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Henry Ravell: Embracing Art & Photography

“Coburnesque”, or, in the style of American master pictorialist Alvin Langdon Coburn, (1882-1966) was how the work of now forgotten American photographer Henry Ravell (1864-1930) was described in 1908 by London’s Amateur Photographer & Photographic News.

1-a-narrow-street-guanajuDetail: “A Narrow Street-Guanajuato”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage multiple color gum print c. 1907-14. Image: 33.1 x 23.5 presented loose within brown paper folder with overall support dimensions of 39.8 x 58.8 cm. In central Mexico, with the dome of a church framing the skyline at center in background, two native women make their way along one of Guanajuato’s narrow streets. Henry Ravell perfected the gum bichromate process to a very high level. Probably in 1906-07, he began experimenting in multiple color gum. In Germany, around this same time, similar examples were being done by the brothers Theodor (1868-1943) and Oscar Hofmeister, (1871-1937) as well as Heinrich Wilhelm Müller. (1859-1933) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Under the headline “Local Colour.” by journal critic “The Magpie”, a discussion of the merits around Ravell’s new color multiple gum printing process was considered for their large readership. Commenting on a series of his Mexican church photographs published in the May issue of the Century Magazine, “Magpie” writes:

 

“Who is this Mr. Ravell, and what is his wonderful colour process, which is not “on the negative”? Multiple-gum, one may surmise- and one may also venture to guess that Mr. “de Forest” (Lockwood de Forest- editor) has, notwithstanding this flourish of trumpets, nothing very much to tell us. The Ravell photographs, illustrating “Some Mexican Churches,” are Coburnesque, and the pictures are, in their very Yankee style, fine and strong- which is more than can be said for those in our English monthlies. Couldn’t Mr. Ravell be induced to send some examples of his work to the R.P.S. or Salon? We badly need some new American exhibitors.” (June 16, p. 600)

 

A reassessment of Ravell’s output is long overdue in elevating him back to his rightful position as one of the more important practitioners of pictorialism in the early 20th Century canon of American artistic photographers.

 

2-36-canal-street-on-far-right-3rd-floor-was-ch-lyons-photo-studioLeft: Henry Ravell was only a toddler when his father Charles Henry Ravell (1833-1917) opened a skylight photographic studio on the third floor of this brick building painted red located on Canal Street in Lyons, New York around 1865-66. Shown here in the summer of 2019, the entrance was at the present day 36 Canal street (on the far right of the photo-presently an insurance office) but was numbered #30 Canal before the turn of the 20th Century. It was here that Henry was “brought up in photography from childhood and became an expert in all processes before he was twelve years old”. Right: A full-page advertisement for “Ravell’s Photograph Gallery” operated by C.H. Ravell at the Canal street building appeared in the 1867-68 Wayne County (New York) Business Directory. At the time, Charles Ravell would have been using the wet-plate process, and the ad highlights “Large Imperial Photographs finished in Ink or Colors”… “Pictures Executed Equally as Well in Cloudy Weather Except of Children”… “Particular attention given to taking Babies’ Pictures, without Getting Cross”. Left: David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive; Right: courtesy Museum of Wayne County History.

 

Undoubtedly, “Magpie” would have been pleased to know Henry Ravell sprung from fine English photographic stock. His father Charles Henry Ravell (1833-1917) emigrated to the U.S. from Boston, England and was known to have been active as a Daguerreotypist as early as 1857, (1.) his trade shingle set up early in the New York state village of Chittenango. By 1860, U.S. Census records show he had moved to Wolcott, New York, where he was a commercial photographer. Surviving cdv photographs from here bearing his C.H. Ravell back-stamp reveal some of his clients were young men heading off to fight in the American Civil War.

 

3-ch-ravell-and-cdv-cardsLeft: This is the only known portrait of commercial portrait photographer Charles Henry Ravell, father of Henry Ravell. The carte de visite albumen portrait shows him most likely in his early 30’s, after he had settled in Lyons, New York. Born Charles Herring Ravel in Boston, England, he emigrated to the U.S. as a young man, with an early notice of his Daguerreotypist skills from 1857 showing he was living in Chittenango, New York State. By 1860, he had settled in Wolcott, where son Henry was born in early 1864. By 1867 or earlier, he and wife Cornelia Dudley Ravell (1840-1908) and Henry had moved permanently to nearby Lyons. Middle & Right: This elaborate backstamp engraving for C.H. Ravell’s Canal Street skylight studio in Lyons is ca. 1865-80, with the albumen portrait subject (Right) a young girl posing on a commercially available chair. Both: courtesy Museum of Wayne County History

 

Born in early January of 1864 in Wolcott, Henry Ravell is known to have embraced photography from a very young age. As a boy, he became his father’s apprentice. Lockwood de Forest, (1850-1932) an important influence on Henry for the rest of his life in the 20th Century and important American painter and furniture designer, wrote in 1908 that Henry:

 

was born and brought up in photography from childhood and became an expert in all processes before he was twelve years old.” Through a fascinating confluence of sons starting out in their father’s professions, Henry Ravell graduated to having an interest in art, and he studied water-color painting with the noted American artist and Tonalist Henry Ward Ranger, (1858-1916) probably in his late teens or early 20’s.  The artist and student had much in common. Like Charles Henry Ravell, who had established his own Canal Street photo studio in Lyons, N.Y. by 1867, (Wayne County Business Directory) Ranger’s father Ward Valencourt Ranger (1835–1905) had opened his own commercial studio in 1868 in Syracuse, N.Y., 55 miles east of Lyons, almost at the same time. Like Henry Ravell working for his father at an early age, Henry Ranger was also known to have worked in his father’s establishment as a young man.

 

4-ch-ravell-crayonportraitUpper Left: “Negative Outline-Dark Chamber”: woodcut from 1892 volume “Crayon Portraiture: Complete Instructions for making Crayon Portraits on Crayon Paper and on Platinum, Silver, and Bromide Enlargements” by J.A. Barhydt. In the early 1880’s, Henry Ravell worked in a similar capacity as the artist shown here for the Photo-Copying House Ten Eyck & Co. of Auburn, New York. Woodcut shows an enlarged and enhanced crayon portrait being made freehand on the easel at right. A photographic negative from a sitter has been placed inside a large box camera at left while mounted in front of a scrimmed-off window. This provides the light source for the projection within a darkened room while the artist goes over the outline and shadow lines of the projection in a first step. Other variations of crayon portraits began with an artist working in a lighted studio with charcoal and pastels after the initial projected outline on crayon, gelatin, bromide, etc. papers had been chemically fixed. Ten Eyck advertised on cover stationary from 1884: “Fine Portraits in India Ink, Water Colors and Crayon, By the Association of Celebrated Portrait Artists…” (From: Internet Archive) Lower Left: December, 1884 postmarked cover (envelope) from Ten Eyck & Co. Portraits located at 108 Genesee St., Auburn, N.Y. (8.5 x 15.0 cm-right margin perished) Ravell worked at the firm about this time, making a living combining his skill of photography and art. In the late 1880’s to early 1890’s, he became an agent for Ten Eyck after moving to Mexico. From: PhotoSeed Archive. Right: “Crayon-style Portrait” ca. 1890-5: (50.9 x 40.5 cm) enhanced water-color or India inks applied by hand to unknown (bromide?) photographic emulsion fixed onto light grade cardboard matrix. Henry Ravell produced similar crayon-style portraits for Ten Eyck, with this example from an unknown artist featuring Mary Carruthers Tucker (1877-1940) as subject, then living in Provo-City Utah. She was the spouse of C.R. Tucker, whose work is featured at PhotoSeed. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Sometime in the early 1880’s after Henry had finished this “apprenticeship”, he moved to nearby Auburn, New York, about halfway to Syracuse from Lyons, to a job crafting Crayon and Pastel portrait photographic enlargements for Ten Eyck & Co.  At the time, this firm is said to have been the largest of its’ type in the world. This gave Henry additional artistic skills, combining his interest in photography and art, an important and influential confluence indeed. He kept at this profession until either 1883, according to Lockwood de Forest, or as late as 1892, in a posthumous biography of Henry by sister Florence.

 

5-oil-painting-by-henry-ravell“Portrait of John Lee Cole”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Ca. 1885 Gouache and or Oil? on paper, mounted within period wood frame bearing inscription “John L. Cole to Jason Parker, 1918”. This very rare example of a surviving painting by photographer Henry Ravell is now owned by the Museum of Wayne County History in Lyons, New York. Cole was a 1859 graduate of Yale and grandson of the Rev. John Cole, a founder with John Wesley of the Methodist Church in the U.S.. In 1862 he was admitted to the bar and later became a banker in Lyons for Mirick & Cole. An earlier 1882 notice of Henry’s artistic pursuits was published in The Democrat and Chronicle newspaper of Rochester, New York: “Henry Ravell, of Lyons, was in this city last night, on his return from Medina, (New York-editor) where he disposed of two of his latest paintings for $70.” (November 26) Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive- artwork courtesy Museum of Wayne County History, Lyons N.Y.

 

At this time, Henry is said to have moved to Cuernavava Mexico, south of Mexico City, where he became a far-flung agent for the Ten Eyck & Co. firm, although a certain amount of traveling back and forth to the U.S. and the family home was probably the reality. To wit, the Minnesota State Census for 1895 lists his occupation as “artist”, claiming an American residence while living with his father, mother and younger brother, Charles Ravell Jr. in the city of St. Paul. Here his father finished out his career running a photo studio on Western Ave. from 1890-92.

 

During the mid 1880’s back in Lyons, a fascinating yet presently unsubstantiated account of Henry’s involvement with the development of the first Kodak camera is relevant for background on his future career as a master photographer who became a striver with his own agenda. This event is worthy of historical contemplation in the present from reminisces provided in the aforementioned posthumous biography published in 1940:

 

“George Eastman of Rochester, New York, was a family friend. During a visit of three or four weeks, Mr. Eastman worked on and developed his famous Kodak, with the help of my father and brother.” “Their workshop was the basement of our former home at 70 Broad Street, Lyons. Mr. Eastman offered my father stock in the Kodak Company, which he often regretted not accepting.”  (2.)

