Traverse City (Michigan) Photographic collection,   1850, 1969, and undated
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists mostly of glass-plate negatives, film negatives, and glass positive slides; arranged in order by format and size. Some papers, photographs, and postcards complete the collection. Ormond S. Danford, a lawyer in Traverse City, Michigan, collected these materials. At least some of the photographs and glass-plate negatives are signed by S. E. Wait. It is possible that some of the unsigned images in the collection were created by Wait, but this cannot be verified. There are also a few items from at least one other unidentified photographer in this collection. In Box 15 a number of people in the photographs of Traverse City and the Traverse City State Hospital folders are identified as members of the Berkwith family. This would indicate that whether or not Wait originally photographed the Berkwiths, the family gave or sold their photograph collection to Danford.

Series I consists of 256 glass-plate negatives, Boxes 1-9 (4.5 cubic feet), and each plate measures 6.5 x 8.5 inches unless otherwise noted. Only one of the images is dated, 1900; the rest probably date from 1850 to 1900, but are undated. Most of these negatives are formal portraits in which the people photographed are dressed in their very best clothes. Plaid dresses were very popular as were lacy scarves for ladies and girls. One little boy is proudly dressed in a kilt and tartan (Glass-plate negative #68). Most of the men are in three piece suits with small ties, and sport beards and mustaches. These portraits were taken in the same studio setting with the same furniture and props. Single portraits of men and of women, and group photographs of family members, children, and women, and one of two men boxing with boxing gloves, are also in the portraits. The few portraits which are exceptions to this show props in the background, are not centered, show partial images of other people in the background or are double portraits. One portrait of a woman (#101) has suffered extreme emulsion damage and loss. A scanned print has been generated for use and the glass-plate negative, while retained in the collection, should not be used by researchers. One portrait is clearly that of Myron E. Haskell (#35), Assistant Postmaster of Traverse City, as shown in Old settlers of the Grand Traverse Region, p.15. Most of the images probably date from the 1860s-1900 based on hair styles and clothing. Five portraits may date from the 1850s because of the earlier hair styles and clothing (#17, 51, and 94, which are portraits of women; and #34 and 46, which are portraits of men).

Five glass-plate negatives in this group are not portraits. These include: #29 Five floral wreaths; one labeled Hose Co. No. 3, one labeled G.A.R.-In Memorium McPherson Post No. 118-Traverse City, 8 x 10 inches; #79 Aerial view of houses, trees, and some industrial buildings. “S. E. Wait Photo” in lower right corner, 5 x 8 inches; #80 Trees in foreground on hills, town in background, 5 x 8 inches; #88 “Traverse City from Bill Org’s heights.” Trees with water in background. Emulsion peeling off right side, some already lost, 5 x 8 inches; and #89 “London Rally Decorations. Aug. 5th, 1900. Cong’l [Congregational] Church, Traverse City, Mich. S. E. Wait, Photo.” Interior view of church from rear with pews, walls and ceiling draped with various flags, 5 x 8 inches. (A positive of the interior of the Congregational Church is in Box 15.)

Most of the glass-plate negatives are in pretty good shape. Some plates suffer from various degrees of emulsion damage, scratches, and/or have edges or sections broken off them. A few have black outlines around the person in the portrait. Many appear to have had paper pasted on their backs at one time. Most group images were photographed with the plate horizontally, while one or two people are usually photographed on the plate vertically.

It would be logical from the assumed date of the images in Series I, 1850-1900, to assume that Wait, probably the only local photographer at the time, photographed and developed these images.

