mm to 97 x 113mm. The prints can be separated into three groups, based on size, printing characteristics and subject matter.


Locations photographed in Derbyshire, August 1903

The first ten prints (pages 1-10) have been roughly trimmed and are slightly smaller (78 x 102mm) but more varied in size. The black and white prints were taken at Buxton, Tideswell, Monsal Dale, Dovedale and Haddon Hall.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"The Crescent, Buxton," August 1903
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 98 x 67mm
(Page 6, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

This image shows a group boarding a horse-drawn carriage at The Crescent in Buxton, perhaps for a day excursion to Tideswell and Monsal Dale. Baedeker's 1901 guide to Great Britain describes it thus:
The Crescent, the most prominent building in the town, has the Tepid Baths (1s.-2s. 6d.) and the Chalybeate Wells at the W. end and the Hot Baths (1s. 6d.-3s. 6d.) at the E. end. In front is the Pump Room.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"The Cathedral of the Peak, Tideswell Church," August 1903
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 77 x 103mm
(Page 4, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Kelly's 1899 Directory of Derbyshire gives the following:
The church of St John the Baptist is a cruciform building of stone, belong almost exclusively to the Decorated style of the latter half of the 14th century, consisting of an unusually large chancel, clerestoried nave ... a lofty embattled tower at the west end, with battlemented turret-like pinnacles at the angles, terminating in crocketed spirelets ... the old chancel screen ... has been successfully restored.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"Nab's Dale," Dovedale, August 1903
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 80 x 95mm
(Page 7, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Baedeker's guide gives details of the new railway from Buxton to Ashbourne, opened in 1899, which allowed the holidaymaker to travel the 23 miles in under an hour:
... afford[ing] the most convenient approach to the beauties of Dovedale. Passengers should alight at Alsop-en-le-Dale, walk down the valley, and rejoin the railway at Thorpe Cloud ... Alsop-en-le-Dale is the station for the head of Dovedale, a picturesque and narrow limestone valley, hemmed in by fantastic rocks, freely interspersed with woods ... The prettiest part of the valley begins at the Dove Holes ...

Nab's Dale, shown in the photo above, is close to Hanson Grange and Alsop-en-le-Dale and appears to be the point at which our photographer and party alighted from the train and entered Dovedale.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"Below Reynard's Cave," Dovedale, August 1903
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 79 x 104mm
(Page 2, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

This very much overexposed shot is taken from Reynard's Cave, further down the valley and overlooking the path next to the River Dove, along which several members of the party can just be seen, and down which I myself enjoyed a fine walk with friend and fellow Sepian Nigel Aspdin about 18 months ago.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"Peveril of the Peak Hotel & Thorpe Cloud," Thorpe, August 1903
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 105 x 80mm
(Page 5, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Upon reaching the southern end of Dovedale, marked by the characteristic peak of Thorpe Cloud, they arrived at "... the stepping-stones ... where donkeys and refreshments are in waiting ... and, a little farther on, a foot bridge leading to the Izaak Walton Hotel, a favourite angling resort," frequented by my great-grandfather and which I wrote about in The Compleat Angler. Rather than crossing the footbridge, however, our party appear to have chosen the course which Nigel and I took "... a path to the left ascend[ing] from the stepping stones to the (½ M.) Peveril Hotel, not far from the village of Thorpe and railway station Thorpe Cloud." Embarking at the station, they either returned to Buxton or proceeded to Matlock.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"Haddon Hall," August 1903 (digitally enhanced)
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 108 x 82mm
(Page 11, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

The next nine prints in the album (pages 11-19) have been trimmed somewhat more accurately, and all are within a couple of millimetres of the standard 82.5 x 108mm. They were also processed slightly differently from the first batch, and are all slightly to moderately overexposed, also show a distinct sepia tone. The borders of the negative are partly visible in 7 of the prints; none were in the first set.

They were taken at Haddon Hall (above), Chatsworth House and at several locations in the vicinity of Matlock and Matlock Bath, all of which were popular destinations for Edwardian tourists.
Haddon Hall, picturesquely situated on a slope rising from the Wye, is an almost ideal specimen of an old English baronial mansion, and, though unoccupied, is still in fair preservation (adm. 4d.)