 

6-henry-ward-ranger-by-sarony-may-1894-sun-and-shadeLeft: “H.W. Ranger” (Henry Ward Ranger): Napoleon Sarony, American: born Quebec. (1821-1896) Photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade": New York: May, 1894: whole #69: N.Y. Photo-Gravure Co.: 22.4 x 15.2 | 34.9 x 27.6 cm. Like Henry Ravell assisting in his father’s studio, American artist and Tonalist Henry Ward Ranger (1858-1916) worked in his own father’s studio as a young man. Later, Ranger taught Henry water-color painting, probably when Ravell was in his late teens or early 20’s. The “Sun & Shade” periodical noting of Ranger: “His work in Lower Canada won him great repute, and as a water-color painter, before taking to oil-painting, he was undeniably excellent.” Right: “A Country Road”: Henry Ward Ranger, American. (1858-1916) Photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade": New York: May, 1894: whole #69: N.Y. Photo-Gravure Co.: 17.1 x 22.7 | 27.6 x 34.9 cm. Ranger’s bucolic painting style reveals itself in this simple country scene of a roadway lined with trees, probably done in Holland. Scenes like this would have undoubtedly made an impression on Henry the fledgling art student, assuming he had access to reproductions or the originals of his teacher’s work. On Ranger in the periodical: “He is an admirer and follower of the best Dutch school of art, and has made it his pleasure and his duty to pay many visits to Holland, in order to be perfectly au fait with the excellencies of its best masters.” On “A Country Road”: “It is seldom that so simple a subject becomes so important in form and color-so full of air and freedom, and so admirably harmonious in its proportions.” Both from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Memories can sometimes be suspect, but several details of Florence’s biography are important and worth following up on, with this website happy to accept the challenge. By tracking down old street addresses, the Ravell family home as published in the 1886-87 Lyons residential directory was actually found to be located as 40 Broad Street. (William Smith, whose occupation was Express Transfer Agent, lived at 70 Broad St. as published in the same directory) Coupled with the knowledge that Lyons street addresses had been renumbered, probably in the early 20th Century, and cross-referencing with a 1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map found online at the Library of Congress, the former and still standing Ravell home built in 1850 revealed itself to be the present day 64 Broad Street. All of this effort, if somehow confirming a claim George Eastman had actually spent time in Lyons was true, could result in a potentially fascinating footnote to the development of one of the most important inventions of the 19th Century- The Kodak No. 1 Camera which debuted in 1888: “By far the most significant event in the history of amateur photography”, according to the Met Museum in New York City.

 

blog-pebble-beach-watercolor“Cypress Tree -Pebble Beach”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage watercolor drawing on paper: ca. 1915-20. (Museum of Wayne County History accession #Pi 176f with verso sticker additionally listing number 148 and $30.00) One of the few known examples of a watercolor drawing by Ravell is this delicate landscape featuring a lone cypress tree springing from a rock outcropping in Pebble Beach on California’s Monterey Peninsula. It may depict the world famous “Lone Cypress”, an approximately 250 year-old Monterey Cypress standing today on a granite hillside off the famed 17-Mile Drive. Courtesy: Museum of Wayne County History, Lyons N.Y.

 

7-composite-ravell-ravel-rh5This panel reveals the artistic styles of two distinct artists signing their work nearly identically. It’s presented with the hope a distinction can be made for a larger audience. The reality at present: nearly every painting returned on web searches is misattributed to being by photographer/artist Henry Ravell. Left Diptych: Top: “Cypress Trees at Pebble Beach”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage watercolor drawing on paper: ca. 1915-20. (Museum of Wayne County History accession #Pi 176e with verso sticker additionally listing number 147 and $20.00) This is one of three rare watercolor drawings by Ravell. Showing a stand of cypress trees in Pebble Beach on California’s Monterey Peninsula, the signature of “H.Ravell” in graphite has been enlarged in separate bottom panel. Courtesy: Museum of Wayne County History. Right Diptych: Top: “The Ripers” (The Reapers): Henry Etienne Ravel, American, born Naples Italy to French citizens. (1872-1962) Oil on artists board: ca. 1946: 20.5 x 15.4 presented within wood frame (not shown) 24.5 x 19.4 x 2.0 cm. Two field workers harvest wheat, a small landscape most likely depicting the Italian countryside. Henry Ravel immigrated to America in 1906 and became a naturalized US citizen in 1920. A transportation clerk by trade in the early 1920’s, his paintings- many done in Europe- date from ca. 1930’s-1950’s. Enlarged signature at bottom panel: “H. Ravel”. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

The earliest published references to Ravell’s photographic work in the popular press is found around 1905, when Boston’s Photo-Era, writing for their December issue, pronounces him “A new star of the first magnitude”, although noting his two pictures: “Pleasant Valley” and “Viga Canal”, “do not represent him at his best.” This assessment also including listing him on the journal’s noteworthy list of exhibitors whose work had been accepted for the Second American Photographic Salon which ran from 1905-06.

 

8-64-broad-street-formerly-40-broad-street-lyons-kodakUpper Left: This quote by Henry Ravell’s older sister Florence Ravell Lothrop appeared in The Lyons Republican & Clyde Times on March 21, 1940 stating Henry and their father Charles Henry Ravell had worked with a young George Eastman in developing the world’s first Kodak camera from 1888 in the basement workshop of their Lyons home. Clipping courtesy Museum of Wayne County History. Lower Left: An original Kodak No. 1 camera from 1888 shown with its lens cap and original documents appeared as Lot 0238 and sold by Auction Team Breker of Cologne, Germany on September 30, 2006. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York states: “By far the most significant event in the history of amateur photography was the introduction of the Kodak #1 camera in 1888. Invented and marketed by George Eastman (1854–1932), a former bank clerk from Rochester, New York, the Kodak was a simple box camera that came loaded with a 100-exposure roll of film”. Courtesy Auction Team Breker. Far Right: Built in 1850, the former Ravell family home in Lyons, New York was actually located at 64 Broad Street-seen here: not 70 Broad Street as stated in the clipping. The actual address was confirmed by this website using Sanborn fire insurance maps and a Lyons residential street directory from 1886-7. Home exterior courtesy 2018 online real estate sales listing.

 

Florence Ravell, quoting Lockwood de Forest for her 1940 article on Henry, expanded on her brothers new found respect in the profession, particularly in his mastery of the gum print, which would soon establish him as a major talent:

“Henry Ravell was recognized as one of the leading artists in his profession, both in this country and in Europe where he had exhibited, and has been a contributor to many of the photographic magazines, where a description of his technical processes are given. He succeeded in making a gum print in one printing with results far beyond the finest etchings and very similar in character.”  

 

9-mexico-sombrero-composite-ravellLeft: “Mexican Peon”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print ca. 1900-15. Alternately titled “A Mexican Peon” as listed in the catalogue of a 1978 retrospective of the artist at the Museum of Wayne County History, although an uncropped variant titled “Mexican Charro” (Mexican Cowboy)- is a more accurate description based on his fancily embroidered sombrero- is held by the California Museum of Photography, Riverside. Right: “Eating Tent-Taxco, Mexico”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print ca. 1900-15. These photographs are part of a grouping of 18 singular gum prints featuring Mexican scenes and subjects held in the collection of the Museum of Wayne County History, Lyons N.Y.

 

Henry perfected the gum bichromate process to a very high level. Probably in 1906-07, he began experimenting in multiple color gum. In Germany, around this same time, similar examples were being done by the brothers Theodor (1868-1943) and Oscar Hofmeister, (1871-1937) as well as Heinrich Wilhelm Müller (1859-1933) (3.) The following quote in the December,1908 issue of Boston’s Photo-Era encapsulates the admiration these gum prints received:

“It will be remembered that last summer Henry Ravell, of Mexico, exhibited in New York and Boston his results in multiple gum-bichromate printing in color. They excited considerable interest at the time, especially among our painters, who were very cordial in their praise of Mr. Ravell’s beautiful work, for it showed, in an eminent degree, the artistic possibilities of the gum-process.” (p. 300)

 

10-church-henry-ravellLeft: “Chapel of the Holy Well near Mexico City”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print ca. 1900-15. Right: “Church, Mexico”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print ca. 1900-15. Museum of Wayne County History accession #Pi 176p with verso sticker additionally listing number 2 and $5.00) Featuring church architecture, these are part of a grouping of 18 singular gum prints of Mexican scenes and subjects held in the collection of the Museum of Wayne County History, Lyons N.Y.

 

Again writing in 1940, Florence wrote of her younger brother: “but his favorite work was photography, and the gum print process. This process was original with an Austrian who refused to make it known, but Henry experimented until he developed it, and later gave the formula to the world.” The conjecture of this website is the possibility Henry originally gleaned and modified his own multiple gum color process from the earlier work of Austrian photographer Heinrich Kühn. (1866-1944) An 1897 example of a three-color gum print by him can be found in the collection of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg Germany.

 

11-henry-ravell-marketplace-multiple-gumLeft: “Mexican Vegetable Seller”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage multiple color gum print c. 1907-14. Right: “Mexican Youth”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage multiple color gum print c. 1907-14. These are two of the three rare multiple color gum prints by Henry Ravell held in the collection of the Museum of Wayne County History, Lyons N.Y.

 

In 1908, Henry’s champion Lockwood de Forest gave a fuller explanation of the technical details for this color process, as part of copy included with a series of Mexican Church studies published in the May issue of the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine:

“Last summer he started experiments in color-printing. His process is simple. Instead of introducing colors on the negatives, as in the lumière process, he is using the colors in the sensitizer of the printing paper. The specimens he has sent me are printed in three or four colors. Each print is finished, recoated all over with the sensitizer with the next color, and again printed. This is done for each color separately, the black print coming last, as in the regular color-printing process.”

