Bringing Century-Old Negatives to Life

© Jerry F. Couch

THE IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE were converted from ca. 1910 – 1920 glass plate negatives.  Each negative was approximately 3″ x 4″ in size.  Though printed photographs and film negatives typcially deteriorate with age, glass plate negatives are quite stable if properly handled and stored. 

The negatives from which these images were created are part of the collection of “a friend of a friend.”  For several years he had been searching for someone who could convert them into viewable positives.  So…with the owner’s trust in me and the help of a modern camera and three computer graphics programs…here they are, their century-old subjects and situations ready for viewing once more.

Some background info:  The photographer was the grandfather of the negatives’ current owner.  As a money-making sideline, he traveled from place to place with his camera, taking commissioned photos.  Later, he would develop these pictures then deliver them to his customers.  However, the people you see here are thought to be members of the photographer’s family.  Their farm and sawmill were located in neighboring Washington County.  

Pay particular attention to what the people in the photos were wearing.  Photos weren’t cheap and taking them wasn’t an everyday occurrence, so everyone wanted to look their best.  My personal favorite is the man showing his grandchild the baby chicks while the family dog rests on top of the brooder. There are also a couple of pictures that (like today) were photobombed by mischevious children.  

Click on any image below to see a larger view.  Please note that the owner’s idenity has been deliberately withheld to protect his privacy.







3 thoughts on “Bringing Century-Old Negatives to Life

  1. The last surviving daughter of this photographer, my mother-in-law, passed away this past June at the age of 96. She would have loved to have seen these as there were so many negatives left to develop. Odds are, though, she would not have known these folks. I have seen developed photos of her siblings as infants and young children and none of these are of them. We can only speculate about them being related. What a wonderful legacy her father left. He was very talented.

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