John and the Fellows


Here’s a picture of John B. Capewell standing in the back on the left with a couple of unidentified men and boys. I’m assuming that they are standing in front of a barn or a stable and it looks like they are taking a break from what was probably back-breaking and obviously dirty work.

I had to include this tighter detail from the negative. The men and one boy look like they understand and accept the hard work that went with life at the time, but the look of disgust on the face of the boy seated on the left is hysterically palpable. He looks like he wasn’t having a good day.

John-and-the-Fellows-det-2I’m not sure where this is although I assume it was Westville, New Jersey where the Capewells resided, and although cars were available at the time, horses were how one got around. Outside of the fire engines, I don’t think I have a single picture of automobiles in the 200 negatives in the collection.

Coincidentally, I’m reading Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons which was published in 1918 and ties in nicely with this collection of glass negatives. It details the transition from the 19th century to the 20th and the changes brought about by the advent of the automobile. The book’s main character prefers horses and regards automobiles as a hideous fad for the riffraff. He was wrong, of course, but it looks as if Westville hung onto horses longer than the characters in Tarkington’s book. There were plenty of farms around and having horses probably just made sense. The East was also older than the Midwest setting of the book.

I’m not sure when this was taken. John Capewell’s face looks young, but he looks a little thick around the middle. In most of the pictures he’s sort of wiry, and in the beach photo he’s downright skinny! Married life and fatherhood must have caught up with him.

Here’s the entire 5-inch by 7-inch glass negative:


About The Capewell Glass Negative Collection

The Capewell Glass Negative Collection is a series of about 200 5-inch by 7-inch glass negatives shot early in the 20th Century by John Batt Capewell (1878-1951) of Westville, New Jersey. John passed the negatives down to his son Henry who left them in his wife’s possession upon his passing. Henry’s widow didn’t know what to do with them and didn’t particularly want them so she offered them to my Dad who couldn’t turn down anything. Ultimately I wound up with them and thought I would one day have photographic prints struck from them. That didn’t happen, but I came up with the digital workaround of placing the negatives on a lightbox and rephotographing them with a digital camera. The “processing” was then done on a computer with image editing software. Many of these pictures have not been seen in a century, and I’m proud to be presenting them today.

At first, I did not know who the people were in the photographs. I have a box of ephemera that accompanied the negatives and snagged a few clues from that as far as the Capewell name. I did some research on the internet and had a few false starts and wrong turns, but the readers of these posts have provided a remarkable amount of research and detail. I’m amazed at what people have turned up sifting through public records and such!

This story continues to evolve. Every Thursday, I will post a Capewell picture or two. If you recognize a person or place in one of the shots or just want to drop a line, feel free to comment!


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