 

12-an-ox-cart-by-henry-ravell-in-1904-art-in-photography“An Ox Cart” (Mexico): Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. 1905: Vintage halftone tipped to mount: 16.6 x 21.4 | 17.4 x 22.2 | 45.0 x 30.5 cm “This mount is Sultan Bokhara and Royal Melton Egyptine Made by the Niagara Paper Mills”. Taken in Mexico ca. 1900-05, this is one of the earliest published examples of a Ravell photograph to appear in the popular press. It was included in the luxury portfolio publication “Art in Photography” issued by the Photo Era Publishing Company of Boston. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Ravell continued to work in Mexico until about 1914, when it is believed he moved back to the Los Angeles area of California in order to escape the Civil War (Mexican Revolution) then engulfing the country. A short biography included in the 1978 volume Pictorial Photography in Britain 1900-1920 gives 1916 as a slightly later date, although it was likely he was traveling back and forth from Mexico to the U.S. several times during this tumultuous time:

“In 1916 an article entitled “Cathedrals of Mexico”, illustrated by his work, was published in Harper’s magazine. About this time he left Mexico, almost as a refugee. His studio in Cuernavaca was destroyed by rebels. He moved to California where he began to photograph near Carmel and settled at Santa Barbara.”

Now that this American born “refugee” was back in his home country for good, he immediately set out photographing the beauty of the southern California coastline, with an emphasis on capturing the numerous entanglements of old cypress trees set against the landscape and Pacific Ocean. Conveniently, and perhaps not coincidentally, Lockwood de Forest had moved permanently to Santa Barbara in 1915 after wintering in the area since 1902, with his professional connections to the world of art giving Henry and his work credibility and entrance to a larger audience. These included retrospective exhibitions of nearly 100 framed works of his Mexican and California subjects at major American institutions. These began in October, 1918 at the Pratt Institute Art Gallery in Brooklyn and continued into 1919 at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York followed by shows the same year at the newly opened Cleveland Museum of Art and then at the Chicago Art Institute.

 

13-single-templo-de-marfil-de-Left: “Marfil: Templo De Marfil De Arriba”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print c. 1900-10: 37.4 x 29.0 cm. Still standing today, this church constructed in the Baroque style is located in Marfil, a suburb of the central Mexican city of Guanajuato. The church is colloquially known as “La Iglesia de Arriba”, or the “Church up Top”. From: PhotoSeed Archive Right: Four photographs of Mexican churches by Henry Ravell, including the Templo De Marfil De Arriba photograph, were published in the February, 1914 issue of Century Magazine for a picture spread titled “Old Churches in Mexico”: “The churches of Mexico, built about one hundred and fifty years ago, are a monument to a race of conquerors who extracted much loot from a subjected people. As part of the Spanish Colonial government, the church had a share in the taxation of rich mines and other industries, and lavished the proceeds on many churches and monasteries. The conquered Indians were put to work and directed by those who built the splendid temples of Spain. They produced massive structures, a combination of classical and oriental architecture with richly decorated interiors.  Surrounded by beautiful landscapes or placed in the streets of a town, the splendid tinted walls, tiled domes, and skilfully carved facades prove the Spaniards a great race of builders.” From: Internet Archive

 

Henry Ravell would continue to exhibit his work late into the 1920’s at smaller venues, one example being a tri-colored gum print titled “Mexican Peon Boy” shown at the 1927 Los Angeles Salon and remarked on by Camera Craft, his gum prints deemed “for which he has gained a warranted renown”. Gum printing was indeed so important to the artist that he listed “Gum Printer” as his occupation for the 1920 U.S. Census.

 

14-california-henry-ravellLeft: “Pine and Cypress, Pebble Beach”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print ca. 1915-20. (Museum of Wayne County History accession #Pi 176a with verso sticker additionally listing number 17 and $3.00) Middle: “Big Splash” (California coastline) Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print ca. 1915-20. (Museum of Wayne County History accession #Pi 176m with verso sticker additionally listing number 122 and $12.00) Right: “Untitled Marine Landscape” (Mexico or California): Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage multiple colored gum print ca. 1907-1920. (Museum of Wayne County History accession #Pi 176n with verso sticker additionally listing number 156 ) All: Courtesy Museum of Wayne County History, Lyons N.Y.

 

The Albright Art Gallery was an important venue for Ravell’s work, considering the groundbreaking exhibition it previously hosted in November, 1910: the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography. Organized by the Photo-Secession under the direction of Alfred Stieglitz, it was “the first exhibition held at an American museum that aimed to elevate photography’s stature from a purely scientific pursuit to a visual form of artistic expression.” Even nine years later, in 1919, at a time when museum shows devoted to the work of a singular photographer anywhere in the world were still few and far between and remained so decades later, it’s refreshing in the present to read observations by one curator remarking on Ravell’s 93 framed photographs displayed at the Albright gallery for Academy Notes, the mouthpiece for The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy:

“THE collection of photographs by H. Ravell—which was on view in the gallery during the last week in February and all of March—is very unique and valuable. These photographs are technically known as gum-prints and have all the painter’s quality in their execution. They do not impress one as photographs but rather as work directly from the artist’s brush. The photographs were made by H. Ravell who is now in Santa Barbara. Many of the pictures were taken near Carmel, California, a seashore of much variety where the fantastic cypress trees with their twisted dramatic forms produce wonderful compositions against sea and sky.” …This is but a short description of the remarkable exhibition of photographs shown at the Albright Art Gallery. It was seen by many art lovers and appreciated especially by all of those interested in artistic photography.” (4.)

 

15-ox-cart-sunset“Ox Cart- Sunset”: Henry Ravell, American: 1864-1930. Vintage gum print ca. 1900-10. Image: 27.0 x 32.6 cm presented loose within dark brown paper folder with overall support dimensions of 58.8 x 36.7 cm. Wearing a traditional sombrero hat, (Sombrero de charro) the driver of this ox or bullock cart pauses atop a full load of what looks like hay or silage. This Mexican scene may date to around 1905-consistent with a different view by the artist of an ox cart published that year in “Art in Photography” by the the Photo Era Publishing Company of Boston. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

A reevaluation of Henry Ravell’s body of work is important to consider in the present given the broad acknowledgement of his talent by major institutions and the popular press for the benefit of many large audiences over 100 years ago. An important pictorialist photographer who was also a  painter, Henry Ravell was a striver and apprentice graduate inspired by his father’s steady trade in the New York state village of Lyons who embraced a love for craft and mastery of art. Together, these skills gave him the passion to embrace adventure in capturing the beauty in far-off Mexico and southern California for the ages.

 

Four original gum prints in the PhotoSeed Archive can be seen here, each listing an expanded biography, timeline and major institutional holdings for the artist.

 

 

Afterword | Notes

 

A conundrum on internet research into Henry Ravell’s artistic output reveals itself quickly. The bottom line is that most every painting on the web attributed to Henry Ravell the photographer is not by him. Instead, through PhotoSeed’s research and purchase of the small painting: “The Ripers”, (The Reapers) the true identity of this artist can now be revealed as Henry Etienne Ravel. (1872-1962) Born in Naples Italy to French citizens, Henry Ravel immigrated to America in 1906 and became a naturalized US citizen in 1920. A transportation clerk by trade in the early 1920’s, his paintings- many done in Europe- date from ca. 1930’s-1950’s. What causes the confusion is that like Henry Ravell the photographer, who signed his photographs  “H. Ravell”, Henry Ravel the painter also signed his work similarly, but as “H. Ravel” Numerous examples of his paintings show up on Google searches-unlike the real and quite rare examples of watercolors done by Ravell the photographer. I’ve included links to some of these paintings on the page showing “The Ripers”. As always- buyer beware and do your homework!

 

 

1. C. Ravel won a $3.00 premium for “Best Daguerreotypes” during the Annual Fair of the Madison County Agricultural Society held at Morrisville, (N.Y.) on the 15th, 16th and 17th days of September,1857 according to a newspaper account in the Cazenovia Republican. Shout out to the Pioneer American Photographers 1839-1860 website.   Langdon’s List of 19th & Early 20th Century Photographers additionally list Ravel working in Manlius, New York in the 1859 N.Y. State Business Directory.

2. See: The Lyons Republican & Clyde Times: Lyons, N.Y. Thursday, March 21, 1940. Article excerpts: HENRY RAVELL: “Resided in Lyons for twenty-eight years, died in Los Angeles California, January 20, 1930. This account was written by his sister, Mrs. Florence Ravell Lothrop, of 721 Fifth Street North, St. Petersburg, Florida.: “Henry had no special training in any school or under any masters except my father, Charles Herring Ravel, who was born in Boston, England, and became one of the first photographers in the United States. His forbears came over with William the Conqueror to England, which accounts for the one “L” in the name. My mother was annoyed because most people called her Mrs. Rav’-el and persuaded my father to add “L”, so the family adopted that spelling of our name.…Henry studied and experimented all his life. His photographic subjects were portraits, landscapes, street scenes, trees, cloud and moonlight effects. His Mexican Cathedrals were especially noteworthy. He used both oils and water colors, but his favorite work was photography, and the gum print process. This process was original with an Austrian who refused to make it known, but Henry experimented until he developed it, and later gave the formula to the world. I remember seeing around his studio, pans of water about three inches deep. The photo-print was put into the water and pigments of paint dropped on it, this gave the effect when completed of a soft beautiful painting. My description to an artist will seem crude but that is as I recall it.…Henry never taught, that is, acted as a teacher in any school, and I do not know what societies he belonged. He exhibited in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Salon about 1907. From the thousands of photographs submitted, three of his were among the 237 accepted. His work was exhibited at the Salmagundi Club, New York City; Thurber’s and Anderson’s Galleries in Chicago, Los Angeles, California, and many, many other places. Fifteen of his photographs are at the Metropolitan Museum, New York City. Seven are Mexican subjects and eight are California trees. These were selected by Forest Lockwood.(sic) After Henry’s death at Los Angeles, California, in 1930, a request came for him to send an exhibit to the Fifth International Photographic Salon of Japan held at Tokyo and Osaka in May, 1931.”

