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Collecting Glass Plate Negatives: Saving Images Of The Past

Glass Plate Negatives: Portrait of a Young Lady See picture at the end

Our home is decorated with antiques and collections, as it’s our belief these items should not be hidden away just to possess them. Many items that have a functional purpose are still used as intended.

But glass negatives do not lend themselves to display, so they sit in a cabinet in the darkroom that Wifey uses as her eBay photoshoot area. I can justify having them and breaking my “Display It If You Collect It” rule by insisting I’m a savior of old images, rescuing the past with the hope future generations can see these images and understand the incredible work of these early photographers, especially with photos of everyday life with ordinary people.

My last blog showed some of the first batch of seventeen glass negatives I purchased at auction, included in a box lot with a tiny spy camera that I was bidding on. I have added to my negative collection selectively over these last fifteen years, with an eye toward interesting subjects, not just landscapes or portraits.

Here are some I think you will enjoy seeing. I have reversed the negatives digitally, to show what the printed pictures would look like. Note the rough condition of some. Also study the backgrounds for interesting items; it’s always the details that delight the viewer.

Glass Plate Negatives: Lady In A Garden

Common portrait of a woman at the end of the century, in a garden, probably wearing a wedding dress.

Glass Plate Negatives: Guitar Player

While early photos of guitar players might be rare, I find the wood stove interesting.

Glass Plate Negatives: Lady at a Spinning Whel
Sitting at her spinning wheel in this sparsely decorated room with the spindly looking plant, our photographer has captured a pensive look in natural window light.

Glass Plate Negatives: The Skier

It must have been a snowy winter when this shot was taken,

Glass Plate Negatives: Dapper Hunter
Our dapper gentleman is loading a shotgun in this wonderful outdoor photo.

Glass Plate Negatives: Shooters Trophy
In the same batch, this Milwaukee Country Club trophy is for shooting.

Glass Plate Negatives: Man at Typewriter
Check out this room with the gentleman sitting at a typewriter, in an office chair and using two hands to type. Note the great stove in the background with a statuette atop, the laundry drying in the corner, washbasket on the floor.

Glass Plate Negatives: The Cross Dresser
Check out the shoes on this cross-dresser. Need I say more?

Glass Plate Negatives: Huck Finn
Have you ever seen a better copy of Huck Finn? Of course, Huck didn’t live on this mansion-lined street.

Glass Plate Negatives: Three Babies
Are these the mothers?

Glass Plate Negatives: Chickens in a Farm Yard
And who can resist chickens in a farm yard?

Glass Plate Negatives: Our Gang
This one is actually a positive print on glass, “Our Gang Comedy In The Streets Of Old Milwaukee”. Note the Pabst Beer sign on Tony Rott’s Saloon.

Glass Plate Negatives: Our Young Lady
Now lastly, here is what our young lady looks like from the teaser at the beginning.

These glass plate negatives are found at all antique and collectible venues, but require a watchful eye to spot.

They come in many sizes and I have some in five different configurations from 4-1/4”x 4-1/4” square to 5” x 7”. I also have regular negatives and tintype photos in my collection.

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Bill Malone I also collect and print antique negatives. Glass plates are tricky to scan and so I print them in a darkroom on an antique enlarger. Many of them make wonderfully detailed photos. I have printed some for others but it is very time consuming and the paper prices are going up since not many are doing this anymore. November 16th, 2012 at 10:11 PM

Donner I have a very large one. Is there any way to display the glass plate negative with a backlight maybe ? Like a shadow box? September 11th, 2013 at 10:40 PM

debbeau I have a small white glass 3D negative; when it's put up to the light an amazing photo image appears...absolutely can't figure out what this is...bought at a barn sale last year. October 16th, 2013 at 12:18 AM

Genevieve Bolds bonjour hows it goinI goodi adore your weblog October 22nd, 2013 at 9:52 PM

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