Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Twice Told Tuesday - The Baffled Photographer

It seems pet photography was popular even in 1883 and it had its own problems; owing to the length of time needed for the exposure. Below is the story of a pampered cat and three farm dogs who arrived to have their portrait taken and what should have been the anticipated results.

The Baffled Photographer

A Des Moines photographer’s saloon was the scene of a lively chase, not long since, wherein a cat, three pups and several nervous persons participated. A cat’s picture was to have been taken, but it was not, because pussy’s nerves were not equal to an emergency :

Pussy was placed on a box, her hair smoothed down, a red ribbon adjusted, her whiskers fixed “just so,” and her tail wrapped softly around her front feet. She was then patted on the head, told to keep very quiet, and the Camera was turned on her.

The operator stood, watch in hand, counting off the seconds while the owner of the cat stood with her heart in her mouth, wondering if pussy would move. When the time was about half gone – woe to the “best laid plans of mice and men” – and the picture was about assured, in came an old farmer and his wife, with three fine specimens of bulldogs to be “taken.”

The dogs developed, suddenly, their love for cats – love to see the cats run – and they made a straight shoot for pussy, who was quietly waiting the finishing touches on her picture.

She did not stay any longer, but her back made a half moon, her smoothed hair was spoiled, and her tail alone was too big for the Camera. With a spit and a yell, she jumped from the chair and attempted to go home.

The windows and doors were all closed. She ran under every chair in the room, over every table and into every nook and corner.

The pups followed. Every woman in the house climbed a chair and screamed, the baby yelled at the top of his voice, the farmer followed the pups, trying to induce them to give up the chase, and the operator stood and looked as though he was wishing cats and dogs had been forgotten in the general make-up of things.

After the cat had tried every other place, she made a dart for the dark room, and as the pans and other traps went tumbling to the floor, the operator groaned a groan that was full of anguish.

It got too warm in there for pussy, and she sought for a more quiet abode.

Some one had been thoughtful enough in the mean time to open a window, and the cat, whose eyes were opened wider than when sitting for her picture, saw the chance for escape and improved it.

The whole outfit, pups and all, had to go home for repairs and to cool off, and that gallery lost three or four jobs for that day.

The Photograph

The photograph that accompanies this article is from the footnoteMaven's collection. It is dated approximately 1874 and shows that photographs of the family pets continued to be a favorite. Here we have a portrait of a cat and dog together, probably owing to the fact that much less time was needed for the exposure than in 1883. It does look as if the cat has waited all it intends to, and is about to jump on the unsuspecting sleeping dog.

The Photographer

On the back of a Victorian photograph - at the bottom - may be some tiny printed writing, that indicates the company that printed the card and sold the cardstock to the photographer.

Printed at the bottom on the reverse of this photograph is Copyright, Marion Imp, Paris Depose. In the 1870s the only information printed on the cardstock by Marion was "Marion Imp, Paris." The card then can be dated from 1870 forward.

The imprint on the back of the photograph depicts bamboo and roses in the design shown. In about 1874 Marion began using this as their new standard design. It was printed in pink, green and other colors, (Bamboo and Roses) with a bamboo design of an oval with squares in the corner and roses. As Marion didn't want this design to be copied by everyone, they marked them with Copyright, Marion, Imp Paris Depose. An example of this exact design can be found on Roger Vaughn's page of descriptions of Marion Imprints. The card can be dated from 1874 forward.

Next we determine if there was a photographer named Campbell working at Cromwell Place, Fort Ayr in 1874. The Ayrshire History website lists a compilation of the photographers who were working in Ayrshire and the dates they were working. David Campbell is listed in the 1873/74 Directory at 9 Cromwell Place. Subsequent to 1874 the address is used by James Rae and Ambrose Bara photographers.

Unless Rae and Bara purchased and were using Campbell's cardstock, (they were Scots after all) we can date this photograph to approximately 1874.

CAMPBELL, David, Ayr. At 9 Cromwell Place, AYR, in 1861/62 and 1864/65 Directories. Mrs David Campbell, photographer, listed in 1867/68 Directory.
"Campbell’s" listed in 1870/71 and 1873/74 Directories. Address subsequently used by James Rae and Ambrose Bara. Appears to be a different individual from following entry.

Notes on David Campbell 9 Cromwell Place, Ayr:

[D Campbell respectfully announces, that from the success he has experienced as an Amateur Photographer during the last 5 years, he has been induced, at the solicitation of a number of friends, to commence the practice of PHOTOGRAPHY Professionally; and that he has just opened those commodious premises, specially erected for a photographic studio, at No. 20 New Bridge Street, where he intends following out the Art in all its branches. The Art taught in a few lessons. 20 New Bridge Street, Ayr, April 1859.] [20 New Bridge Street address of James Brewster after September 1860]

[D Campbell, photographic artist, Cromwell Place, Fort, Ayr. "The Art taught in a few lessons"]

[Praise for views shown by Campbell at London Photographic Exhibition - called by BJP one of the few ‘new artistes who are likely to be men of mark". See ref in AA file. AA 7.2.1861 carries big advert, with long list of views available. Address: "9 Cromwell Place ‘the corner house opposite the Fort Castle’".]