3. In the December, 1908 issue of Boston’s Photo-Era, a short article titled “Gum-Prints In Colors” appeared, linking Ravell’s gum prints as being similar to “a collection of prints by the same process, probably with modifications” to work done by the Hofmeister brothers and Müller. These German works were shown at the offices of The British Journal of Photography in London’s Strand from September 28- October 24, 1907. 

4. See: Academy Notes: The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy: Albright Art Gallery: Buffalo, New York: vol. XIV: Jan.-Oct. 1919, p. 67 



Old New York Strong

As New York City takes center stage for the role of viral epicenter it did not ask for, it has revealed a longstanding tenacity of spirit and resilience baked in- her very landmarks, monuments and memorials infused with the history of the shared past now standing silently yet propelling it ever forward. Combined with those higher graces of social inclusion and togetherness representing an ideal for American Democracy, these places and symbols will continue to forge and unite the connections between cultures, commerce and diasporas for the common good- in the days ahead and for the future.   -David Spencer

blog-brooklyn-bridge-tissue“Brooklyn Bridge”: Adolph A. Wittemann, American (1845-1938). Vintage Japan-tissue photogravure: 1889: printed ca. 1897-1900: Photogravure and Color Co. (New York): 8.8 x 17.1 | 12.6 x 19.7 cm | supports: 20.6 x 28.0 | 22.2 x 29.1 cm. Ferries and other marine craft navigate the East River in this pictorial view emphasizing the span of the famous bridge by Wittemann. Conversely, in a gelatin silver variant held by the Museum of the City of New York: “Looking over New York toward the Brooklyn Bridge”, (x2010.11.3891) the foreground frame shows a greater concentration of buildings and less river activity. In 1890,The Getty Research Institute’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus notes, Adolph Wittemann and his brother Herman would found The Albertype Company, a Brooklyn-based publisher employing the collotype (or albertype) photographic process. “The company operated from 1890 to 1952 and produced over 25,000 prints. The Albertype Company both produced their own photographs (Adolph was a photographer), as well as reproduced photographic images produced by other companies or individual photographers. Using the prints, the company published postcards and viewbooks. Viewbooks, also known as souvenir albums or view albums, are books that contain commercially published groups of photographs depicting a place, activity, or event.” From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

blog-union-square-tissue-grDetail: “Union Square”: unknown American photographer. Vintage Japan-tissue photogravure: ca. 1880-1900: printed ca. 1897-1900: Photogravure and Color Co. (New York): 10.8 x 16.4 | 14.5 x 18.8 cm | supports: 19.1 x 24.5 | 22.2 x 29.1 cm. Soldiers, possibly Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, assemble in parade formation (Washington’s Birthday?) two abreast on the north side of Union Square in New York City. Everett House, a fine residential hotel that opened in 1853 at background center of photograph can be seen, and other clues might help a modern viewer more accurately date this view. They include an American flag flying at center, horse-drawn carriages at foreground left, a telegraph pole at foreground right and intact signs (upon close-magnification) on the building at far background left, directly behind the head of the line of soldiers. Located at 29 East 17th Street, it was the warehouse and shop for L. Marcotte & Co., a manufacturer and importer of fine carpets, furniture, and “looking glass plates, frames, gas fixtures, bronzes, and all articles of art”, according to an 1876 sales invoice, and is believed to have been at this location as early as 1860. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

blog-bethesda-terrace-centr“Central Park” (Bethesda Terrace Steps): unknown American photographer. Vintage Japan-tissue photogravure: ca. 1885-1888: printed ca. 1897-1900: Photogravure and Color Co. (New York): 11.2 x 16.5 | 14.7 x 19.3 cm | supports: 19.8 x 25.3 | 22.2 x 29.1 cm. The Central Park Conservancy considers Bethesda Terrace- “the heart of Central Park and is, by design, its singular formal feature. Overlooking the Lake, it stands at the end of the Park’s long, tree-lined promenade known as the Mall. A grand staircase descends into the subterranean Arcade, which offers a welcome respite from rain and heat.” Shown in this photograph are the two flanking grand staircases for the terrace, designed by park architects Calvert Vaux with sculptural details by Jacob Wrey Mould. Although American commercial photographer John S. Johnston (c.1839-1899) was known to have documented features in Central Park in 1893-94, albeit with people in his views, this photograph, titled “Central Park-The Terrace and Grand Stairway”, first appeared in 1888 in the volume The Empire State: Its Industries and Wealth. (p.45) Later, it was included as part of a series of four architectural studies of Central Park bridges in the 1896 volume The Engineering Magazine, Vol. 11. (“The Terrace”: p. 863) The work was further published as “Terrace Steps, Central Park”- an offset color lithograph print souvenir inserted within the pages of The New York Recorder newspaper between 1891-96: see New York Public Library catalog ID (B-number): b17094307. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

blog-city-hall-park-1896-wi“City Hall Park, New York, March 2, 1896”: William H. Cooper, American. Vintage hand-pulled photogravure by the N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 18.0 x 22.9 | 27.6 x 34.8 cm. Plate issued with the March, 1896 Whole # 91 monthly issue of “Sun and Shade, An Artistic Periodical”. Snow from a late Winter storm coats trees and nearly everything else in New York City’s City Hall Park. From Wikipedia: “City Hall Park is a public park surrounding New York City Hall in the Civic Center of Manhattan. It was the town commons of the nascent city of New York… During the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary eras, City Hall Park was the site of many rallies and movements.” Photographer William H. Cooper was the President of the Department of Photography at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science when this photograph was published. The editors of Sun and Shade commented on this work: “The present picture, taken it may be noted for technical readers, by a 2A Zeiss lens, is, without exception, one of the most remarkable productions, so far, which photography has produced. Every one who has seen the strange and peculiar aspect of leafless trees, when showered with fleecy snow, has longed to carry in his mind the memory of the pretty sight: but, until now, it is doubtful if such a weird aspect has ever been perpetuated; certainly not by the hand of a painter, for it would be far and away beyond any artist’s powers.” From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

blog-statue-of-liberty“Statue of Liberty”: Edward H. Hart, American photographer. Vintage Japan-tissue photogravure: 1886: printed ca. 1897-1900: Photogravure and Color Co. (New York): 17.2 x 10.1 | 20.9 x 12.5 cm | supports: 23.5 x 20.0 | 29.0 x 22.2 cm. This rare view of the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World) in New York Harbor was taken in the year it was officially dedicated, which took place October 28, 1886. E.H. Hart was a New York City based photographer with a studio at 1162 Broadway when contracted by the Photo-Gravure Co. of New York in 1886 to make several views of the statue. The company copyrighted one of these that year, titling it “Liberty”. A surviving example in the form of a mounted woodburytype process photograph is held by the National Archives at College Park in the U.S. state of Maryland. (Identifier: 45701938) This variant view by Hart includes the intriguing presence of six people who appear as “ghosts” at the base of the pedestal to the statue, their likeness due to movement during the long time-exposure required. The photographer billed himself an official U.S. Naval photographer, although it’s unclear if he was actually an employee of the Federal Government. A contract photographer for the Detroit Publishing Company in the late 19th Century, he was the author and publisher of the 1898 volume “The Authentic Photographic Views of the United States Navy”. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

blog-1897-grant-memorial“Grant Memorial”: John S. Johnston, American photographer, born England or Ireland. (c.1839-1899). Vintage Japan-tissue photogravure: 1897: printed ca. 1897-1900: Photogravure and Color Co. (New York): 10.6 x 14.8 | 14.5 x 17.4 cm | supports: 19.5 x 24.5 | 22.2 x 29.0 cm. Taken in early 1897, this New York City view shows bicyclists on Riverside Drive with the soon to be opened General Grant National Memorial in the background. Known more commonly as Grant’s Tomb, it is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. The massive domed mausoleum in the Neoclassical style is the final resting place for American Civil War General and 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant. (1822-1885) Grant led the Union Army as Commanding General of the United States Army in winning the American Civil War. A close inspection of this photograph reveals ongoing work to the front stairwell area to the memorial, with large boards erected lengthwise against the base of the large columns. It was dedicated on April 27, 1897, the 75th-anniversary ceremony of Grant's birth on April 27, 1822. A known variant giving credit to Johnston is held privately, along with another more frontal view of the memorial and one example believed to be this very image at The Library of Congress. The library holds approximately 750 dry plate glass negatives of yachts and other marine craft views taken by Johnston when he was a contract photographer for the Detroit Publishing Company. A New York Times obituary for the photographer noted he “made a specialty of scenic photography. He photographed most of the United States warships during the war with Spain. He also photographed all of the international yacht races during the past ten years.” From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

March Madness: Old School

March Madness, the fanciful right of passage in the U.S. crowning a men’s and women’s national collegiate basketball champion, got cancelled this year. Instead, this aforesaid Madness has become a perfect descriptor for a reality that is the ongoing global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. Obviously, what little PhotoSeed contributes during this time of uncertainty are mere diversions, yet ones curated with the intent of promoting positivity for our shared love of the universal language that is Photography.

 

1-smith-1900-basket-ball-team-freshmanDetail: “Freshman Basket ball Team” (Smith College) Unknown American commercial photographer (possibly Amand Joseph “A.J. Schillare: 1856-1917 of Northampton who advertised “groups and dramatics a specialty” in the 1899 Class Book): Gelatin Silver print: ca. 1897 (15.9 x 21.1 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) These ten young women made up the Smith College Basket Ball Team for the 1900 graduating class. The photograph was taken approximately 4 years earlier, when they would have been freshmen. At center holding the ball is team captain Julia Carolyn Weston, (1877-1937) whose future daughter, Julia Child, (1912-2004: Smith College, class of 1934) became the legendary chef and famed American television personality. Known by her nickname “Caro”, Julia Weston was “known for her red hair, outspoken opinions, and sense of humor.” (source: Julia Child: My Life in France) This unique photograph is further annotated on the verso in graphite by team members in their own hand. Players left to right: Mary Tate Lord, Elizabeth Keniston, Frances Cruft Howe, Alida King Leese, Alma Hoegh, Carolyn Weston, Dorcas Floyd Leese, Agnes Patton, Helen Potter, Alice Morton. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Today’s post concerns the early history of women’s basketball, a game commonly spelled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as two words: “basket ball”. What follows are a series of vintage photographs ✻  from the PhotoSeed archive showcasing the origins of the collegiate game as it evolved on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

 

It was here, in 1892, less than one year after James Naismith invented the game in nearby Springfield, that newly appointed Smith College school gymnastics instructor Senda Berenson Abbott (1868-1954) would adapt the rules of the new game for women. By 1893, she had organized the first college game in history, between players from the sophomore class of 1895 and the freshman class of 1896. In so doing, Berenson changed history, and forever became known as the “Mother of Women’s Basketball”. A wonderful video on the dawn of the game at Smith featuring Senda’s accomplishments was written and produced by Kate Lee and can be found here on YouTube. Another link shows the earliest known film footage of the game played at Missouri Valley College in 1904. Enjoy our gallery!  -David Spencer

 

2-senda-berenson-abbott-1868-1954"Miss Berenson” (Senda Berenson Abbott: 1868-1954) Unknown American photographer: cyanotype: ca. 1897-99 (11.5 x 9.0 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) Known as the ‘’Mother of Women's Basketball'' Berenson was first hired as a gymnastics instructor at Smith College before becoming the Director of the Gymnasium and Instructor of Physical Culture there, adapting the first rules of women's basketball in 1892. The game had been invented less than a year earlier by James Naismith in nearby Springfield, Mass. By 1899, Berenson had codified her rules for the women’s game, and in 1901, they were published in the volume “Basket Ball for Women” by Spalding’s Athletic Library. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

3-in-the-gym“In the Gym” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American photographer(s): cyanotypes: ca. 1897-99 (L: 11.9 x 9.1 cm | M: 9.3 x 3.5 cm | R: Detail: 7.3 x 9.7 cm) (18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) Smith College students using the exercise and gymnastics equipment in Alumnae Gymnasium on campus are shown. Physical education for women was an important component of a collegiate education at Smith, especially after the college had built this new facility in 1890, one of the finest of its’ type in the country. Public sentiment however, beginning from Senda Berenson’s early tenure at Smith in the early 1890’s, was something she pushed back against- with obvious success. From her Wikipedia page: “Although the physical facilities were in fine shape, the notion that women should engage in physical exercise, much less be required to do so, was not then well-established. The prevailing atmosphere did not support the notion that women should engage in physical activity. Berenson would write, in 1894: “Until recent years, the so-called ideal woman was a small waisted, small footed, small brained damsel, who prided herself on her delicate health, who thought fainting interesting, and hysterics fascinating.” From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

4-alumnae-gymnasium-and-old-gymDetail: “The Alumnae Gymnasium” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American photographer: cyanotype: ca. 1897-1900 (9.3 x 12.0 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) It was in this building that the first women’s college basketball game in history took place on March 22, 1893 between players from the Smith College sophomore class of 1895 and the freshman class of 1896. The sophomores won, 5-4, during two, 15-minute halves under Naismith rules. The Late Gothic style building was built from red brick with brownstone trim and designed by architect William C. Brocklesby of Hartford, CT. Today it houses the Smith College Archives, and was saved from demolition in 1977 when it was moved 200’ from its original location in order to comply with a campus expansion. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

5-basket-ball-on-the-back-campus--waiting-for-game“Basket Ball Day - Waiting for the Doors to be Opened” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American photographer: cyanotype: ca. 1897-1900 (9.4 x 12.3 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) With some students holding class pennants used to cheer their team on, a long line of Smith women’s basketball fans wait two and three deep for the doors to be opened at Alumnae Gymnasium at far left. At far right is the former gym, a much smaller wooden structure, which originally opened in 1879 soon after the school opened. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

6-smith-college-gym-decorated-for-basket-ball-game“The Gym, decorated for the Basket Ball Game” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American commercial photographer: cyanotype: ca. 1898 (17.4 x 24.4 cm found loose within disassembled album with leaves each measuring 18.2 x 27.5 cm) Alumnae Gymnasium, opened in 1890, is shown decorated with bunting above the second level at left and at far right with the different class years represented: 98’, 99’, 1900, 1901. The occasion is believed to be a game between teams from the 1900 and 1901 classes, which took place on March 26, 1898. (1900 team won, 30-11⅓) In the early years when this photograph was taken around 1898, basketball as a women’s sport was played on the intramural level, with the various class years from the same college playing against each other. Wikipedia states Senda “Berenson herself opposed intercollegiate play for women, and prioritized the health and fitness benefits for a larger goal”. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

7-smith-college-gym-decorated-for-basket-ball-gameDetail: “The Gym, decorated for the Basket Ball Game” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American commercial photographer: cyanotype: ca. 1898 (17.4 x 24.4 cm found loose within disassembled album with leaves each measuring 18.2 x 27.5 cm) Seated along a second level railing in Alumnae Gymnasium with their legs dangling over the side of the court are a group of women with one having a strong resemblance to Senda Berenson (third from right with 01 usher standing behind her) along with upperclassmen and most likely several teachers. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

8-smith-college-1899-vs-1900-match-game“The Match Game ’99 vs 1900” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American photographer: cyanotype: ca. 1897 (9.6 x 12.2 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) This basketball game is believed to have been played on Saturday, March 27, 1897. This blurred view shows members of the Smith College class of 1899 and 1900 teams playing each other on the floor of Alumnae Gymnasium. The following description of some of the game rules were included in the article “Basket-Ball at Smith College” by Elizabeth Fisher Read published in The Outlook on September 26, 1896: “During the winter the games are played in the Alumnae Gymnasium. The floor of the gymnasium is marked off into three divisions, each of which forms the territory of a certain number of the players on each side. In each of the end divisions is a goal—an eighteen-inch cylinder or basket, the mouth of which is ten feet from the floor. The object of the game is to get the ball into the basket. At Smith a regulation Rugby football is used. Each basket is protected by three "homes"—players on the side to which that goal belongs, whose object is to get the ball into the basket. In the same territory stand three "guards," players on the other side, who try to prevent their opponents from scoring. In the middle division the "centers," four in number, play. The center players on each side try to get the ball when the referee puts it into play by tossing it out among them, and to pass it along from one member of the team to another, until it reaches the homes, and a goal is scored. The side scoring the most goals in forty minutes wins the game. The game is played in two halves of twenty minutes each, with ten minutes' intermission.” (p 557) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

9-1902-captain-margery-ferriss-and-mascotsLeft: “1900 Mascot” Right: “Margery Ferriss Captain of 1902 Team (along with) 1902 Mascot & 1902 Ushers” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American photographer(s): cyanotype: ca. 1897-1899 (Left: 8.4 x 6.6 cm Right: 11.9 x 8.4 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) Team spirit for the new game of Basket Ball at Smith was ever present, with fans and students wearing distinctive colors on the big day. Each class even had their own “Mascot” : a young child dressed up for the occasion. At left, the 1900 class mascot wears a fancy child’s dress while holding a banner. By 1902, team captain Margery Ferriss, standing in front of Alumnae Gym, holds the hand of the class year Mascot, sporting a miniature version of the team outfit that she herself wears. The following description of game spirit at Smith was included in the article “Basket-Ball at Smith College” by Elizabeth Fisher Read published in The Outlook on September 26, 1896: “While waiting for the teams to come out, the students while away the time by singing songs gotten up for the occasion. These songs consist of lines appropriate to the situation, in praise of the class or the team, set to some popular melody. From time to time both sides join in singing some song of general interest. As each member of the Faculty comes in, he is greeted with cheers and with his verse of the "Faculty song." During the actual playing no singing is permitted, but in the intermission it is renewed with increased vigor, the winning side trying to express their approval and pleasure, the losers trying to cheer up their team to greater efforts. After the game cheers, songs, and a triumphal parade end the contest.” (p. 558) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

10-1902-team-lineup“1902 Freshman Basket-Ball Team” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American commercial photographer (possibly Amand Joseph “A.J.” Schillare: 1856-1917 of Northampton who advertised “groups and dramatics a specialty” in the 1899 Class Book): cyanotype presented as triptych within album leaf : ca. 1898 (Left: 13.2 x 3.6 cm Middle: 13.1 x 3.4 cm | Right: 12.6 x 6.0 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm thin, manilla album leaf) In this unusual variant from one published featuring 11 players in the 1902 Smith Class Book, only six players are shown. At far left, team captain Margery Ferriss holds the Smith pennant. Margery May Ferriss Semple (1880-1950) was originally from St. Louis, MO. 1902 team members were: Homes: Juliet Patten, Constance Patton, Helen Walbridge; Guards: Margery Ferriss, Harriet Emmons, Louise Vanderbilt; Centres: Eda Bruné, Agnes Inglis, Mary Glover, Katherine Harter. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

11-basket-ball-on-the-back-campus“Basket Ball on the Back Campus” (Smith College: Northampton, Mass.) Unknown American photographer: cyanotype: ca. 1898-1900 (9.1 x 11.7 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf) It is unclear if this view shows a basketball game in progress or perhaps a practice, since no goals are seen. The student at front right holds some type of cylinder on top of her head-possibly signifying the placement for where the goal would be located? The following description describes basketball played during the Spring at Smith, included in the article “Basket-Ball at Smith College” by Elizabeth Fisher Read published in The Outlook on September 26, 1896: “In the spring the playing is done on a ground laid out on the campus. The pictures accompanying this article were taken on this out-of-door ground. The gymnasium suit shown in the pictures is the dress worn by all the gymnasium classes. It consists of a blouse with Turkish trousers. These out-of-door games are very popular with the students. The ground is nearly always surrounded by interested spectators when a game is going on.” (p. 558) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

