About a vintage 1924 gelatin silver print purchased with a batch of old photographs
I enjoy publishing old photographs here and on YouTube, as a part of my personal effort to give memory to the faces lost in time. These are photographs no longer wanted by a family.
Maybe the descendants don’t know who they are and decided to let the photos go. Maybe there are no more descendants.
Without a living memory, it’s almost like a person never existed.
But these people did exist, and they mattered to each other. They held a reunion in 1924, somewhere in the hills. Maybe it’s Tennessee, where I live, and where I acquired this photograph, but I have no way of knowing for sure.
To me, it’s almost miraculous that we can observe this fleeting moment from a single summer afternoon nearly 98 years ago (at the time this was published).
It’s a small print on glossy gelatin silver fiber-based paper. There’s cellophane tape on the corners, and fingerprints scattered across the front. Are they the fingerprints of someone in the photo?
They’re all squinting. It was taken midday — the sunlight is almost directly overhead.
I enjoy that the last chair on the right is reserved for holding the old man’s hat.
On the back of the photograph, written in blue ballpoint ink, is the following inscription:
Great Grand Father
Reunion August 1924
The pencil notations were made by the seller. We can see from the tape on the back that it was kept in one of those old photo albums with black paper pages. The back is also marked with yellow stains.
Update: Half-tone for Newspaper Use
OK, this is bizarre. Several months after publishing this blog post and accompanying video, I was back at my usual shop digging through a stack of old photographs when I uncovered this. It’s a half-tone photostat of the “five generations” photo discussed in this blog post. This half-tone would have been made for publication in the newspaper. Apparently, the family reunion was considered important enough to make the local newspaper.
What was happening in the world in August 1924?
In August, 1924:
- Most popular song in August 1924 was “What’ll I do?” by Paul Whiteman
- The Allied Powers worked to finalize war reparations plans for Germany after the end of WWI
- The Little Orphan Annie comic strip was published for the first time
- President Calvin Coolidge formally accepted the nomination to run for his second term as president of the United States
- Old west outlaw Roy Daugherty, 54, a member of the Wild Bunch gang, was killed in a gunfight with lawmen
- Attorney Clarence Darrow presented his closing argument in the notorious Leopold and Loeb murder case
- The movie Wine, starring Clara Bow was released.
- Writer James Baldwin and actors Carroll O’ Connor and Buddy Hackett were born.
Thanks for reading.