["David Campbell. Begs to announce his return from Haddingtonshire. His portrait rooms will be open on and after Thursday first. He has brought with him a large number of new photographs, specimens of which will shortly be added to his collection. 9 Cromwell Place, Fort, Ayr. 14th May 1861".]

[Campbell’s Photographic Portrait Rooms and Photographic Printing Establishment, 9 Cromwell Place, Fort, Ayr].

[David Campbell, photographer, 9 Cromwell Place, Fort "has opened his portrait establishment for the season. I have .... this year engaged a Competent Assistant, who will conduct the Portrait Department in my absence".]


Unknown, "The Baffled Photographer."
American Journal of Photography and Photographers’ Price Current, June 1883, 2.

Subject Unknown, Photograph - Carte-de-visites. ca. 1874. Digital image. Original privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007.

Ayrshire History, 19th Century Photographers in Ayrshire, copyright Rob Close, compilation (http://www.ayrshirehistory.org.uk/Photographers/photographers1.htm#C : 25 March 2008), David Campbell entry.

Victorian and Edwardian Photographs - Roger Vaughan Personal Collection, Marion - Victorian Photograph Card Printers, copyright Roger Vaughn, (http://www.cartes.freeuk.com/dated/marion.htm : 24 March 2008).


Monday, September 28, 2009

The GYRabbit Redux

Did you know that The Graveyard Rabbit organization started here on Shades as a Weekend With Shades Column by the same name? It was written by Terry Thornton of Hill Country of Monroe County. Read the article that started it all!

The roads in the extreme northeastern part of the hill country's Monroe County pass the highest hills of the county. Some of those roads are Horseshoe Bend Road and Lindsey Road, both in the heart of the Jug Hills. Passing through a group of gentle rolling hills and valleys into the southern section of Itawamba County, Lindsey Road merges with State Line Road.

Along State Line Road is evidence of much early human activity in the hill country. And State Line Road is the way to Cherry Tree.

The roads to Cherry Tree from Monroe County go through some of the most interesting low hills of Hill Country. From the high points of around 580 feet in Monroe County, the hills increase slightly in height. Around Cherry Tree the tallest hills are about 600 feet, well below the high points of 660 feet much further to the north in Itawamba County.

Along State Line Road are remains of a railroad track, the Kentucky Railroad, built exclusively for the removal of the old-growth timber that once formed the forests of this area. There, along this historic road, are remains of several pottery sheds --- the region was once full of potters plying their trade, firing the clay dug from the hills. One of the adjoining roads in Monroe County is even called Jug Shop Road. It passes by the ruins of the remaining kiln --- the only memorial to the time of the potters and to their products which were so highly prized and so necessary to earlier settlers of the region.

And along the roads are banks from which potters once dug the moist clay used to mold stoneware churns and pots and mugs and plates and crocks and jars and jugs. All along these roads can be easily seen where the potters and the earlier settlers got the wood to make the fires to heat the pottery --- there are many hills covered with the mixed growth of hardwood and softwood trees so typical of the southern hills.

All alongside State Line Road are dozens of sites once the places of much activity. There were small hill farms, saw mills, pastures, and, yes, the road passes numerous hollows and valleys where whiskey stills once operated. Long noted for the fine corn whiskey produced in Hill Country, the area today shuns that association and many prefer not to make mention of the local whiskey heritage.

But the whiskey trade and the pottery trade went hand-in-hand. Many of the potters enjoyed a steady income by producing whiskey jugs for the whiskey makers. The whiskey maker had a steady income by selling his product inside a well-fashioned stoneware jug. And some whiskey makers, it is said, had their own pottery operations!

Along the road to Cherry Tree are found remains of old schools --- of old churches --- and of old houses --- all bearing mute testimony to the life and times of early settlers in the hills of Mississippi. One such community today is still well-marked with its church and its cemetery --- and one of the grave markers in that cemetery is the subject of today's column --- the grave of Lizy Lundy at Cherry Tree, Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Lizy Lundy at Cherry Tree
Itawamba County, Mississippi

A few years ago while doing research on the potters of Monroe County, I ran across a statement by Minnie Lee Maxey Suggs. In an interview she described an area north of Smithville mentioning a place name that was new to me. She stated ". . .on the way to Cherry Tree . . ." and indicated an approximate distance and direction from her home town, Smithville.