12-college-basketball-game-ca-1900-1910“Women’s outdoor Basket Ball Game: New England or Mid-Atlantic States” Unknown American photographer: gelatin silver print: ca. 1905-10 (11.4 x 17.0 cm - photograph enclosed within gummed manilla postal envelope engraved with spot hand-coloring on recto: “Kodak shots and postal cards Of many a pleasant view - Will bring the golden memories back Of happy days to you”) A rare surviving photograph featuring outdoor basketball action between two women’s collegiate teams is shown. Notice the ball aloft just above one of the suspended nets near the center of the composition, featuring an open-style backboard. A throng of fashionably dressed young women (and a lone gentleman) watch and cheer on the sidelines in the background. This game may have taken place as part of popular “Field Day” exercises colleges were known to host in the early Spring. Women’s basketball as a sport that in turn promoted good physical conditioning may have started at Smith in the early 1890’s but soon spread rapidly around the country: “Soon thereafter women at Wellesley, Vassar, Radcliff, and other women’s colleges and “normal schools” in the Northeast took up the sport. It was only a matter of time before basketball was being played by girls and women at high schools and colleges across America-including Montana.” (Source: “The Girls’ Basketball Team from Fort Shaw” by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith in: Native Athletes in Sport and Society: edited by C. Richard King: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. (p. 44) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 ✻ The provenance for these photographs with the exception of the final one taken outdoors were part of a disassembled album that formerly belonged to Mary Ruth Perkins, a 1900 graduate of Smith who was Chairman of the 1900 class yearbook committee. Three students are given credit in the 1900 Class Book as having contributed photographs: Alma Hoegh, Cornelia Amey Kingman, Ora Mabelle Lewis.

 

A Day for Rainbows

A Happy Fourth of July to All!

 

blog-washington-monument-by“Rainbow Pool Fountain & Washington Monument”(Washington, D.C.) : ca. 1925-30: Unknown Brooklyn photographer: vintage gelatin silver print: 11.4 x 8.9 cm | 17.7 x 12.6 cm. Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., “the fountain for this pool was designated the “Rainbow Fountain” in October 1924, when during a trial run just before its dedication a rainbow formed above the fountain’s spray. Operating with 124 nozzles arranged in an elliptical pattern near the outer edge of the pool, and with two clusters of nine north and south of the center, the fountain made a “hazy vista”. (source: National Park Service: Cultural Landscape Report-Lincoln Memorial Grounds-undated pdf document-p. 35) Originally situated between the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (to the west), and 17th Street NW, (to the east) the fountain and reflecting pool was integrated into the National World War II Memorial in 2001. With the original source negative for this photograph taken in daylight, the photographer has manipulated the image-darkening the sky to make the fountain jets stand out against the backdrop of the Washington Monument. From: PhotoSeed Archive

Summer Streams Wide & Small

 

Herein a summer interlude, if you will, of still, trickling and gushing streams from years past. And if they inspire and beckon for the present, find your own peace or wonderment in the mountains, valleys or pastures of summer wherever your own stream flows.

 

1-dorothy-at-stream-ca“Dorothy Tucker Gathering Ferns”: Charles Rollins Tucker, American (b. 1868): ca. 1910: mounted brown-toned platinum print: 9.4 x 7.7 cm | 31.2 x 16.0 cm. Born in August, 1899, Dorothy Tucker, a constant photographic subject for her father, then a high school physics teacher at Curtis High School on Staten Island, New York state, holds a spray of freshly-picked ferns while investigating the edge of a stream in the woods. From: PhotoSeed Archive2-prospect-park-colored-su“Stream or Pond at Prospect Park"(Brooklyn, New York): ca. 1910-20: Unknown Brooklyn photographer: hand-colored gelatin silver print: 11.7 x 8.9 cm | 12.4 x 9.3 cm: From: PhotoSeed Archive3-before-retiring-margaret“Before Retiring”: ca. 1910-20: Margaret Bauks, British- (possibly Margaret Florence Bauks: b. 1872?) : hand-colored gelatin silver print: 11.6 x 15.9 cm | 27.8 x 22.8 cm: From: PhotoSeed Archive4-frank-roy-fraprie-savoy-“A Stream of Savoy”: ca. 1927: this print exhibited 1935: Frank Roy Fraprie, American (1874-1951): vintage Bromide print: 24.0 x 18.6 cm | 30.5 x 25.4 cm: As noted in the 1946 American Annual of Photography, (p. 170) Fraprie had been taking photographs in June of 1926 in Eastern France. The area, located in the Haute-Savoie, or Upper Savoy, is a mountainous region of spectacular beauty which includes Lake Annecy, one of France’s largest freshwater lakes.  Photographic historian Christian Peterson’s biography of Fraprie gives some background on this important photographer and editor: “Fraprie was the most influential author/publisher of American pictorial photography during the period following the Photo-Secession. From the 1910s to the 1940s, he wrote books and countless articles on all aspects of pictorialism. He edited photographic monthlies and annuals for nearly the entire first half of the twentieth century. In addition, he created his own highly successful pictorial photographs and exhibited them extensively.” From: PhotoSeed Archive5-miss-doll-rabbit-streamDetail: “Les Fleurs Dans Le Bois” : Léopold-Émile Reutlinger: French (1863-1937): vintage Bromide photograph, ca. 1905. 22.3 x 14.1 | 34.0 x 24.2 cm. Featuring a painted backdrop and wood board placed over a “stream”, this studio photograph features a white rabbit investigating the Belle Epoque era model identified from other variants as “Miss Doll”.(proper identification of this model would be of interest as she has remained a popular subject seen in countless vintage postcards, many hand-tinted) This example was printed by the Milan atelier Maison Tensi and included as a full-page plate in the February, 1905 issue of “La Fotographia Artistica”, a French/Italian photographic journal. From: PhotoSeed Archive6-waterfall-stream-cyanoty“A Rocky Brook” (New England?) : ca. 1906: Unknown American photographer: vintage cyanotype rppc: 8.9 x 13.8 cm. This idyllic cascading waterfall may depict the Minnewawa Glen in Marlborough, New Hampshire. Signed on the recto: “Lovingly Helen” in the lower left corner, it’s postmarked November 15, 1906 from Marlboro, N.H. addressed to Miss Nettie A. Hastings of East Sullivan, N.H. From: PhotoSeed Archive7-jr-tucker-ca“John Robert Tucker Skinny Dipping”: Charles Rollins Tucker, American (b. 1868): ca. 1915: unmounted platinum print: 3.8 x 5.2 cm. Born in March, 1914, John Robert Tucker, was the second of three children born to the former Mary Carruthers and photographer Charles R. Tucker. Here, the young boy plays in a woodland stream, with the photograph most likely taken in New England. John, according to his 1941 marriage certificate, was an electrical engineer by training. He died in 1991 in La Habra, Orange County, CA. From: PhotoSeed Archive8-marriseux-1907-plate-26-“Brume après la Pluie”: (1906) 1908: Gustave Marissiaux, Belgian (1872-1929) Photogravure on Van Gelder Zonen laid paper: 13.4 x 17.6 | 28.4 x 39.9 cm. Plate XXVI from Marissiaux’s tour-de-force gravure folio “Visions D’Artiste” comprised of 30 plates dating 1899-1908. Translating to “Mist after the Rain”, two figures in the distance stand looking out over an enlarged pond or stream located in "La Terre Wallonne” as identified in the portfolio index: more commonly known today as Wallonia- the southern region of Belgium. From: PhotoSeed Archive9-moonlight-james-stodderDetail: “Moonlight”: James C. Stodder, American: (1838-1917). 1890. Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade”, New York: November, 1890: whole #27: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 18.3 x 11.9 | 35.0 x 27.4 cm. A crescent moon rises above a wooded landscape at dusk while a gentleman fishes from the banks of a pond or stream. Stodder graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1859 and moved to Bangor, Maine, where he first learned the wet-plate process of photography. A lawyer, he was son of a Boston jeweler, (obit) and financially well off. In 1876, he accompanied famed Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church to the Mount Katahdin region of Maine. From: PhotoSeed Archive10-deer-at-night-george-sh“A Doe and Twin Fawns” (taken 1896) 1916: George Shiras 3rd, American (1859-1942) Vintage photogravure published by the National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. : 21.2 x 30.3 | 40.5 x 50.8 cm. A pioneer of using flashlight photography to record wildlife in their natural environments at night, Shiras used the method of “Jacklighting”, a form of hunting using a fixed continuous light source mounted in the bow of a canoe to draw the attention of wildlife: in this case three deer, while then utilizing magnesium flash-powder to freeze the scene in-camera. His series of twelve midnight views, including “A Doe and Twin Fawns”-also known as “Innocents Abroad” would earn Shiras international acclaim and many important awards. A one-term Congressman for the state of Michigan, (his father George Shiras Sr. was a former Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) he was also an important naturalist who helped placed migratory birds and fish under Federal control. (The eventual 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act had groundings in legislation Shiras introduced to Congress in 1903 as the first comprehensive migratory bird law not voted on.) For additional background, see article by Matthew Brower in the journal History of Photography, Summer,2008: “George Shiras and the Circulation of Wildlife Photography”. From: PhotoSeed Archive10a-a-corn-roast-opDetail: “A Corn Roast” Oliver Patterson Watts, American: (1865-1953). 1892. Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade”, New York: June, 1892: whole #46: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 14.7 x 23.2 | 34.6 x 27.4 cm. The index for the issue of Sun & Shade in which this photograph appears states: “Mr. Watts writes us that while wandering with his camera along “The Green,” a favorite picnic ground near Thomastown,(sic) Maine, he came upon this group of boys roasting corn and potatoes. At the sight of the camera they immediately grouped themselves, anxious to be “took.” The negative was made with a Scovill Favorite Camera, Waterbury lens, with an exposure of five seconds on a seed plate. It was developed with Pyro and Sodium Carbonate.” Dr. Oliver Patterson Watts was born in Thomaston, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1889. Interestingly, in 1890, Potts and Dr. Julius Stieglitz, the brother of Alfred Stieglitz, were fellow scholars in chemistry at the newly opened Clark University in Worcester, MA. He later entered the University of Wisconsin in 1905 and took charge of the Carnegie Research on Electrolytic Iron under Dr. Charles F. Burgess. According to an Oct. 2009 article on Potts for the online resource Plating & Surface Finishing, the most important of his fifty-nine papers on plating and corrosion is probably “Rapid Nickel Plating,” presented before the Electrochemical Society in 1915. From: PhotoSeed Archive11-donald-mennie-chinese-r“Mutu Bridge”: Donald Mennie, Scottish (1875-1944) 1922: Vintage unmounted bromide print: 24.2 x 34.6 cm. This picturesque Chinese river scene first appeared as a full-page plate variant in the 1914 volume “My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard” (between pp. 254-5) by author Elizabeth Cooper and then as Plate #7 “Mutu Bridge” in the photographer’s ca. 1914 work “Picturesque China: A Series of Vandyck Photogravures illustrating Chinese Life and Surroundings”. From: PhotoSeed Archive12-george-b-woods-steppinDetail: “Stepping Stones” George Bacon Wood Jr., American: (1832-1909). 1894. Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade”, New York: January, 1894: whole #65: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 20.5 x 11.7 | 34.9 x 27.5 cm. The index for the issue of Sun & Shade in which this photograph appears states: “To the meditative woman crossing the brook with careful steps upon the projecting stones, Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words, in his “Professor at the Breakfast Table,” can be appropriately applied: “The wisest woman you talk with is ignorant of something that you know, but an elegant woman never forgets her elegance.” With no eye to see her, as she crosses the woodland stream, the figure in the picture appears reposeful, full of thought, and unconsciously elegant in pose. This is a charming photograph from nature, simple, truthful and artistic.” From: PhotoSeed Archive13-fotographica-artistica-“Derniers Rayons Dans la Forêt”: Guglielmo Oliaro, Italian: (1874 -1936) vintage Bromide photograph, ca. 1900? 1907: 16.6 x 22.5 | 23.5 x 32.7 cm. Translating to “Last Rays In The Forest”, this bucolic scene at dusk features a rushing stream and footbridge bisecting a a silhouetted line of Pollarded Willow trees. From Turin, amateur photographer Dr. Guglielmo Oliaro was very interested in the arts, founding a medical publishing house that survives to this day: From the InterFairs online resource: “Minerva Medica was the brainchild of a Turin GP (General Practitioner -ed.) Dr. Guglielmo Oliaro, a scientist with a passion for literature, art and music. It was on December 8 1925 that Dr. Oliaro got together with a small group of partners to set up the original company, Tipografia Editrice Minerva based in Turin. The creation of that company was a response to the growing success both in Italy and abroad, of Minerva Medica, a weekly journal for the general practitioner that first came out in 1909. Edizioni Minerva Medica S.p.A. was set up as a limited company by Dr. Guglielmo Oliaro on June 9 1934, for the purpose of supplying the Italian medical profession with text-books and scientific journals.” This example of Oliaro’s work was printed by the Milan atelier Maison Tensi and included as a full-page plate in the April, 1907 issue of “La Fotographia Artistica”, a French/Italian photographic journal. From: PhotoSeed Archive14-doris-ulmann-baptism-co“Baptismal Scene” : Doris Ulmann, American: (1882 –1934) 1933: Signed, hand-pulled photogravure included as additional loose plate from deluxe edition of “Roll, Jordan, Roll”: 21.3 x 16.4 | 28.3 x 20.7 cm. In a rather interesting coincidence, this particular example of a summer stream showing a well-known river baptism by Ulmann has been partially immersed by moisture along the lower margin. From p. 116 of the volume: “A candidate for admission into the church must first be baptized. The Methodists have water sprinkled on their heads, but Baptists must be publicly immersed. These “baptisms” attract large crowds of onlookers. The candidates all arrive at the “pool” dressed in long white robes, which are carefully put away after the ceremony to serve as their shrouds some day. When they are assembled, the preacher and the leader, also dressed in white robes, lead the first candidate down into the water, where he is dipped three times, once in the name of the Father, once in the name of the Son, and once in the name of the Holy Ghost. As he is lead up out of the water, all his sins are left behind, drowned and buried in a watery grave. His soul is cleansed white as snow and he is ready to be received into full church membership. Unless he “falls” into sin and gets “turned out” of the church, he will some day be received into fellowship with God’s holy angels up in heaven.” The following review of Roll, Jordon, Roll comes from Steve Watson and was included on the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website, first published in 2016: Photographer Doris Ulmann came from an affluent white New York City family. She took teacher training with photographer Lewis Hine at the Ethical Culture School and subsequently studied psychology and law at Columbia University. She also studied photography with Clarence H. White, a founding member of the Photo-Secession movement known for teaching the Pictorialist style. Ulmann collaborated with novelist Julia Peterkin on a book project titled Roll, Jordan, Roll(New York: R.O. Ballou, 1933). The book focuses on the lives of former slaves and their descendants on a plantation in the Gullah coastal region of South Carolina. Peterkin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Scarlet Sister Mary (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928), was born in South Carolina and raised by a black nursemaid who taught her the Gullah dialect. She married the heir to Lang Syne, a 2,000-acre cotton plantation, which became the setting for Roll, Jordan, Roll. Ulmann began photographing there in 1929. Roll, Jordan, Roll is titled after the spiritual written by English Methodist leader Charles Wesley in the 18th century which became well-known among slaves in the United States during the 19th century. Appropriated as a coded message for escape, by the end of the American Civil War it had become known through much of the eastern United States. In the 20th century it helped inspire the blues, and it remains a staple in gospel music. Roll, Jordan, Roll was illustrated with 90 photogravure plates made from Ulmann’s large-format negatives. Although they comprise an amazing ethnographic study, today Ulmann’s Pictorialist aesthetic seems a strange choice for making documentary images. The hazy, soft-focus photographs lend a sentimental, nostalgic impression that belies the underlying exploitative history of her subjects. From: PhotoSeed Archive15-arthur-hammond-niagara-“Niagara Falls”: attributed to Arthur Hammond, American: born England: 1880-1962: hand-colored gelatin silver print mounted to album leaf, ca. 1930-1940: 19.2 x 24.2 | 25.0 x 32.7 cm. To conclude our post is a view of the ultimate Summer Stream: a view showing the Niagara River’s Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side. From a personal album of nearly 100 photographs attributed to Hammond dating from around 1910-1940. Born in London, photographer Arthur Hammond arrived in America at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on July 31, 1909 and established himself with his own studio in Natick, MA outside Boston by 1912. In 1920, he authored the foundational book "Pictorial Composition in Photography" and became a leading voice for pictorialism in America through his position as associate editor of American Photography magazine that lasted 30 years from 1918-1949. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