Series II consists of the remainder of the 240 glass-plate negatives and 100 film negatives in Boxes 10-13 (2 cubic feet). The film negatives are mostly undated, but some of the glass-plate negatives are dated between 1891 and 1916. The glass-plate negatives and some of the film were interfiled in the original boxes and so have not been separated into different series. Sizes of glass-plate negatives vary from 6 x 2 inches to 2.75 x 4 inches. The topic matter varies in this series and includes: images of towns, boats, people, horses and buggies, lumbering and logs, a stuffed eagle, cottages, and a wedding, as well as views from boats looking towards shore. Again, most of these are in good condition with minor scratches or emulsion damage to the plates. There are also images of published drawings, poems, and paintings where the published date is 1879-1894; as well as images taken of two stereoscopic view, one of which is identified as the Chicago Fire, 1871, taken by J. H. Abbott, Photographer (in Box 12). Some of the glass-plate negatives are identified by location name, including: Traverse City, Karlin, Hawkins’ Point, Cannon Creek, Old Mission Point, most of which are located near Traverse City, and various places on Mackinaw Island, Fort Mackinaw, Marquette Ore Docks, and two of Lighthouse Point (perhaps at St. Ignace). Many of the glass-plate negatives are not dated, but those with dates range from 1891 to 1916. Some are signed by S. E. Wait.

The 100 film negatives, all undated and all turn of the century 1899/1900, are in Box 13, folders 4-10 and vary in size from 4 x 5 inches to 4 x 4 inches. The negatives came from a set of identified boxes. The first box (Folder 4), identified as Minnie and Frank’s wedding trip, include 18 film negatives all 4 x 5 inches, all undated, mostly of the Soo Locks, Mackinaw Island, Fort Mackinac and buildings. Folders 5 (measuring 4 x 5 inches) and Folder 6 (Measuring 3 x 6 inches) were identified as Bangilt Cottage and Duck Point and include 16 undated, unidentified film negatives mainly of people by cabins and houses in the woods and nature views. Folder 7 includes 4 negatives of various sizes identified as the Onsmore Home and Boat. The same house is in three of the images and may be the Onsmore home. The remaining image is of people in a row boat called the Sea Gull. Folders 8-10 include 60 undated negatives of varying size from the Copper Country Trip box. These negatives are mostly of people and a town, although there are two of mining equipment. The last five images in Folder 10 are images of published photographs including a statue of Fr. Marquette, Lake Linden’s Congregational Church, Hancock’s Congregational Church, and Red Jacket Shaft, C. and H. Mining Co., Calumet.

Box 14 is Series III and includes 37 positive Lumberjack slides. The original box was identified as Lumberjack Slides-S. E. Wait. The slides are made by two pieces of glass held together with black paper, sometimes with tape. Some of the slides are identified, some have “U.S. Department of Agriculture” printed on them, others have handwritten notation, others have published text, including some from Chicago, and some slides are unidentified. Sometimes the slide with the text is reversed and very difficult to read. Some of the slides have ornate detail around the edges indicating that it was purchased rather than created by Wait. It is possible that Wait photographed some of the images while employed by the Agriculture Department, and they were later available for purchase by the public. The slides mostly document lumbermen, ox and horse teams, loads of logs, lumber camps, interiors of buildings, people in and by camps, lumberyards and sawmills, lumber locomotives and trains, machinery in mills, floating logs, log jams, lumber teams, sawyers, a cook house, and a lumberjack bunkhouse. At least one slide (#3 in Box 14) is of a log jam on the St. Croix River, St. Croix Falls, WI, 1886. Identified site locations are: Chorron’s Camp, west of Grayling; near Traverse City; Saginaw; and Queen Dam on Middle Branch of the Cedar [River]. A load of logs is identified as “Fine Norway Pine” and another as “The White Pine King” giving age: 423 years, height: 207 feet, and feet scaled: 29800.

The last box, Box 15 (.5 cubic foot), is Series IV and includes Papers, Photographs, and Postcards mostly documenting Traverse City, Elk Rapids, Fife Lake, Michigan. Dated materials range from pre-1898 through 1969, but most of the materials are undated. Of note here are the Aetna School Board District Meeting Minutes, 1877-1912 (1 volume) of Mecosta County, Michigan; Grand Traverse Historical Society Meeting Minutes, May 20, 1954-March 27, 1969; and photographs of Traverse City and its State Hospital, 1895, and undated, in which members of the Berkwith family are identified.

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