When I first got the glass negatives that comprise what I call The Capewell Glass Negative Collection, they were in glass plate boxes similar to the one pictured below.
This is one of the few that were labeled by the photographer. In pencil it reads SAWDUST PILE.
Within the box was a few glass negatives in a wooded area that looked as if it was being cleared and a couple of negatives featuring this huge mound.
This looks to be the same angle of the mound with two men atop it to give a sense of its incredible scale, and it looks as if a shed has been built at it’s foot. Sadly, it looks as if the negative was fogged by exposure to light that day a hundred or so years ago.
I sent these JPEG files to the incomparable Jerseyman to see if he had any information on these particular pictures. He suggested that it was probably near one of many sawmills that operated in South Jersey and produced prodigious amounts of sawdust. There are no solid landmarks in the shots and no way of dating them although it could be the Pine Barrens. Thanks anyway, Jerseyman!
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. They came out better than I thought they would so I thought I would show them off to the world on this site. 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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