By the Stream

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

 

By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
How the clouds like crowds of snowy-hued and white-robed
maidens pass,

And the water into ripples breaks and sparkles as it spreads,
Like a host of armored knights with silver helmets on their heads.

And I deem the stream an emblem fit of human life may go,
For I find a mind may sparkle much and yet but shallows show,

And a soul may glow with myriad lights and wondrous mysteries,
When it only lies a dormant thing and mirrors what it sees.

 

 

Eternal Sunny Rest

I lost my mother-in-law this past Easter. Besides her strong faith, which made Maria Meek’s passing on the Christian day of renewal seem like destiny after a nearly 20-year battle with various cancers, her selfless devotion to cats will always remain with me.

 

new-blog-cat“The Cat” (Probably Tenney House, at Smith College in Northampton, MA) Unknown American photographer: Cyanotype: ca. 1900 (4.9 x 12.0 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf)  In love and remembrance for Maria Meek: 1949-2019. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Like this feline, who bear’s an uncanny resemblance to Maria’s beloved Oscar, one of her many rescues who went from cold factory floor to a home-life of pampered bliss, please consider a donation to your local Humane Society or pet shelter in remembrance to those whom you have loved.

 

 

Summer Sailing

Sail into Summer…

blog-summer-sailingDetail: "Summer Sailing": attributed to Arthur Hammond, American: born England:1880-1962: hand-colored gelatin silver print mounted to album leaf, ca. 1930-1940: 24.1 x 10.1 | 25.0 x 32.7 cm. From a personal album of nearly 100 photographs attributed to Hammond dating from around 1910-1940. Born in London, photographer Arthur Hammond arrived in America at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on July 31, 1909 and established himself with his own studio in Natick, MA outside Boston by 1912. In 1920, he authored the foundational book "Pictorial Composition in Photography" and became a leading voice for pictorialism in America through his position as associate editor of American Photography magazine that lasted 30 years from 1918-1949. This photo possibly taken along Boston's North Shore, with other maritime album images identified as the old Deer Island lighthouse in Boston Harbor and the original building for the Jubilee Yacht Club in Beverly Mass. From: PhotoSeed Archive

Laurels for Ivy

Ivy, at least the evergreen variety known to climb and adhere to brick walls, is academically synonymous mostly in the northeastern United States with that of the Ivy League. But this isn’t about those educational institutions and membership in the well-known sports league. Rather, ivy for the purposes of this post during late Spring is symbolic for the ties that will bind newly minted graduates at this time of year: “The connection between the college and its graduates”, is how Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts aptly describes it, and the continuing reason her senior offspring have, since 1884, ceremonially planted it on a special day before Commencement.

