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The Glass Plate Negatives - part 1


For as long as I can remember I have loved old things. I know now that it is because I love story. Anything older than brand new has a story. Anything older than 100 years has layers of story. It can be furniture, a house, jewelry, music, documents or pictures.


Have you been in an antique store and seen old photographs? Most, have nothing written, no identifier of who the people are. Just black and white or sepia images, faces from long ago stare back. I always look through old photographs when I have the chance. Studying the details, I notice how individuals are dressed, their props or jewelry, and the setting they are in.


Once, I found a photo with a name on it that I recognized from my own family tree. I purchased the picture hoping I would have some connection to the man in the picture. Unfortunately, I found none. I noted the city of the photographer’s stamp in the lower corner of the image. I was able to do an online search of the man in the image and find his identity. Later, I found descendants of his and sent them the photograph. They were grateful and I was hooked. From start to finish, I loved the process of discovery, uncovering facts and identity. Finding the pieces of a story and putting them together like a puzzle.


Recently, in a social media group I belong to, a man named Paul Holbrook posted a series of photographs he produced from glass negatives. He purchased the glass negatives online from a seller living in the Bronx. I was instantly captivated.





The images were not part of a professional photo shoot. The relaxed poses and the expressions were not common for professional pictures of the time period. This seems to be a family at ease with posssibly another family member using a camera to capture intimate moments with those they love.


Though this particular negative, posted below, was badly damaged, I am glad it was shared, because so much can still be seen. The expressions on the subjects and the unusual posing of the individuals all made for a captivating conversation piece between history lovers.


I fell in love with this family instantly.


Something about their expressions and interaction drew me in. I was drawn to the little girl’s puffed sleeves and plaid dress. I noticed the young man’s high collar and bow tie. The mother’s eyes had a sparkle and her joy seemed to leap off the glass negative that had preserved her for over 100 years and leap through time to fill my heart.



I wanted to know more. I commented on the images to the man who posted them. “Who are they?” “Do you know anything about them, anything at all?”


The man who posted them online said he bought them from an ebay seller who lived in the Bronx. He was calling the series of photographs, “The Bronx Plate Glass Negatives”.


I wasn’t satisfied. With each image, I had more questions. A burning desire to discover who the mystery family was and to uncover their story.





And so began my hunt to discover all I could. I waited, a little less than patiently, for more images to be posted. With each one, new facts would reveal themselves. I took notes. I zoomed in on the pictures and noted every clue. What details do you notice?


It became clear from the family's attire and the setting that the pictures were from the early 1900's.

Bit by bit, their story is beginning to unfold and I would love it if you would join me on this journey. In upcoming blog posts, I want to take you with me as more images and clues are revealed and I attempt to discover who they are.


I can't wait to find out how this ends!


To read the next post in this series, click here.





All pictures in this post are courtesy of Paul Holbrook. Used with permission.






#historydetective #glassplatenegatives

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