Tag Archives: historical photographs

99 Years of Dayton Photographers

How does anyone ever have an original idea anymore? Obviously, some people manage to do so, because new things still keep coming along. And yet, it seems like most of the time, whenever I think, “There really oughtta be X,” there already is X, and I just hadn’t found it yet.

A recent example of this phenomenon occurred to me recently, with regard to an historical listing of Dayton photographers.

For the past few months, I have been processing the Thresher-McCann manuscript collection. In addition to loose papers and scrapbooks, the collection includes 260 (yes, exactly 260 – I just finished numbering them yesterday) photographs, the majority of which are unidentified. From the very few identified ones, I have been able to “tentatively” identify some of the people in others. (I have become pretty adept at recognizing Mary and Laura Thresher, but that’s about it. I don’t know the rest of the people from Adam. Well, okay, unless it’s woman; then I don’t know her from Eve.)

However, many of the photographs have the photographer’s name, city, and sometimes street address printed on them somewhere.

Sometimes on the front:

Appleton and Hollinger (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0045)

Appleton and Hollinger (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0045)

.

Grossman and Owings (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0047)

Grossman and Owings (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0047)

.

Bowersox (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0046)

Bowersox (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0046)

Sometimes on the back:

A. Yount (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0176)

A. Yount (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0176)

.

Roger's Portraits (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0048)

Roger’s Portraits (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0048)

.

M. Wolfe (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0049)

M. Wolfe (Dayton, Ohio) (ms036_0049)

And sometimes, the photorapher’s name is not even on the portrait, per se, but is written on one of those horribly acidic, construction-paper-feeling folders that old photographs are often stored in. (So if the photo came in a yucky folder or envelope, check for — and record — any useful info before casting that awful thing aside!)

I’ve actually elected to organize the unidentified photographs according to state, city, and photographer’s name, because it seemed like the most logical way to hopefully get photographs that originally went together, to remain together, not knowing who any of the people are.

As archivists know, one of the tasks in describing materials is to (hopefully) identify the date(s) of the materials, either from a given date (woohoo! I love when things are already dated!) or to make an educated guess if possible (which you would either put in brackets and/or add some relative words — e.g., circa, about, approximately, before, after, etc.).

So, putting those last two paragraphs together, you get the thought that kept going through my mind : Man, it would be awesome if I had an index to Dayton photographers, where I could look up the photographer’s name alphabetically and get the listings (hopefully with the different addresses of their various studios over the years), along with the dates when they operated at each location —- which could then be used to establish an approximate time frame for the photograph(s) in question.

Once I finished organizing the photographs, I finally got around to checking the library catalog to see whether we already owned such a book. Failing that, I was going to ask around to my co-workers and Dayton archives colleagues, to find out whether such a thing existed (and maybe Dayton library just didn’t have it for some reason). And failing THAT, I was prepared to roll up my sleeves, cozy up with the Dayton city directories, and produce the thing myself.

Well, lo and behold — the thing does already exist. Of course. Ha!  I’m not sorry that someone has already done all that work for me; it’s just another one of those things — it figures that this awesome idea was already had by someone — apparently Richard D. Fullerton…before I was even born. Ha!

The index I am referring to is 99 Years of Dayton Photographers (1982) by Richard D. Fullerton.

We have several copies of the book at the Dayton Metro Library — unfortunately for you who may wish to borrow it, they are all non-circulating, so you’ll have to use it in the library (all copies live at Main) [but some other local libraries have it too] — so I retrieved one and set about trying to narrow down a time frame for some of the undated Dayton photographs (such as those above).

The book has a helpful introduction. Fullerton lists the sources that he used (including city directories, census records, photographs themselves, and others), and he also cites those sources throughout the book, to tell where he got a particular piece of information about a name, date, or location.

Fullerton also gives information in the introduction about the approximate years of use for different kinds of photographs, also identifying the photo process’s hey day, which can help with dating photographs as well.

Having archival training and a copy of Ritzenthaler & Vogt-O’Connor’s photo preservation book, aka my photo archives Bible, I already had a pretty good idea of those approximate time periods. But, it was a great idea to include them, since some photographers worked for many years in Dayton (*cough*Bowersox*cough*), and so simply having the dates of the shop didn’t narrow it down much.

Between knowing which types of photographs were popular when, and having access to Fullerton’s book, I was able to established somewhat more useful dates — okay, anything is more useful than “Undated” — for the Dayton imprint photographs. Now, unfortunately, most of the unidentified photos in the collection weren’t actually made in Dayton, so Fullerton’s book can’t help me with those.