1-ivy-procession-june-18-1Detail: "Ivy Procession June 18, 1900": vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 10.0 x 24.8 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm. Ivy Day at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, the day before Commencement, begins with a procession of graduating seniors walking around Seelye Hall on campus. They are flanked by junior students in foreground carrying the ivy chain, which is actually made of laurel leaves. Notice the two women and young boy at far right of frame photographing the scene with box cameras. Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

2a-hamilton-wright-mabie-1"Hamilton Wright Mabie: Smith College Class of 1900 Commencement Speaker": vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 8.5 x 7.2 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm. Mabie, 1846-1916, an American essayist, editor, critic, and lecturer who attended Williams College and Columbia Law School, is shown here in the background along with two Smith graduates: his daughter at left Lorraine Trivett Mabie -1877-1906, and Mary Buell Sayles - 1878-1959, who went on to become a noted social reformer, writer and educator. In 1902, Sayles conducted the first "systemic study of housing conditions in Jersey City" (Davis-1984) and was a New York City housing inspector. Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

2-woman-with-cameraDetail: "Head of Ivy Procession" (June 18, 1900): vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 7.5 x 8.5 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm. With the front of the Smith College Ivy Day Procession made up of graduating seniors Cornelia Gould, Carol Weston, Caroline Marmon and Harriette Ross making their way forward in background, a woman with camera at far right of frame walks to position herself for a good vantage point. Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

3-head-of-ivy-processionsDetails: "Head of Ivy Day Procession: 1897-1900" (Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts). All: vintage cyanotypes loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaves: ca. 1897-1900 by unknown American photographers with each leaf: 18.2 x 27.5 cm. Upper left: 1897: 9.4 x 11.4 cm; Upper right: 1898: 9.5 x 12.0 cm; Lower left: 1899 (Louise & Carrolle Barber) 8.5 x 5.5 cm; Lower right: 1900 (Cornelia Gould, Carol Weston, Caroline Marmon, Harriette Ross) 8.1 x 5.5 cm. Leaves from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

5-overhead-processionDetail: "Ivy Procession on the way from College Hall around Seelye Hall" (June 18, 1900): vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 8.3 x 8.5 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm.Taken from an overhead angle, this photograph shows throngs of hat wearing spectators in foreground and background watching the procession of graduating Smith College seniors. Each wearing their traditional long white dresses, they walk in pairs while flanked by junior class members holding the ivy chain made from laurel leaves. Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

6-ivy-procession-june-18-1Top: "Ivy Procession June 18, 1900": vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 10.1 x 24.5 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm. Ivy Day at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, the day before Commencement, begins with a procession of graduating seniors walking around Seelye Hall on campus. They are flanked by junior students in foreground carrying the ivy chain, which is actually made of laurel leaves. From the college website: "Ivy Day has been a Smith tradition for more than a century. The class of 1884 was the first to plant ivy as part of the ceremonies leading to its graduation, thus providing the day with its name." Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive. Bottom: "Seelye Hall, Smith College Campus". From the same vantage point as the panoramic photograph taken above, this digital iPhone photograph from January 15, 2018 shows what the campus looks like today. Named after the first president of the college L. Clark Seelye, construction on Seelye began in 1898 and it opened the following year. Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

7-singing-fair-smith-in-fr"Singing Fair Smith": vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 7.7 x 8.5 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm. On Ivy Day at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, hundreds gather in front of College Hall to watch members of the choir assembled on the steps sing the traditional 1890 song "Fair Smith". The lyrics are by R.K. Crandall and Dr. B.C. Blodgett: "Fair Smith, our praise to thee we render, O dearest college halls, Bright hours that live in mem'ry tender, Are wing'd within thy walls. O'er thy walks the elms are bowing, Alma Mater, Winds 'mid branches softly blowing, Ivy round thy tower growing, Alma Mater. "And while the hills with purple shadows Eternal vigil keep Above the happy river meadows, In golden haze asleep. May thy children still addressing, Alma Mater. Thee with grateful praise addressing, Speak in loyal hearts thy blessing, Alma Mater." Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

8-1900-head-of-ivy-process"Head of Procession reaching Ivy": vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 8.3 x 5.4 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm. Smith College graduating seniors who headed up the Ivy Day Procession on June 18, 1900-Cornelia Gould, Carol Weston, Caroline Marmon and Harriette Ross, stand at the base of Seelye Hall where they prepare to plant ivy plant seedlings. Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

9-ivy-plantedDetail: "Ivy vine seedling at base of Seelye Hall": vintage cyanotype loosely inserted into dis-bound album leaf: ca. 1900 by unknown American photographer: 8.3 x 8.0 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm. The evidence of Ivy Day at Smith College on June 18, 1900 is this Ivy seedling, planted against the year "1900" chiseled into the base of the then brand new Seelye Hall, a rusticated Georgian Revival building on campus designed by the New York firm of York and Sawyer. Construction on this surviving academic building which first housed classrooms and a library began in 1898 and was completed in 1899. The building took its name from L. Clark Seelye, (1837-1924) the first president of Smith College who served from 1875-1910. Rockefeller Hall at Vassar, an 1897 commission by the same firm, was the model for Seelye. Leaf from larger album with direct provenance to Mary Ruth Perkins, 1878-1975; Smith College class of 1900 graduate and Chairman of the class yearbook committee that year. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

In 1900, when these cyanotype photographs were taken, a new century beckoned on Ivy Day for those who would soon graduate from Smith. Like then as in the present, newly minted graduates the world over feel the same emotions that strains of Pomp and Circumstance invoke and traditions call for. Laurels are bestowed for hard work, fortunes and insight will be made or come from it, and hopefully, friendships made during college days will endure far into the future.

 

 

Sugaring

 

“Of all that long season of snow, I remember most pleasantly the days that were sweetened with the sugar-making. When the sun was lifting his course in the clearing sky, and March had got the temper of the lamb, and the frozen pulses of the forest had begun to stir, the great kettle was mounted in the yard and all gave a hand to the washing of spouts and buckets.


1-the-sugar-camp-clarence-"The Sugar Camp": Clarence H. White, American: 1903: vintage hand-pulled photogravure. 12.2 x 7.7 | 20.0 x 13.9 cm. A team of horses pulls a wooden sled guided by a sugar camp worker and carrying a barrel of tree sap to a sugar shack in the distance. The gravure was included in a special edition of the best selling novel Eben Holden written by Irving Bacheller. PhotoSeed Archive

 

Then came tapping time, in which I helped carry the buckets and tasted the sweet flow that followed the auger’s wound. The woods were merry with our shouts, and, shortly, one could hear the heart-beat of the maples in the sounding bucket. It was the reveille of spring. Towering trees shook down the gathered storms of snow and felt for the sunlight. The arch and shanty were repaired, the great iron kettle was scoured and lifted to its place, and then came the boiling. It was a great, an inestimable privilege to sit on the robes of faded fur, in the shanty, and hear the fire roaring under the kettle and smell the sweet odor of the boiling sap.” - Irving Bacheller, from Eben Holden  (1.)

 

2-maple-fest-hopkins-foresAn annual harbinger of Spring, Maple Fest was held on the grounds of the 2600-acre Hopkins Memorial Forest located in Williamstown, MA on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The educational and fun event gave visitors the opportunity to experience the collection of maple sap, to its' being boiled down in a sugar shack to make maple syrup and the experience of tasting it as pure candy solidified after being drizzled onto fresh snow. Top: a young visitor holding a drill is guided by a Williams College student in tapping a sugar maple tree. An old-fashioned metal bucket at right is still used, with 40-50 gallons of sap collected and boiled down to make one gallon of syrup. Left: Amber, crystalline maple syrup is left behind on the bottom of a foil sheet that once held packed snow. Right: Historic evaporation methods to boil down maple sap were demonstrated, with another Williams student carefully maneuvering a hot rock taken from coals that would be transferred to a hollowed-out log- the method Native Americans first used to turn sap into syrup. All: David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

1. Eben Holden: Chapter VIII: Boston, Lothrop Publishing Company: 1903: p. 95

The Beautiful Beyond

 

PhotoSeed celebrates the life of one of its profound influences on the recent passing of my father Charles Edward Spencer 1925-2017.

 

charles-spencer-photographs"Charlie Spencer and WWII Classmates" : unknown English photographer: gelatin silver K(odak) Ltd postcard ca. 1940: 13.8 x 8.7 cm : The author's father, about 15, is seen at far left striking a pose in Workington, on the west coast of Cumbria England (Cumberland county) during the early part of World War II. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1925 to English parents who sought their fortune in the United States, the American Depression forced the family back to their native Newcastle upon Tyne by 1933. A favored German aerial target during the war because of its important shipbuilding industry, Charlie was evacuated along with over 800,000 English school age children from Newcastle and other large English cities beginning in late 1939 as part of the British government's Operation Pied Piper, which eventually displaced 3.5 million people in the UK. Late in the war, he returned to Newcastle, (Benwell) reuniting with his parents Charles and Jane (Garland) Spencer and graduating there from Atkinson Road Technical School. An American by birth, he soon found himself serving in the U.S. Army of Occupation in Germany, where he was a reporter for the Stars and Stripes newspaper among other duties. His first eight years in America had certainly made an impression however, and he returned to the states for good in early 1949 aboard the troop ship USNS General Maurice Rose. Settling in the greater Bridgeport, CT area, he went on to become an advertising and sales promotion specialist for the General Electric Company in their small appliance division for fifteen years and later in the same capacity with other business ventures in CT. Married 61 years to Ann, he passed away in September, 2017. Note: girl in photograph is daughter from Workington family with whom Charlie stayed with during his billet. After Workington, he was billeted with another family in Siddick England. From: Authors personal family archive.

 

 

The call would come, I had convinced myself, for years. But it waited patiently. I reassured myself I was prepared, but for naught. When it did, from my brother Will, it was from his childhood voice over 50 years gone: punctuating his cries through the distance, he gasped for breath: “Dad did not wake up” he somehow forced through his cracking voice, cries and tears. My own response immediate: a shuddering to my core equal to his-helpless feelings not revisited since my toddler days-cries my father was now unable to comfort as he did throughout my entire life ⎯the finality of it all.

 

But goodness had shined its light, in this most profound form of sudden loss: my dad was now truly free of any miseries real for him in the physical present, and ones our family perceived in him during his long and noticeable decline. Vanquished. He was now free, and on his journey to the beautiful beyond.

David Spencer-