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"Haddon Hall Terrace," August 1903
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 75 x 101mm
(Page 3, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

... the S[outh] facade and the terraced gardens [date] from the end of the 16th century.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"In the Model Village - Chatsworth," Edensor, August 1903 (digitally enhanced)
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 83 x 83mm
(Page 13, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Baedeker again gives a detailed description of the route and the sights to look out for:
... To reach Chatsworth from Haddon by carriage ... we follow the road from the bridge [over the River Wye] to Bakewell [where] we turn to the right and proceed by a circuitous route to Edensor, a model village, on the outskirts of Chatsworth Park. The church contains a memorial window to Lord Frederick Cavendish (assassinated in 1882), who is buried in the churchyard.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"Chatsworth House," August 1903 (digitally enhanced)
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 108 x 82mm
(Page 12, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

This is one of the better known views of Chatsworth House, captured by local photographer William Potter for his commercial carte de visite landscapes as early as the 1870s. In this shot, an open horse-drawn brougham carrying four passengers is driven down the road, presumably on their way to visit the grand house in the middle distance. I wondered at first if they were waiting for the photographer, but since the carriage is slightly blurred, and the nearby tree sharp, I think they were moving at the time of the exposure.
Chatsworth, the magnificent seat of the Duke of Devonshire, is a striking contrast to Haddon, the one being as redolent of modern, as the other of medieval state ... the Gardens (small fee, to the gardener), which are fine but formal, with artificial cascades, fountains, surprise waterworks, etc. The Emperor Fountain throws a jet 265 ft. high.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"High Tor, Matlock," August 1903 (digitally enhanced)
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 83 x 107mm
(Page 19, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Six of the remaining photographs were taken in and around the towns of Matlock and Matlock Bath, including this well known view of High Tor, Matlock Dale and the River Derwent. The postcard publishers James Valentine & Sons registered a very similar photograph in 1892, which I featured in an article on Photo-Sleuth two years ago (Before the humble postcard).

Kelly's 1899 Directory informs us:
Matlock Bath ... is a modern inland and fashionable watering place, with a station on the Midland railway, and is situated in a deep and lovely valley ... The place is celebrated for the romantic character of its scenery and the purity of its medicinal springs, and in the summer season this beautiful locality is frequented by visitors from all parts of the kingdom.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"High Tor from Lovers' Walk," Matlock, August 1903 (digitally enhanced)
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 108 x 83mm
(Page 17, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

Among the attractions of Matlock ... Immediately opposite the High Tor is Masson Hill, nearly 800 feet high, from which and from the Heights of Abraham, about 650 feet high (to which a winding ascent has been made), an extensive view is afforded of the scenery of the surrounding country ... The Lovers' Walk, on the opposite side of the river, is another favourite place of resort; paths leading to different points from which the dale may be advantageously seen have also been cut through the wood in various directions.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
"Mother & a piece of Monica!" August 1903 (digitally enhanced)
Unmounted silver gelatin print, 108 x 82mm
(Page 16, Kodak album, Summer Holidays)
Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne

A single photograph in this album is directed specifically at members of the holidaying party. Two female figures (Mother and Monica) are seated outdoors on a bench reading newspapers, umbrellas at the ready should the sun prove too hot or a shower present itself. Sadly, it is overexposed - the image above has been digitally enhanced, but even this is not sufficent to reveal Monica's features, obliterated by a careless flash of sunlight or perhaps by some light leakage into the body of the camera. The bench is situated in front of a tree, and what I think is the River Derwent through a gap in the branches immediately to the left of Mother.
In 1887 an iron bridge of 85 feet span was constructed ... connecting the Promenade with Lovers' Walk, and at the same time the Promenade was laid out ...

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Detail of "Mother & a piece of Monica!"

There is, however, enough in the image to show three umbrellas leaning against the bench, and a valise or case which may be for the camera. The three umbrellas imply that there were only three in the party on this particular day: "Mother," Monica and the photographer, who could be the husband of either "Mother" or Monica, a son of "Mother" and brother of Monica, or indeed Monica's sister.

Image © Copyright & collection of Brett Payne
Composite of Derbyshire holidaymakers
Click image to enlarge

Fortunately we have a better image of Monica, taken on the Terrace at Haddon Hall (see lower left, above). The enlarged detail from several photos show several other people, and there may or may not have been more in the party at other stages of the holiday. It is even possible that one of the elderly men with luxurious white beards (at right) may have been "Father." Unfortunately, none of them appears carrying a leather case which would have held the camera, and I suspect that the photographer never appears in the photographs.