And imagine my surprise when the first tour conducted by the Monroe County Discussion Group, The Pottery Tour of Monroe and Itawamba County, Mississippi, included a drive through Cherry Tree. I was delighted to learn where Cherry Tree was located.

At one time, Cherry Tree, Itawamba County, Mississippi, boasted a school and a church and a cemetery and a large number of families to support such organizations. Many years ago the school and the church shared a common building. Today, the "new" church building is just south and across the road from the original site --- today that church is known as James Creek Primitive Baptist Church. But some still call it the Cherry Tree Church.

Cherry Tree Church Sign

Cherry Tree Church

Site of an annual sacred harp singing each July for many years, James Creek Church/Cherry Tree Church is also the location of the community cemetery. Some maps even give the name of the cemetery as Wiggington Cemetery but local residents say they've only heard the cemetery called Cherry Tree Cemetery or James Creek Cemetery. [The voting precinct, however, is known as Wiggington.]

A View of
Cherry Hill Cemetery

Earlier I wrote about Beauty's Grave, a marker with sixteen lines of poetry upon it from the Cherry Tree Cemetery. Click here to read Beauty's Grave; perhaps you can help identify the author of the poetry. The marker I call Beauty's Grave is for Margaret L. Wiggington.

But just a few feet away from Beauty's Grave is one of the most interesting grave markers I've found in Hill Country --- it is a small sandstone marker with a single name upon it without dates: the marker for Lizy Lundy.

Cherry Tree
Lizy Lundy Marker
Front View

It is obviously a hand-fashioned grave marker and the most unique home-made one I've found.

When I first examined this marker some months ago, I could not determine what it was made from nor how. On a second visit to the cemetery with Frank Vanasselberg of Fulton, Mississippi, to assist me, we determined that the marker was made of stone, probably local sandstone of which limited outcroppings occur in this region of hill country. The stone, after it was "worked" to inscribe a name upon it, was covered with aluminum paint (or some other metallic paint) and then placed in a base of concrete.

The name incised upon the stone is thought to have been "pecked" into the stone with a chisel in much the manner by which "peckers" prepared the surface of millstones for gristmills. The same basic process was used by indigenous people of the Americas to produce various petroglyphs, pictures on stones. Lizy Lundy's marker is well done --- her name is deeply etched on the back of the marker --- and the face of the marker is thought to be the work of nature --- the unique design the result of sediment and sand and water --- although at first glance the design seems to be man-made.

Cherry Tree
Lizy Lundy Marker
Side View

Cherry Tree
Lizy Lundy Marker
Side View

The unique grave marker for Lizy Lundy is small --- it is on a base of concrete approximately 9 by 16 inches; the marker stands 19 inches above the base and is about 2 inches thick.

It is a beautiful little stone grave marker. That the stone is probably locally obtained sandstone, that the name inscribed upon it was hand-pecked into the stone, and that it was then painted with a metallic paint makes it a one-of-a-kind grave marker worthy of study and admiration.

In the hills of the South is an old expression "brought on" which means store-bought or mass produced. Lizy Lundy's marker is not a "brought on" grave marker but one fashioned by love and by hand and serves well to mark her passing.

I am so glad to have found the way to Cherry Tree and to this wonderful example of what can be accomplished when local talent is combined with ingenuity applied to locally available materials to satisfy a local need.

Suggested reading and special acknowledgments:

Thanks to Frank Vanasselburg, Bob Franks, Mrs. and Mrs. Charles Booth, all of Itawamba County, Mississippi, for their assistance and help in preparing this column.

Thanks to James Alverson, Biloxi, Mississippi, and the Members and Guests of the Monroe County Discussion's Group Pottery Tour of Monroe and Itawamba County, Mississippi, and special thanks to Doyle Summerford, Turon, Mississippi, driver and guide whose knowledge of the area was so freely shared.

An Interview with Minnie Lee Maxey Suggs, conducted by Gladys Gallop Jackson, Jerry Anderson Harlow, and Weda Suggs Hudson, Monroe County, Mississippi. Transcribed by Jerry Anderson Harlow and published in Journal of Monroe County History, Volume 21, 1995, as reprinted at the Monroe Country GenForum in a series of posts beginning at Message Number 78, March 18, 2000, by Sharon Bowling Carter.

See Bob Franks, "Itawamba County's Highest Elevation Along the Tennessee Divide", Itawamba History Review, August 26, 2007.

See Top of the "Hill Country: 3 High Points", Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi, August 24, 2007.

For more about pecking/dressing millstones, see "G.S. Thornton Gristmill", Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi, December 4, 2007.



