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The Wilkes-Barre Glass Negatives - Part 1

A large glass negative collection was put up for sale on eBay. My friend Paul Holbrook purchased many of them and has been busy restoring them. The seller said they were from the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, area, so I was immediately interested because I live near Wilkes-Barre.

When I attempt to identify pictures in any collection, I always consider the entire collection. Poor-quality or simple pictures that may otherwise seem unimportant might hold a clue.

To identify the photographer and the family pictured in the images, I needed to confirm the place and region where they were taken. Just because the seller on eBay claimed they were from the Wilkes-Barre, PA, area, I couldn't take his word for it. However, I was able to verify that most of the images were taken in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, in and around Wilkes-Barre, as landmarks and other identifiers revealed themselves in images that took me back in time.

With that knowledge of their general location, I selected a few photographs that I thought would narrow down specific towns or areas in Luzerne County.

Although some photographs were out of focus, the following pictures of a duck farm piqued my interest immediately.

(The following images were accessed on eBay and were sold images that I confirmed with Paul came from the same seller of his Wilkes Barre glass negative collection. They can be accessed publicly on eBay through a search for "Wilkes Barre PA" or "Wilkes Barre Glass Negatives.")

Paul Holbrook, of Camera America, restored the following two images and I noticed another clue in one of the pictures. Do you see it?

A train track appears on the lower left of the image!

The hills and trees appear to be Northeast Pennsylvania. Since most of the images in the collection were from the Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania area, I felt that this duck farm was most likely located there.

I looked for listings of duck farms in the census records and information from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Ducks were raised on over 10% of all farms in Pennsylvania in 1910. That year, 23,502 ducks were counted from all reporting farms.

Many sold white Peking Ducks like the ones in the pictures above. Where did all these ducks come from? Was there really a demand for duck meat and feathers in the early 20th century? Apparently, yes.

This article is one of many that promoted duck farming in Pennsylvania. A Long Island Duck farm was selling ducklings and had advertisements and articles published in Pennsylvania to entice Pennsylvania farmers.

Published in the Times Leader, Aug 11, 1899, p7. Accessed at

With my theory that the glass negative collection was of photographs taken in Luzerne County, I started there and looked for duck farms that resembled the landscape and near train tracks. Although there was a duck farm in Dallas, PA it was said to have a very large pond. I didn't see a large pond in the pictures, and the location of the farm wasn't near train tracks. I found information on duck farms in Bloomsburg and Allentown, PA, but they were large operations and not near Wilkes Barre.

After looking at about a dozen duck farms that existed at that time, I found only one that fits the bill (pun intended.)

Published in The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Sat, Mar 11, 1916, p28. Accessed at

Published in The Times Leader, the Evening News, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Wed, Feb 20, 1924, p3. Accessed at

Jacob Dietz was the supervisor of the duck farm owned by Paul Warriner. I was able to rule out Jacob Dietz and Paul Warriner as the photographer of the images. However, I believe this is the right farm. I found the location of Paul Warriner's Pine Run duck farm in Wright Twp, near Nuangola, Luzerne County, PA and it was near a railroad. However, that discovery came with some sad news about a tragedy that occurred on the tracks.

Published in The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Wed, May 19, 1920, p6, accessed at

I was not able to locate any pictures of the Dietz family or young Jacob Dietz, who died that day. The duck farm pictures take on a new meaning as I imagine this little boy must have loved running among his white feathered friends and watching the trains go by with the Pennsylvania hills in the distance.

I recently drove out to Wright Township and Nuangola to the area where the duck farm existed. I believe the train tracks would have been part of the Wilkes-Barre and Hazelton railway that had stops at Pine View, Nuangola Station and then went through the Nuangola Tunnel through Penobscot Mtn. The tunnel still exists but isn't easily accessible and is about a 2 mile hike from the closest road. Because I believe the farm may be on this stretch, I couldn't get to it without trespassing on someone's property.

However, Henry Drive, part of Nuangola Road and Rt 81 does follow a similar route as the railway did, so I drove that and based on the landscape and hills I saw, I'm more confident that Pine Run Duck farm owned by Paul Warriner is the one in the images. Of course, we may never know for sure.

The Wilkes-Barre glass negatives continue to give up their stories. Read my next post here:

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1 Comment

Wonderful and informative research! You bring them to life, as always, and I'm eager to see what else you find! Let's go!

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