In these days of instant digital images, it’s hard for many to imagine the effort that went into creating photos during photography’s first century and a half. Each single image was precious.
To see full story: Photography’s era of glass plate negatives
Two types of glass plate negatives exist: the collodion wet plate, in use from the 1850s, and the silver gelatin dry plate, in use from the 1870s. Both processes are still in use by fine art photographers. Dry plates were commonplace for news photography through the early 1930s.
The Associated Press photo library, located in New York City, currently houses around 4,000 of these fragile dry plate glass negatives in its collection, most date between 1929-1934.
Here’s a look at some of the images scanned from those negatives.
Governor A. Harry Moore of New Jersey is shown with State Trooper James A. McBride near the home of Col. Charles A. Lindbergh at Hopewell, New Jersey, March 3, 1932, when the governor paid a visit to Lindbergh. The trooper is pointing out the points of interest in the infamous kidnapping case of the aviator’s 20-month-old son, who was tragically found dead.
John Cob in his Napier-Railton – the fastest scratch car in the world – during the coronation gold trophy race at Brooklands in England on May 17, 1937.
An undated photo of Mata Hari.
The damaged glass negative shows the Graf Zeppelin’s arrival at Lakehurst, New Jersey, after making her history-making around-the-world trip, August 29, 1929.
The giant German dirigible Graf Zeppelin is pulled down from the air to be berthed in the hangar at Lakehurst, New Jersey, August 29, 1929.
The Graf Zeppelin set a new world’s record during its flight around the world.
Signor Benito Mussolini addressing some dubats (white turbaned soldiers from Italian Somaliland) during his visit to the native African troop camp in Italy on May 9, 1937. The troop was encamped on the outskirts of Rome in readiness for the celebration of the first anniversary of the Italian empire, founded May 9, 1936.
Rescue in Greenland
The Hutchinson family is rowed to safety through the ice floes to the trawler Lord Talbot after their plane was forced down near Eker, an Eskimo village in Greenland, September 28, 1932. The Hutchinson’s Sikorsky S-38 plane crash-landed during the New York to Scotland leg of their around-the-world flight. The plane was battered to pieces on the rocks by waves.
A portrait of actress Greta Garbo, an M.G.M. star, following the completion of her 22nd Hollywood film, entitled “Conquest” on November 15, 1937. In this production, which Clarence Brown directed, Miss Garbo played the role of the famous Walewska, the great lover of Napoleon.
New York City skyline
The skyline of New York City in the 1930s. Exact date unknown.
Marion “Kiki” Roberts
Marion “Kiki” Roberts, companion of the late Jack “Legs” Diamond, New York gangster, is shown with a puppy on the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she is vacationing, May 27, 1932.
Mahatma Gandhi (2nd from left) inspects the champion goats at the dairy show held at the Royal Agricultural Hall in London on October 29, 1931. Miss Slade, daughter of an English admiral and disciple of Gandhi, is in the center.
Professor Sigmund Freud, 82-years-old Jewish “inventor” of psycho-analysis, who added “inferiority complex” to the world’s vocabulary, arrives at Victoria station in London on June 6, 1938 from Paris.
Violet and Daisy Hilton, conjoined twins, wave upon their arrival in New York City, October 6, 1933, aboard the Aquitania. Although they have been joined together since birth and cannot be separated, they say they are engaged and will have a double wedding within a year. Daisy claims to be engaged to Jack Lewis, an orchestra leader in Chicago and Violet reports that her fiancee is a prominent English boxer, but declined to reveal his name.
Denying again that he was guilty of improper relationship as charged in an indictment against him, Theodore Dreiser, the novelist, in his quarters in a New York City hotel on November 12, 1931, after his return from the Kentucky coal fields. The writer reiterated his previous statement that it would have been a physical impossibility to have conducted himself as charged.
Spanish Civil War
Some of the 4,000 Basque refugee children from Bilbao, Spain in a camp at Stoneham, near Southampton, England on May 24, 1937. A “canvas village,” complete with church, has been arranged for them by the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York is seen through the window of a train as he leaves New York City on April 24, 1932 to attend the Governor’s Conference in Richmond, Virginia.
AP photo delivery
Henry Ferguson, Associated Press Chicago bureau news photo staff member, loads a pneumatic tube to send 8x10 photos to the Chicago Tribune, a distance of a little over a mile, in 3 minutes, December 1931. By messenger it would normally take half an hour to deliver.
Glass plate negative
A glass negative located in the Associated Press photo library is shown, September 8, 2014, in New York City.
Storing glass plate negatives
A glass negative envelope in the Associated Press photo library in New York City, September 8, 2014. Negative are carefully stored individually to prevent damage.
AP London bureau
Before the days of computers and digital photographer; the Associated Press London bureau photo dispatch and distribution room in an undated photo.
AP photo delivery
Major James H. Doolittle, flying in a Shell Oil company plane, carries the first original Associated Press photos of fighting in the Shanghai area of China from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Newark Airport, Newark, New Jersey, February 18, 1932 in 8 hours flying time. He made only one stop in Chicago to refuel. He received the pictures at Cheyenne from an air mail pilot from San Francisco.