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend With Shades - Sunday - September 27

A Monthly - Weekend With Shades - Column

Uncle Sam's Secrets

Dan and his grandfather shared a love of history genealogy and old photographs. Dan enjoyed his grandfather stories of the war and the postwar era. Dan had started a blog and a web site about the war years. There were, however, times when Grandpa would say, "Oh, I can't talk about that yet. But one of these days..." Dan assumed that the subject matter was just too emotionally painful for his grandfather to talk about. Unfortunately Grandpa passed away before "one of these days" came along. Dan was left without a complete understanding of what his grandfather had done during that period of time.

About a year after his grandfather died, Dan received a large package from his grandmother. It contained hundreds of photographs that Dan had never seen before. Among them were some of the ones displayed below. On the backs of some of the photographs were legends such as: "Not for Publication," or "Restricted Information," or "For Official Use Only" or most ominously,
"Release Restricted By Code of Wartime Practices." Others were simply marked "Secret" or "Top Secret." Many of them had a logo on them that look like this:

Lapel Pin worn by Office of Censorship personnel in the 1940s

Left: A nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s. The people on the right are military personnel, part of the Government's Human Radiation Exposure project. This photograph was at one time classified. (Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Dept of Energy).

Maj Gen Leslie R. Groves and Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer confer about the Manhattan Project. This photograph was once restricted from publication. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy.

Dan did not know what to make of the photographs. Could he use them in his blog? Could he even lawfully possessed them? What on earth did it mean "Classified by the Office of Censorship"? After all this is America; we wouldn't have an office of censorship! And if we ever had, certainly it couldn't still be in control of things now.

Two Soviet Agents meeting with a U.S. Atomic Scientist are caught on U.S. security surveillance cameras in the 1940s. From left to right: Soviet agent Gregory Kasparov, UC Berkeley scientist Martin Kamen, and Gregory Kheifits, then the Soviet NKGB station head in San Francisco. Formerly classified photograph, courtesy National Security Agency

Not exactly sure what to do, Dan turned to his favorite photography blog, Shades of the Departed, and searched the Appealing Subjects articles. He found this one.

World War II Censorship and Cold War Government Secrecy

On December 18, 1941, by Executive Order 8785, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Office of Censorship. In creating the office, Roosevelt said, "All Americans abhor censorship, just as they abhor war. But the experience of this and of all other Nations has demonstrated that some degree of censorship is essential in wartime, and we are at war."

The Office of Censorship had powers unprecedented in American history. The Executive Order said:

The Director of Censorship shall cause to be censored, in his absolute discretion, communications by mail, cable, radio, or other means of transmission passing between the United States and any foreign country or which may be carried by any vessel or other means of transportation touching at any port, place, or Territory of the United States and bound to or from any foreign country . . . .
This broad grant of authority included the ability to restrict publication of photographs.

The executive news editor of the Associated Press, Byron Price, was appointed the first and only Director of Censorship. Price's biggest task during the war was to secret information about development of the atomic bomb. Ironically, because of the tight security surrounding the Manhattan Project, Price himself did not learn of the US efforts to build a nuclear weapon for more than a year after he took over the Office of Censorship.

Price's office developed the so-called "Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press and Radio," which, although couched in terms seemingly voluntary, made clear that certain things were not to be published.

In September 1942, the Office of War Information promulgated a regulation on the management of classified and restricted information. This regulation would later be the basis for an Executive Order issued by President Truman in 1950, which introduced the modern era of government secrecy.

Above, right: Telephone Operators at Camp Mercury, Nevada, location of the then secret Nevada Test Site, early 1950s. Photograph was formerly classified. Courtesy, National Nuclear Security Administration, US Dept of Energy

During the Eisenhower administration, the government began to set up mechanisms to review and declassify restricted information. Those mechanism have changed over time, but have resulted in declassification of millions of documents of historical value. But it has been a slow and difficult process. So, believe it or not, there is some amount of classified information from World War II that remains classified today.

But, back to Dan and his problem.

How would Dan know if some of the photographs left by his grandfather are restricted from publication? Note that some formerly classified photos look fairly innocent. Dan first would need to learn something about the photos. Specifically, he might want to ask:

  1. Where were the photographs taken?
  2. What is depicted in the photographs?
  3. What other markings are on the backs or captions of the photographs?
  4. How did his grandfather come to possess them?
  5. What did his grandfather do during the war? (that may explain the previous questions).
  6. Which branch of service was he in?

To learn some of these things, Dan may have to consult an expert photo-historian or a national security expert or both. In these areas, Maureen Taylor and John Pike are two of the "rock stars," respectively.

The National Archives Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) is now responsible for managing the Government-wide security classification system. That office and other elements of the Archives may be of some assistance as well.

Above, right: a location at the then-secret Los Alamos laboratory, 1940s. Photograph formerly restricted from publication. Courtesy, US Dept of Energy.

What are the practical implications for family historians? The chances are fairly small that one might encounter a classified photograph that is still security restricted from World War II. But such photographs might be found for more recent eras. Since the Truman Executive Order of 1950, classified or restricted documents are marked with their security classification. The terms used since the 1950s are: Restricted, Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. One may encounter documents or photographs labelled "Controlled", "For Official Use Only," "NOFORN" ("no foreign dissemination"--cannot be disclosed to foreign governments or nationals). The label "Law Enforcement Sensitive" might also be used. Over the last few years, ISOO has tried to "clean up" and streamline the classification process and eliminate many terms that had come into usage in the Government.

If you come across a photograph or document that has a security classification labeling, it would seem to me that not publishing it until its status is resolved is the prudent course. And I would seek to resolve the matter right away. The Federal Bureau of Investigation may be the most convenient place to go with such photographs, although the Archives also would be a place to go.

Again, I think the chances of classified photographs being interspersed with family photos is rather slim.

By the way, the declassification programs of recent years have netted treasure troves of history for entire communities. One great example is the Hanford Declassification Project, which has restored the history of the community of Hanford, Washington.


Reminder: Appealing Subjects/Shades Contest: You still have until Oct 15 to tell us what happened to the killer of photographer A.J. Magill in East St Louis, Illinois in 1908. You could win a Shades T-Shirt designed by footnote Maven! See last month's Appealing Subjects.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekend With Shades - Saturday - September 26

A Monthly - Weekend With Shades -

I’m fortunate enough to have photos of six of my eight great-grandparents. But I’m not fortunate enough to have tons of photos of greats and great-greats at various stages of their lives. I admire those who do possess large collections of family treasures. Okay, so maybe it’s more like envy and not admiration. When it comes to great photos of your ancestors, I’m definitely one of the “have nots” instead of the “haves”. But I have tried to remedy this – why should so few family historians have all the fun?

My desire to find more old family photos has become an obsession. My family has been no help in feeding my addiction. I have tracked down cousins by the dozens and popped the magic question: “Do you have any photos of our great-grandparents?” But no one has delivered the goods so far. A few of them torture me with hints that photos exist, buried in someone’s basement or attic. So I keep asking, like one of those pop-up windows on the computer that asks “Are you sure?”


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weekend With Shades - Sunday - September 20

A Monthly - Weekend With Shades - Column

Background Check

I was thinking about this online opportunity to write articles about genealogy for Examiner.com. You have to apply to be accepted. They also do a background check.

Then I was thinking about all of the pictures that we take of our family and friends these days. We all have pocket size digital cameras that we take everywhere with us. We just snap away because it's relatively cheap and easy with digital. Unfortunately, we seldom do a 'background check'. When we take the time to look at the images we see a number of distractions, in the background, that compromise our shots.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Weekend With Shades - Saturday - September 19

Rebecca is taking a well earned respite. I encourage you to read Vintage Cameras - Time Machines that was written for Friday From The Collectors. It's every bit as good the second time around.


Rebecca Fenning
a sense of face

It’s a little known fact, but it is completely possible to time travel with nothing more than an old camera and a roll of film. Moreover, this phenomenon only becomes more impressive the more we become accustomed to digital photography and thereby separated from the process that produced the family pictures we treasure so much. Vintage cameras help us to give some insight into the technologies and instruments that produced the pictures in our collections, but just as importantly, they also put us in touch with our mothers’, grandmothers’ and younger selves’ experiences of picture taking.

Photograph taken with ancestral
Welta Reflekta I
2007 [1]

Swimming pool construction ca. 1960s
Photograph possibly taken with
Brownie Starmeter

At the most basic level, having an idea about the kind of camera my grandfather might have used to take pictures on his honeymoon is a good thing, for it gives a better sense of the material culture and the texture of his time, as well as providing a deeper context for his photos. Similarly, dating and describing family photographs becomes easier when you can identify (at least attempt to identify) negatives or slides as the products of 116, 127 or 626 film, for example. The fact that I can recognize my aunt might have used the very same Baby Brownie Special currently in my camera bag to take a picture of her new puppy in 1958

Hoffer, Helene. Kathi, Ethel and Frank Hoffer
with Jackie, ca. 1958
Photograph probably with
Baby Brownie Special

adds another level of insider knowledge to my identification of family photos. But it also illustrates my personal belief about the potential of photography to become a deeply meaningful site of intergenerational interaction as well as the notion (also mine) that cameras are living objects whose greatest value lies in their continued use, which is, after all, the only way to truly harness the power of their time-traveling ability.

St. Paul, Oregon diptych, 2007.
Photograph taken with ancestral
Brownie Special [4]

Looking through the lens of a vintage camera and pressing the shutter can be quite literally like looking through a porthole to a different time. This is pretty obvious when considering the foggy, scratched and inexact lenses of inexpensive snapshot cameras like Brownies but is true of higher quality cameras as well, simply because of the fact that using them requires slowing down to match their pace. The memory-making tools of the past are very different from those to which we’ve grown accustomed in the last 10 or 20 years as the speed, automation and quality of point-and-shoot film and digital cameras has gotten faster and better. In addition to this difference in process, it is also important to remember that the product film cameras create – especially the old, crappy ones – is profoundly different from those created by our digital cameras. While digital cameras (and newer film cameras, too) generally seek to make themselves as invisible as possible in their finished products, old cameras imprint themselves on the negatives and prints they produce, leaving artifactual traces of the process of picture taking – blurs, halos, scratches and distortions that can turn the most modern scene into something magical and unstuck in time. This, of course, has great artistic potential, which is part of the reason why I use vintage cameras as much as I do.

Frank Hoffer, ca 1950s, probably
taken with Brownie Starmeter [5]

Photograph taken with ancestral
Welta Refleka I
2007 [6]

I own a fair number of cameras, many of them cheap and old. The most special of these were so cheap that they were actually free, which belies their true, incalculable value. These cameras had been sitting and gathering dust in the backs of familial closets before they came to me and, as such, have an emotional connection to me that takes them beyond being just photographic tools in my arsenal. They were cameras that had belonged to my mother and her sister as kids, and though neither them nor their parents are or were exceptionally capable photographers (my mom said she knew her sister had taken the above puppy photo because of the fact that their father’s head was not included in the picture), inheriting them felt unbelievably special. Even more special was that one of them, found in my aunt’s closet, a Brownie Starmeter she had labeled with her name and address as a child, had a roll of film in it. When I excitedly finished it and had it developed, I was greeted by a 30 year old picture of my grandmother, taken sometime before the camera had been put away in the back of a closet.

[L] Photograph taken with ancestral Brownie Starmeter. [7]

[R] Ethel Hoffer, ca 1960s, taken with
Brownie Starmeter [8]

That picture appearing on a roll of film next to pictures I’d just taken, 16 years after my grandmother’s death, was the moment when I realized just how special this camera inheritance chain really was – for it wasn’t just about how neat pictures look through the distorted, scratchy, plastic lenses of old cameras, but about how I was collaborating with past picture-takers through my use of these cameras, through learning to see the world quite literally through the same lenses they’d used to document themselves for posterity.

Some of my vintage cameras,
including those discussed above

with their approximate production dates
taken with a Polaroid SLR 680 (1980s)
Note: Not all of these are crappy cameras! :)
L to R : Polaroid Square Shooter 2 (1972-1975)
120 film, 116 and 127 film spools
Welta Reflekta I (1950-55)
Polaroid Automatic 250 (1967-1969)
Baby Brownie Special (1939-1954)
Kodak Vest Pocket Autographic (1915-1926)
Kodak 2A Brownie Model B (1911-1924)
on top: Brownie Starmeter (1960-65)
Zenza Bronica S2 (ca 1965)
Conley Kewpie 2a (ca 1917-1922)


[1] Fenning, Rebecca. Encino, California, 2007. Photograph taken with ancestral Welta Reflekta I.
[2] Swimming pool construction, ca. 1960s. Photograph possibly taken with Brownie Starmeter.
[3] Hoffer, Helene. Kathi, Ethel and Frank Hoffer with Jackie, ca. 1958. Photograph probably with Baby Brownie Special.
[4] Fenning, Rebecca. St. Paul, Oregon diptych, 2007. Photograph taken with ancestral Baby Brownie Special.
[5] Frank Hoffer, ca 1950s, probably taken with Brownie Starmeter.
[6] Fenning, Rebecca. Encino, California, 2006. Photograph taken with ancestral Welta Refleka I.
[7] Fenning, Rebecca. Los Angeles, California, 2006. Photograph taken with ancestral Brownie Starmeter.
[8] Ethel Hoffer, ca 1960s, taken with Brownie Starmeter.
[9] Fenning, Rebecca. Vintage cameras, 2008. Taken with a non-ancestral Polaroid SLR 680.

Copyright © 2008
Rebecca Fenning
a sense of face


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Carnival's In Town


Smile For The Camera
10 September 2009

Let's call this class to attention, as my 6th Grade teacher Miss Minter would say. I think we all loved "School Days." The new lunch pail and that giant box of crayons. This carnival was a pleasure.

Again, you have outdone yourselves presenting a very interesting and varied group of photographs depicting you, your friends, ancestors and their "School Days."

Let's open the cover of this edition of Smile For The Camera's album of "School Days." It is September after all.