The last five prints (pages 20-24) were taken in Wiltshire the following year. While I have included them in the slideshow at the beginning of this article, they appear to have been inserted later to fill up empty slots in the album, and I'll leave discussion of them for another time.

Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project
Kodak Developing and Printing Outfits, from 1903 Kodak Catalogue
Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project

The Derbyshire snapshots appear to have been taken in two sequences, the first of ten images, the second of nine. It is my belief that they were probably prints from two consecutive rolls of film, each containing 12 exposures, five of which were discarded as being of too poor quality to print or preserve in the album. The uneven trimming of the prints suggests to me that they were developed and printed by an amateur at home using one of Kodak's readily available kits, rather than taken into a chemist or other processing facility.

Courtesy of Duke University Advertising Ephemera Collection
"Take a Kodak with you"
Eastman Kodak Co. advertisement featuring "The Kodak Girl"
From the Ladies' Home Journal, 1901
Courtesy Duke University Advertising Ephemera Collection, Item K0034

The Kodak folding cameras of the late 1890s and early 1900s were specifically marketed towards women, the design intended to mimic a purse or pocketbook, although one would be hard pressed to fit a No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak in any standard pocket.

Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project
No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak, from 1903 Kodak Catalogue
Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project

Constructed of aluminium covered with black morocco leather, the No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak (like its smaller cousin, the No 1) was designed to be compact and simple to use. Costing only $17.50 (and an extra $1.25 for a black sole leather carrying case, with strap), it was the cheaper version of the No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak DeLuxe camera featured in last week's 1904 Grand Tour article, but it used the same 118-format film, and therefore produced a print of the same size, 3¼" x 4¼".

Courtesy of Duke University Advertising Ephemera Collection
"All Out-Doors Invites Your Kodak"
Eastman Kodak Co. advertisement from Life magazine, 1911
Courtesy Duke University Advertising Ephemera Collection, Item K0443

With the standard Rapid Rectilinear lens and Eastman Automatic shutter, and in the unsteady hands of an amateur new to framing a photograph, assessing lighting conditions, etc., the quality of of the resulting pictures is likely to have been variable at best. Judging from these prints, I feel it most likely that the camera was hand-held, in stark contrast to the 1904 Grand Tour series, the majority of which are likely to have been taken using a tripod. An unfamiliarity with the equipment may also have meant that the film was loaded with enough care, perhaps even with some exposure to bright sunlight, resulting in what appear to be "light leaks" on many of the prints.

Image © 2013 Brett Payne
Nigel at the start of the walk down Dovedale, 13 September 2013
Image © 2013 Brett Payne

As amateurish as the photographs in this album are, I was delighted with the purchase since, as suggested earlier, the route taken by the party was very similar to the very enjoyable 15 kilometre walk that Nigel and I took from Hartington down Dovedale to Thorpe Cloud, and then to Tissington in September 2013. It's also an area which my great-grandfather Charles Vincent Payne, as a keen trout angler, must have known well. I hope you've enjoyed the journey of discovery too.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Sepia Saturday 274: A Grand Tour of Europe, 1904

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett & Marilyn Brindley

A year ago in Vacation Days are Kodak Days I featured a few images from a collection shared with me by Bill Nelson, scanned from a series of nitrocellulose negatives taken by an as yet unidentified amateur photographer on a European tour in 1904, probably using a No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak camera. Most of these high quality shots were taken in locations that were, even in 1904, relatively well known tourist destinations, but with an eye for composition and a technique that betrays not inconsiderable experience.