I don’t suppose anyone knows of a book like this for Cincinnati? 🙂

In any event, I am pleased that I found the Fullerton book. It definitely saved me a lot of work. (Now, don’t get me wrong, a bunch of completely unidentified photographs don’t usually warrant searching all those city directories just to get a slightly-more-useful-than-“undated” date that I can stick in a finding aid. I mean all the work that I would have done creating an index of long-lasting usefulness — like Fullerton did!)

One more thing : Even having those narrower dates isn’t necessarily all that helpful to me, someone who doesn’t know the names or the faces of the unidentified people. I think it would be a lot more useful to genealogists — if you have a photo, and you know who it is, but you’re wondering, “How old is great-great-grandma in this picture?” Or, “Could that be Great-Uncle James? Was he even still alive then?” Or….you get the idea. But hey, sometimes having a place and an approximate date and a location could narrow down the other unknowns quite a lot for you, depending on how your family history played out.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this little jaunt into one of my “there should really be…if there’s not, I’m so going to…oh wait, there already is…okay, good…using that now” moments.

Five Oaks

Before it was a neighborhood…or even a park…it was a house. Five Oaks was the name that Jeremiah H. Peirce, a local lard oil manufacturer and later lumber dealer, gave to his 1854 home, apparently naming the estate after “five stately oak trees” situated on the four-acre property (Dayton History; Burroughs; FONIA).

I thought I would share some photos and information about the Five Oaks estate, as a nice, light entry for around the holidays.

This annotated map shows the location of the J. H. Peirce and boundaries estate in 1875. A lot of these old maps don’t show street names, so I’ve added the (current) street names to help you get your bearings in the map:

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

(You can view a high resolution version of the original Harrison Township map on Dayton Remembers, Dayton Metro Library’s digital images collection.)

Charles Sullivan, well-known in the Montgomery County Historical Society (now Dayton History) many decades ago, reminisced about the area in the late 19th century, mentioning two homes in particular that were off the west side of Forest Avenue (or, Tate’s Mill Road, in early accounts):

Opposite Shaw ave. a lane ran up to the home of Samuel Forrer, a two story brick, still standing. He was a well known civil engineer… He had six children and the descendants are still [1943] in the locality.

Opposite Neal ave. was the lane running up the hill to “Five Oaks” the residence of J. H. Peirce, a son-in-law of Samuel Forrer. He had 8 children and was in the lumber industry at the corner of Wayne and State now a railroad yard.

Here is a current Google Map showing the area now known as Five Oaks. The little green splotch of Five Oaks Park (northwest corner of 5 Oaks Avenue and Squirrel Road) is where the Five Oaks estate was originally. Samuel Forrer’s home was located on part of the Grandview Medical Center property.

And now for the really good stuff: pictures!

Since many of us probably have gingerbread on the brain right now, I thought it might be fun to share a different kind of “gingerbread house” — gingerbread in the sense of Victorian architectural embellishments. The Five Oaks house had some really neat “gingerbread” around its eaves, as you will see.

This photo, probably from the late 1860s or early 1870s — I suspect those two little boys are Jeremiah’s two youngest children, J. Elliot and Howard; the woman, probably his wife Elizabeth (who died in 1874) — shows what the Five Oaks mansion looked like in its early days:

Five Oaks, before the tower was built

Five Oaks, before the tower was built (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

About 1890, an addition, including a tower, was built on the north end of the house:

Peirce Homestead [Five Oaks]

Peirce Homestead (Lutzenberger Collection)

Here’s a wonderful cyanotypephotograph, showing roughly the same view but from a little further back, so you can see the trees:

Five Oaks cyanotype

Five Oaks (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

After the tower was added, people sometimes referred to the Peirce house as “The Castle on the Hill” (Dayton History).

In a 1980 article about the Five Oaks neighborhood, long-time resident George Loney had this to say about the Peirce homestead (quoted from Burroughs):

There was still a lot of open land around here when I was a kid, and I sure remember that old Peirce castle. It really was a castle. The stones had been imported from Europe, there was a turret and what looked like a dungeon underneath. It was all hidden in the woods and surrounded by three ponds. Mr. Peirce used to hang a rope with a noose on it in the woods to scare us off. I guess we did get on his nerves–all the kids in the neighborhood used to sneak around there. Of course, the castle’s gone now…

The “Mr. Peirce” of this anecdote must refer to J. Elliot Peirce, the only “Mr. Peirce” that Loney could have known in his childhood. J. H. Peirce died in 1889; J. Elliot was his son. Members of the Peirce family lived at Five Oaks until the 1930s: J. H.’s second wife Mary lived there until 1929 along with two of J. H.’s unmarried daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, both of whom died in 1930. I don’t think J. Elliot actually lived at Five Oaks with his family — Mary, Sarah, and Elizabeth lived there — but according to city directories, he did live very nearby  for a while, at 551 N. Old Orchard Ave., according to a 1919-20 directory; that same directory lists the others at “nec [northeast corner] Five Oaks and Old Orchard Ave.”