Cyndi Beane Henry's submission, COG - "Smile for the Camera," posted at Mountain Genealogists shows "A photo of the Texicanwife from her high school days. Along with a little reflective poem, also by the Texicanwife." I loved the poem Cyndi. When looking in the mirror I often reflect on the same things.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze always has wonderful photographs and she doesn't disappoint in Lambton Park Toronto School Photo 1919 posted at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. "Gangs of New York comes to Toronto Canada! 1919 class photo of my mother's cousin Doris Simpson with her schoolmates." I think many of our ancestor belonged to this gang.

Wendy Littrell presents Readin? and ?riting and ?rithmetic posted at All My Branches Genealogy. "School signals the end of summer, beginning of football season, the changing of the weather, the time to curl up with a hot mug of hot cocoa and a good book, and a reason to start making my chili!" What would our ancestors say if they knew we were posting their report cards for the whole world to see?

Missy Frye's School Days: Smile for the Camera posted at Missy's Genealogy Blog is a photograph of her 1974 Halloween Carnival. She was a flower girl! And an adorable one at that.

Dru Pair presents Memory Monday: A Demonstration of Love posted at Find Your Folks. Professor Dru writes a heartfelt article about the love and care shown to her by a group of high school friends. Friends still. You made me feel good, Dru. Often, life is good.

Midge Frazel presents Grandmother's School Photo posted at Granite in My Blood. Grandmother's School Photo is an old-fashioned look back and elementary school group photos. Is this an all-girls school or maybe a Sunday School class sitting on the steps of a house? Whichever it is, it sure is cute!

Cindy Curtin presents Wordless Wednesday - Back To School!! posted at Everything's Relative - Researching Your Family History. The Fourth Grade Class, Rockville, Maryland Elementary School. Ah, youth and a great photograph!

Henk van Kampen shows us a group of third grade MULO (high school) pupils from the Klokkenberg MULO in Nijmegen in his post School days at Roots. The start of school is the same all over the world and Henk shows us the photographic proof.

Frances Ellsworth tells us she survived the School Pictures Record How We Grow posted on her blog Branching Out Through The Years. I too remember the night before my school photograph and for me it got worse with age. Frances and her three sets of photographs obviously got better with age.

Linda Hughes Hiser introduces us to three life long friends that's friendship began in elementary school, in her ticket to Smile for the Camera, 17th Edition "School Days" posted at Flipside." There was a time when this country was less mobile than today. You could form a friendship in the first grade that lasted a lifetime. Is it possible now?

Carol presents Smile for the Camera, 17th Edition, 4 Generations of School Photos posted at Reflections From the Fence. A beautiful generational family album of school photographs. Great job, Carol! (I love the title of Carol's blog. I can see my Grandmother hanging on the fence.)

Sheri Fenley's ticket to Smile is a 1908 class photograph titled School Days in Kansas posted at The Educated Genealogist. What makes Sheri's photograph so interesting is that it is a postally unused postcard. Many amateur photographs during this time were made into postcards. Sometimes school districts or teachers used this as a remembrance for the students.

Sue Edminster presents Graduation Day, 1910 posted at Echo Hill Ancestors Weblog. A graduation photograph of her father holds some very interesting genealogical clues. She says, "The students and teacher are all wearing ribbons clearly showing the year as 1910. Sadly the rest of the ribbon isn’t readable." Sue, would your father have attended a Catholic school? The ribbon looks as if it may say St. Ann and appears to be the signatures of all the students pictured. Do you have a higher resolution scan that could be enhanced?

Fellow Missourian Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames (love the name!) counts the ways a child grows in Bittersweet Journey of a Child's School Days. From the photographs that tell the story, to the the numbers. Jenna, you've got you ticket!

Charles Hansen presents I smile for the Camera, School Days posted at Mikkel's Hus. "Hard to believe this was in 1960, but the school was torn down in 1989 and a new Whitman was built (third Whitman school). The new building looks like a concrete warehouse with a few windows, but the school district saved a bundle by building all the schools the same." Welcome fellow Washingtonian! Great job!

Leslie Ann at Lost Family Treasures would like to post her old school photographs, but they're in Idaho and she's in Florida. She does have one, though, and it's a treasure. Thanks to her kindergarten teacher we get a look at Leslie Ann on her last day of kindergarten in Smile For The Camera - School Days. Having even one "School Days" photograph is a good thing.

Ken Spangler has a damaged photograph of his mother in School Days - Atlanta, Texas - 1949-50 posted at Beyond Fiction. Now Ken, I'm not a restoration artist but I thought you might like a look at Mom without the crease.

Greta Koehl presents Smile for the Camera: School Days posted at Greta's Genealogy Bog. From my mother's old photo albums and through the generosity of a couple of cousins who shared pictures with me, I have been able to find photographs showing the old building of the school attended by some of my mother's siblings, a couple of her sisters from their high school days, and a picture of one of the teachers there who married one of her brothers."