Today, given this week's Sepia Saturday image prompt of a poster of a coal cart drawn by two horses, I'd like to show you a few more of these images. I was initially struck by how many scenes included carts, carriages, wagons and other vehicles drawn by animals, wondering whether the photographer had intentionally focused on them, but in those pre-motor days, such methods of conveyance were a normal facet of everyday life in Europe, and our photographer would have used at least some of these during his journey.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Horse-drawn omnibuses, London, England, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

The journey appears to have started in bustling London, where the wide and still unpaved streets were full of pedestrians dodging a variety of horse-drawn hansom cabs, carriages and omnibuses, overshadowed by the tall buildings of the city. A deluge of advertisements flood the viewer with admonishments to buy Horlick's Malted or Nestle's Milk and Fry's Cocoa, or to watch the latest show at the Adelphi or Wyndham's theatre.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Organ grinder tableau, possibly in London, England, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

In a quieter suburban street, with a background of sash windows drawn up to let in the languid afternoon air, he captured this engaging image of an organ grinder busy shutting up shop at the end of a day's performances. His hat is perched jauntily on the back of his tousled head, a monkey balances on the organ and his daughter poses between the shafts of the hand cart, totally absorbed by the photographer setting up his apparatus on a tripod. Almost as an afterthought, a pedestrian in a straw boater walking along the pavement, perhaps on her way home from shopping, is momentarily distracted by the tableau.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Suburban scene, possibly in London, England, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

A less well framed, and yet just as charming, scene captured in a slightly upmarket residential area appears to record a visit to a private house. The upstairs windows are neatly framed by chintz curtains and underscored with an ornate wrought iron balcony. A hansom cab waits at the kerb, a horse impatiently champing at the bit and stretching its neck against the pull of the reins, while a group of young boys loitering on the pavement ham it up for the camera.

A woman wearing an enormous pancake hat, so characteristic of the mid-1900s, pauses on the threshold, in front of the already open doorway, while the somewhat disembodied lady of the house and a uniformed house maid peer as if taken unawares over decorated flower boxes through an open window. A scullery maid, caught as if by accident while having an rare break from her daily drudgery, leans wearily against the railings on the steps leading down to the servants' quarters in the basement.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Outside the Blue Ball Inn, Countisbury, Lynmouth, Devon, England, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

In Somerset the photographer visited several locations popularised by Romantic poets, such as in R.D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone (published in 1869), including Lynmouth, Countisbury and Porlock. Here a coach drawn by six horses prepares for departure from the Blue Ball Inn, which still operates to this day as a bed and breakfast.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Donkeys outside the New Inn, Clovelly, England, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

The tiny but picturesque fishing village of Clovelly in North Devon, brought to public attention by Charles Kingsley's 1855 novel Westward Ho! was another destination visited. Its steep cobbled streets, wattle-and-daub cottages, donkeys with pannier baskets and crusty old characters provided fertile ground for photographic procrastinations.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Dog cart in the Netherlands, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

A journey on one of the many ferries crossing the Channel took our photographer to Normandy, where the lives of peasants and fishermen on the pebbly beaches around √Čtretat caught his attention for a while, and then to the Netherlands, where he photographed this young man selling wares from a small dog cart parked in a leafy avenue.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Smock mill Sanssouci Park, Potsdam, Germany, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

The ubiquitous Dutch windmills and canals were photographed too, but it was this huge smock mill in Sanssouci Park, Potsdam (just west of Berlin, Germany) that caught my eye, particularly because of the marked contrast presented by the bizarrely shaped horse-drawn van. Unfortunately I can't quite make out the name of the business painted on its side, and the banner-shaped sign on top is facing the wrong direction, but I wouldn't mind buying a frankfurter or an ice cream from him, should either of those be on offer (perhaps not a frankfurter in Berlin).

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Oxen and wagon, Austria, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

In Austria a group is just visible taking refreshments in the cool shade of a leafy arbour in the village square, although the camera catches a woman washing laundry in the cherub-adorned fountain, while two oxen harnessed to a four-wheeled cart wait patiently nearby.


Possible itinerary for Grand European Tour, 1904

A possible itinerary drawn up for the unknown photographer's 1904 Grand Tour through Europe is somewhat fanciful, given that we don't have a clear picture of the order in which the photos were taken, but it does give an impression of the large amount of ground covered. One of the most intriguing aspects to this story is that a contact print of one of the negatives has been discovered in an archive in Bayreuth, Germany, suggesting that the films were being developed and printed along the way. How would this have been feasible for an amateur in 1904? For an answer to that we must start by looking at the camera which produced these fine photographs.

