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What Happen to Photo Negative Plates?

Discussion in 'Civil War Photography' started by 5fish, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. 5fish

    5fish 1st Lieutenant

    Aug 26, 2007
    Central Florida
    I heard about this years ago but can never find a good article about the following topic. There were thousands upon thousands photo's taken during the civil war. Each photo left a negative plate, I mean a plate of glass like 8in x 10in. The question is what happen to these photo negative glass plates?

    If you go to a greenhouse built in the years following the civil war to 1900, you will find them. They were used as the glass the made up the greenhouse. The sun has faded most of the images away but if you go in the dark corners of these greenhouse, you will still see images on them form the civil war....

    Like I said. I have not been able to find a good article on the topic just little blurs about it. The glass negatives of Matthew Brady's civil war photos fell to this fate in the years following the war....the following is one of those blurs I found.....

    So much that we wanted to dispose of Brady and any of the images he provoked, that some the glass plates negatives, were found decades later serving as panes of glass in a greenhouse.

    He was forced to sell off all of his negatives to payoff some of his debt, and when the government finally got around to reimburse him for his historic photographic accounting of the war, it was only to the tune of $25,000, which was swallowed up quickly by his creditors.

    Brady was Bankrupt and ended his life penniless while in the care of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, His wife passed a decade before him and he had no friends or family to help him through his deep despair. The war that would eventually etch his name in annals of history, destroyed him.

    Matthew Brady died April 15, 1896. Alone, penniless, and distressed.

    I just want to note that Brady's death date is the same as Lincoln's....just 31 years later...

    Civil War history lost to the greenhouse crazy of the late 19th century.....

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  3. 5fish

    5fish 1st Lieutenant

    Aug 26, 2007
    Central Florida
    I must fess up I found this in a book...It looks like most civil war photo negatives survived. Yes, some small collection have been lost but most of the large ones have survived. The biggest threat was breakage. In most cases the broken negatives were thrown away but once the national achieves took over any broken ones were saved too. Sorry to miss inform you all. I at least know why I could not find much on the topic....no story there...the link....

    http://books.google.com/books?id=IM...vil war negatives used in greenhouses&f=false

    I would scroll back and then read forward a good read...
  4. rickvox79

    rickvox79 First Sergeant

    Jan 27, 2011
    Pace, FL
    I have thought and wondered often how many pictures were actually lost that would be incredible to see now. I remember on the Ken Burns documentary, the last episode, he showed a greenhouse with a picture plate being used. If I remember correctly it was mentioned how pictures were lost especially in the south after the war. At the time I think many wanted to forget about the war and move on, but unfortunately that probably doomed us to miss out on many great photos.

    I often think about how great it would be to have a digital camera and go back in time during the civil war to take pictures to bring back (I know, silly daydreams). But at least we do have photos to look at from that time period, unlike say the Revolutionary war. I'd love to see a photo of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, etc.
  5. James B White

    James B White 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

    Dec 4, 2011
    As mentioned in the linked book, even if negatives were lost, prints could survive.

    It might even be more likely for a print to survive even if the negative was lost, since numerous prints could have been made and scattered to a variety of locations, while a unique tintype or dag would be gone forever in a fire or flood.

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