Geniaus presents Flowers and Sunshine Cheer our Pathway..... posted at Geniaus. "The Class of '65 at St. Vincent's College had a happy time at school." The oldest Catholic girls school in Australia. It was established by the Irish Sisters of Charity in 1858. I loved this submission. From 1956 to 2008, no one has changed a smidge.

John Newmark's Smile for the Camera: School Days posted at TransylvanianDutch is a real winner. John, I too am amazed at what your maternal grandparents, Martin and Myrtle (Van Every) Deutsch saved. This was a truly beautiful post filled with photographs and ephemera. I really enjoyed your submission.

Earline Bradt presents Smile For The Camera #17 - School Days posted at Ancestral Notes. "Here is one of my favourite school pictures, wearing my "beef stew" dress that my mom made for me." What is a "beef stew" dress you ask. You must stop by Ancestral Notes to find the answer.

Jasia, the Queen of the COG, and author of Creative Gene is Remembering Those Elementary School Days.... "September always reminds me of going back to school. And for me that brings happy memories. I always enjoyed the school environment and looked forward to going back to school every year." I know just what you mean.

Caroline Pointer of Family Stories is so talented. Her Family Stories: Hurry Up To Look Back is the not to be missed submission. "A look back at my family's school days. Even though we may hurry up only to look back, sometimes we take a little memento of the past with us on our journey forward."

Craig Manson gives us an excellent history lesson in Good Schools A Staple of Ancestors? Lives posted at GeneaBlogie. The information, the photographs, and those perfect sources are brilliant. And so is Craig!

I had the pleasure of meeting Gini Webb of Ginisology at the SoCal Jamboree. She is a beautiful person inside and out. In her submission for Smile Gini tells us about her family photographic tradition started for her Grandchildren. Now, get those pictures out of the camera, we want you to prove you're a Grandmother. I just don't believe it!

Everyone knows I am an unabashed fan of Brett Payne, The Photo-Sleuth. I love the new profile photograph created by his daughter. You must see it. Brett can only do a post if he gives it his all and School Days in Den Haag is no exception. "A sequence of class photographs showing my Oma over a period of almost two decades, first as a scholar, then at teacher training college, and lastly with a class of her own."

Becky Wiseman gets the prize for the most dedicated Smile participant. She is submitting while on the road, now in Kansas. My very brave blogging friend has set off on the journey of a lifetime. You are one amazing woman! How I envy you. Please let me know when you reach Seattle. Her submission lists some excellent past posts to review and a priceless sketch in kinexxions: Schooldaze posted at kinexxions.

Carol Genung demonstrates that they don't make them like they used to in Smile for the Camera, 17th Edition - School Days posted at Illuminated Ancestries. How can we tear down our history?

Be jealous, be very jealous! While we toil away on our blogs, Donna Pointkouski of What's Past Is Prologue is touring the world {sigh}. She didn't go away without leaving her submission for Smile, Back To School. Take a look at her grandfather, James Pointkouski, and his 8th grade class at the Horatio B. Hackett public school in Philadelphia, 1926. Granddad was a cutie.

foonoteMaven closes the album cover on this edition of Smile For The Camera with History Hidden In The Shed posted at Shades Of The Departed. As always the ghosts of the street where I live are here to Smile For The Camera.

Thank You All!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this fantastic 17th Edition of Smile For The Camera and welcome to all the first-time contributors. We had several. It is evident from each and every photographic submission that a great deal of time, effort, love, and research went into each contribution. As Randy Seaver would say, please take a moment to stop and comment and show your appreciation!

Now The Call For Submissions!


Smile For The Camera
10 October 2009

The word prompt for the 18th Edition of Smile For The Camera is "Travel." Planes, trains and automobiles. Horses, mules, carts, and wagons. Bikes or on foot. Show us your family and how they traveled. This is going to be a good one, I feel it in my luggage. Admission is free with every photograph!

Your submission may include as many or as few words as you feel are necessary to describe your treasured photograph. Those words may be in the form of an expressive comment, a quote, a journal entry, a poem (your own or a favorite), a scrapbook page, or a heartfelt article. The choice is yours!

And speaking of traveling, there will be no Smile in October, the Travel prompt for Smile will be due 10 November. I am traveling to Montana for my son's wedding and then I'm off to Yellowstone, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Glacier, and back home. How many antiques stores do you think there are on this trip?

Deadline for submission is midnight (PT)
10 November 2009


There are two options:

1. Send an email to the host, footnoteMaven. Include the title and permalink URL of the post you are submitting, your name, and the name of your blog. Put 'Smile For The Camera' clearly in the title of your email!

2. Use the handy submission form provided by Blog Carnival, or select the Bumper Sticker in the upper right hand corner.
See you at the Carnival!