Image © and courtesy of David Purcell
No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak DeLuxe Camera, modified Model AB, c.1902
Image © and courtesy of David Purcell

118-format roll film, with individual frames measuring 3¼" x 4¼" was introduced by Eastman Kodak specifically for the No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak camera first offered for sale in April 1900. By 1904 this camera was available in its fifth version, the Model C-2, with an array of shutter and lens options. Given the high quality of the images, it seems likely that our photographer was using a recent version with high quality lens and shutter, perhaps similar to the modified AB Deluxe model with Persian morocco leather case, brown silk-covered bellows and an engraved silver nameplate, advertised in the 1903 Kodak catalogue for a pricey $75 (compared with $17.50 for a standard model).

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Negative album and index card for 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format rollfilm
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

The negatives in this collection, some with slightly uneven edges suggesting they were cut using a pair of scissors, are housed in a negative album containing 100 thick paper pockets in a thick green cloth-covered card folder, advertised in Kodak's 1903 catalogue for $1.00 (below).

Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project by Rob Niederman and Milan Zahorcak
Eastman's Negative Film Albums, extract from 1903 Kodak catalogue
Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project

Each 118-format transparent film cartridge with 12 exposures cost 70 cents, and supplies were available from Kodak outlets in, amongst several other cities, London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin and Vienna. Several dozen rolls must have been used during the trip, since there are multiple negatives in each sleeve.

Image © and courtesy of Geoff Harrisson
Kodak 118-format roll film
Image © and courtesy of Geoff Harrisson

The opening pages of Kodak's 1902 catalogue focused on their daylight-loading film cartridge, which utilised a strip of black paper along the back of the film strip to exclude light, making "pocket photography practical and ... it possible to do away with the dark room in loading and unloading the camera." This technology was already a decade old, invented by S.N. Turner of the Boston Camera Manufacturing Company for his Bull's Eye camera, then licensed and later purchased by George Eastman for the Pocket Kodak range.

Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project by Rob Niederman and Milan Zahorcak
Eastman's Kodak Developing Machine, extract from 1903 Kodak catalogue
Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project

By the time their 1903 catalog was released, however, the emphasis had taken a leap forward as Kodak announced, "The Dark Room is abolished" with the introduction in August 1902 of the Kodak Developing Machine, an idea brought to Eastman a few months earlier by its inventor A.W. McCurdy. The Kodak slogan had made a radical change, from "You press the button, we do the rest" to "You press the button, then do the rest."

Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project by Rob Niederman and Milan Zahorcak
Eastman's Kodak Developing Machine, extract from 1903 Kodak catalogue
Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project

With this tank (the Style E sold for $7.50, which included a wooden carrying case with leather handle) and a Kodak Developing Outfit (containing chemical powders and various other equipment needed, for another $1.60) our photographer would have been set for his expedition. According to The Kodak Story, a press photographer took one of these portable developing tanks with him to the front of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and was able to send developed negatives back to Collier's magazine for quick printing and publication.

Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project by Rob Niederman and Milan Zahorcak
Cover of 1903 Kodak catalogue
Image courtesy of the Digitized Kodak Catalog Project

Even with some presumed failures, our photographer must have been extremely competent, and I think we must examine the motives for this tour. Was he or she merely recording the adventure for posterity, as some snapshots of people in gardens and on board ship attest to, or were some of the photographs intended for some other purpose? Eastman Kodak Ltd sponsored a huge international contest open to amateur photographers, and many of the winners were featured in The Grand Kodak Exhibition, a spectacular travelling photographic show which toured Britain in 1904 and America in 1905.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
Men and Girl on the Docks, Marken, Netherlands, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

It is possible that our photographer was inspired by seeing this exhibition in England. Compare the images taken in Marken and Volendam in the Netherlands with those graphics used to illustrate Kodak marketing material and it's hard to deny their similarity. With such a serious commitment to photography, some considerable previous experience and, in the light of both contest and exhibition, was our photographer hoping to enter his own photographs in a subsequent competition? Or perhaps there was a hope of selling scenes to a postcard publisher?

Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson
The Streets of Volendam, Netherlands, 1904
Nitrocellulose negative film, 3¼" x 4¼", 118-format
Image © and courtesy of Bill Nelson

Marken, Volendam and Alkmaar have long been tourist destinations, just as they were when I visited my Dutch grandparents in Holland in my youth, and likewise other European destinations like Oxford, coastal Devon, Bayreuth, Potsdam, Prague and Vienna. The itinerary was one already well worn by generations of travellers as attested to by any number of Baedeker guides from that era. A new century in which transatlantic travel was much easier and quicker presented huge marketing opportunities for the firm of Eastman Kodak, and they had already made it clear they welcomed contributions from skilled amateurs.

Acknowlegements

Many thanks to Bill Nelson for the opportunity to study his collection of nitrocellulose negatives and reproduce scans of them, and for an ongoing conversation from which much more may eventually emerge.

I'm indebted to Rob Niederman and Milan Zahorcak for their extremely useful Digitized Kodak Catalog Project, which has cast such light on the background to Bill's collection, not to mention Rob's kind responses to my questions and sharing of his extensive knowledge of the history of old cameras.

Thank you also to David Purcell and Geoff Harrisson for permission to use the photographs of items in their private collections, which help to round out the photohistorical story.

References

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.

Hannavy, John (Ed.) (2013) Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Routledge.

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

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Sepia Saturday 273: The Automobile Association Road Patrol Service

Sepia Saturday by Marilyn Brindley and Alan Burnett

I've been absent from both Sepia Saturday and this blog for almost a year, pursuing various other interests, but what better time than Easter Weekend (spring or autumn, depending on your location) to return to the fray.

Image © & courtesy of Simon Debell
Unidentified Automobile Association cycle scout, c. early to mid-1920s
Postcard format portrait by Morgan's Studio, Cavendish St, Chesterfield
Image © & courtesy of Simon Debell

This postcard portrait was kindly sent to me last year for use on my Derbyshire Photographers web site. It features an unidentified young man dressed in the uniform of an Automobile Association Cycle Scout with his bicycle. The donor wondered whether the uniform was a prop, but I doubt it. Morgan's Studio (Proprietor, Henry John Morgan) operated from premises at 7 Cavendish Street, Chesterfield (Derbyshire) from at least 1926 to 1932.


The Automobile Association came into existence in 1905, and my "Member's Copy" of The Road Book of England & Wales published c. 1936 (courtesy of Nigel Aspdin) has the following relating to the history of the organisation in its introductory pages:

The Road Patrol Service
... some motorists organized ... a few cyclists on the London-Brighton road whose task it was to warn all passing motorists of "police-traps" ... The week-end cyclists on the Brighton road were the first A.A. patrols. To-day more than 20,000 miles of road in the British Isles are regularly patrolled by an army in distinctive khaki uniform ... The majority of the men are mounted on motor-cycles with yellow side-cars which contain full equipment to enable the riders to deal with the minor troubles which may still beset the motorist.

Image © Automobile Association & courtesy of Carlton Reid
Automobile Association Cycle Scout, undated
Image © Automobile Association & courtesy of Carlton Reid

The Online Bicycle Museum states that "motorcycle patrols, known as Road Service Outfits or RSOs" were introduced in 1919, and that "by 1923 there were 274 AA motorbike patrols but still 376 cyclists."


After a legal test case in 1910 involving an AA patrolman and a potentially speeding motorist, patrolmen were instructed by their superiors to salute the drivers of cars displaying the AA emblem, except when there was a speed trap nearby. The 1926 handbook stated:

It cannot be too strongly emphasised that when a patrol fails to salute, the member should stop and ask the reason why, as it is certain that the patrol has something of importance to communicate.
Image © & courtesy of Margarey Thackray
Arthur Wood in bus conductor's uniform, c. early to mid-1920s
Postcard format portrait by Morgan's Studio, Cavendish St, Chesterfield
Image © & courtesy of Margarey Thackray

A similar portrait by Morgan's Studio of a young man in a bus conductor's uniform, using the identical painted backdrop, has been dated to the early 1920s, and I believe the cyclist portrait to be from a similar time period.

Image © & courtesy of Gill Taylor
Unidentified group in Salvation Army uniform, c. late 1920s to early 1930s
Postcard format portrait by Morgan's Studio, Cavendish St, Chesterfield
Image © & courtesy of Gill Taylor

A third "uniform" portrait from this studio shows a group from the Salvation Army, although judging from the slightly different text this photograph was probably taken a few years later. It seems unlikely that Morgan's Studio specialised in portraits of people wearing uniforms, and it's probably just chance that half of the six examples that I have from this studio are in this vein.

Now I suggest that you dust off your own cycling uniform, get your bike out of the shed, and join the rest of this week's Sepia Saturday participants for what promises to be a very pleasant excursion.
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