In 1946, the four-acre was purchased by the city for a park, and the house was razed (Burroughs; Dayton History). Five Oaks Park now occupies the land.

For more information on Five Oaks or the Peirce family, come see us at the Dayton Metro Library, Local History Room (basement of Main); or feel free to leave a comment on this blog. If photos are what you’re after, check out our Flickr set about the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection.

This post was written in advance on Dec. 17, 2011.

*****

Bibliography

Burroughs, Virginia. “Diversity helps keep Five Oaks neighborhood vital.” Dayton Daily News, 8 Aug. 1980, p. Z6-15. Available in Dayton Local History Room, Clippings File #3908 (Neighborhoods–Five Oaks).

Dayton City Directories. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

Dayton History. “Five Oaks.” Accessed 15 Dec. 2011.  http://www.daytonhistory.org/archives/who_fiveoaks.htm.

Everts, L. H. Combination Atlas Map of Montgomery County, Ohio. Philadelphia : Hunter Press, 1875. Dayton Remembers: Preserving the History of the Miami Valley. Accessed 17 Dec. 2011 through Dayton Remembers: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/; or, find in a library.

Five Oaks Neighborhood Improvement Association (FONIA). “Five Oaks History.” Accessed 3 Dec. 2011. http://www.fiveoaksdayton.com/credits.html.

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. Many photos from the collection can be seen at the DML Flickr site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmlhistory/.

Lutzenberger, William. “The Peirce Homestead.” Photo #0541. Lutzenberger Collection (MS-024), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. Photo available online: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/lutzenberge/id/630.

Sullivan, Charles F. “The Covington Pike” (15 Sept. 1943). In Sullivan’s Papers, 425-437. Dayton, OH: Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1995?. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, call no. 977.173 S949S. Transcription accessed, 15 Dec. 2011, at: http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/covington_pike.html.

Geo-tagged Images of the 1913 Flood

I recently wrapped up a project at work that I’ve been working on for a few weeks now: geo-tagging images of the 1913 Flood in Dayton, Ohio, using images on the Dayton Metro Library’s Flickr and a web site called GeoSlideShow, which creates the maps from geo-tagged images on Flickr.

There are two maps:

  • 1913 Flood “During” – This map shows images when the city was actually flooded.
  • 1913 Flood “After” – Images on this map show the aftermath and clean-up in the city, including debris, mud, dead horses, crumbled buildings, and ruins from fires that broke out.

I am very excited about having completed this project, because I think it is a great visual aid to understanding the flood and its history. It’s one thing to look at several (or in this case, hundreds) of photos of the flood and think, “Oh, how awful.” I think it’s more helpful to be able to contextualize those images in geographic space. Marking the photo’s location on a current map can help people understand, because they may be able to picture what’s there now or perhaps realize that maybe they drive by that spot every day and that in 1913 it was under water!

Please note: The Dayton Metro Library has over 400 photos and postcards of the 1913 flood. I was not able to geo-tag all of them, so not every image is shown on these maps. If I could not pinpoint the exact location of an image (or approximate within about 1 city block), I did not geo-tag it, so it will not appear on these maps. (And let me tell you, it was a fun challenge trying to figure out the location of the image, based on descriptions and businesses shown in the picture!)

All of the Dayton Metro Library’s 1913 flood pictures can be seen on Flickr, as well as in the library’s digital collections.

Remembering the 1913 Flood

On Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913, the rain started pouring down all over Ohio. The city of Dayton, Ohio, nestled right next to the Great Miami River, was in for some serious trouble. The levee failed by March 25, and by the early hours of March 26, there was 20+ feet of water in downtown. By the time the waters receded, 200+ people and 3,000+ animals were dead. Many homes, buildings, and bridges had been destroyed.

For more images/info on the 1913 flood in Dayton, check out the following:

But on the bright side, this horrible disaster was the impetus for Daytonians to say “never again” and take action. They began raising money to construct what would become the Miami Conservancy District, a system of dams designed to control the flow of water and thereby curtail future floods. This project got underway in 1918 and was mostly complete by 1922. (Check out the dam construction photos on the MCD web site.) The Miami Conservancy District has been keeping Dayton safe from floodwaters ever since…

Don’t forget: Dayton wasn’t the only place that flooded in 1913. (Just like Portsmouth wasn’t the only place flooded in 1937!) Just something to keep in mind – those were large regional floods! Check out some of these other resources pertaining to the 1913 flood: