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“Wonderful Things” Found in Union Station Archive

Picture of Ogden’s 25th Street taken in 1901. A print hangs in Union Station.  This scanis from the original negative.

When archeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb in Egypt in 1922 he was struck dumb with amazement. As he described it:

“When Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, “Can you see anything?” it was all I could do to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.”5

That was me on Thursday in Union Station’s library.

The library is small. Boxes fill close-stacked shelves. There’s a catalog system which numbers things and says where they’re stored, but no system is foolproof.

What I saw inside

Which is why, on Thursday, our chief archivist, Lee Witten, was digging and muttering, looking for a box of road maps he knew was somewhere, just not where it should be.

I went back to help, bending in the narrow aisle, pondering box ends, and saw one that had no number. Just the notation, “Miscellaneous negatives.”

Picture negatives?

“What are these?” I said.

“I don’t know, I’ve never had time to go through them,” said Lee who, I must stress, is a monumentally overworked volunteer.

So I looked inside. I was amazed.

“Wonderful things,” Indeed!

I saw rolled up negatives. Half a dozen. Tubes 5 and 10 inches long, but  who knew how long the roll was?  They could be panoramic pictures.

Did I dare hope?

Color scan of original negative. Green is from retouching done by the photographer

in 1901 to lighten areas. He used red coloring which, in this color scan

of the negative, shows up green.

In my office in the archive hangs a huge panoramic picture of Ogden, taken in 1901. It shows 25th Street and the Ogden City Hall, is about 18 inches high and about 7 feet long. I’ve often wondered where the negative for that print was.

Negative of 25th Street Panorama on the scanner. Note

the red retouching coloration.

Yup. About 20 feet away, as it turned out.

There are envelopes full of more standard negatives. I haven’t had a chance to look at those smaller negatives yet. I’ve been obsessing on the big ones.

There’s the negative from that one big print that hangs in my office, and another of the same scene from a different angle. There’s a couple showing city hall and the old fire station, and some mystery resort.

Really, this is beyond remarkable. What are the odds?

These pictures were taken by a professional. Nobody else could afford the equipment.

They were taken with a Graflex Cirkut camera, a very specialized and expensive piece of equipment that used long rolls of film. The camera rotated one direction while the film ran the other by a clockwork motor.

Whoever took the shot of 25th Street made good money out of it. I’ve seen the same image, or sections of it, on post cards, a lantern slide, even stereo views. The photographer took pictures with everything in the studio to sell to the trade.

You can find the pictures on eBay. There’s lots around. I could easily go broke buying versions of this thing.

Stereo view on eBay. Note identical

buildings, angle of view, trees.

But what of the negatives? I always assumed they were tossed out. Studio photographers would keep their negatives to sell reprints, but when the studio closed or was sold, their inventory of negatives was too-often tossed.

How came these to the archive? An envelope in the box has the name “Glen Perrins” on it. Perrins used to work for the  Standard-Examiner and collected a lot of old pictures that are now in our archive. If he had these negatives and donated them, or just left them, I don’t know.

Now you’re thinking, “so make prints.”

I wish.

The rolls are so large, and so stiff, it would be extremely difficult. I’m amazed we were able to flatten them enough to make scans. Photographers who shot these type of pictures made their prints on a specialized enlarger that ran both negative and printing paper through another set of clockwork mechanisms.

I found a link on circuit cameras here, showing a guy who uses them. He talks about how he makes pictures from them, which is interesting and gives you a lot more respect for the folks who shot these images.  One contact printing frame looks about eight feet long.

A Graflex cirkut camera

Rather than struggle with these negatives in my own darkroom, and probably damage them, I took them to Michael Slade, in Salt Lake.

Mike is one of Utah’s premier large format photographers. I know him because he is also a former Standard-Examiner intern. He’s got a specialized large format scanner, works with negatives this size all the time, and had no trouble making high quality scans.

We spent about five hours getting them all scanned in. It was great fun seeing those old views of Ogden come alive again after all these  years. The onion dome over the old Orpheum stands out above the skyline. The old city hall is gorgeous in its Victorian splendor. A second view of 25th Street shows horses and wagons along the street.

One surprise was a view of Washington Boulevard looking north from about 26th Street. It is winter and you can see a man walking along the sidewalk in front of the old Carnegie Free Library. A horse and wagon is in the distance, and the street car line is visible.

This was obviously not taken the same time as the others. Was it shot by Adams Brothers Photographers, whose ad can be seen on the Orpheum’s outside wall on the right?

And the view (see below), of what looks like an early Lagoon resort, or at least a resort with a lagoon. Is it Lagoon?  Or is it one of several other lakeside resorts that were in use back then. More research.  This negative was extremely dense, but Mike found the image somehow.

What next?

We’re still pondering. I want to do some sort of exhibit. We’ve had some amazing stuff show up this year alone.

What else is there?

I have no idea. But there’s a lot of boxes in the archive. More than this one contains “wonderful things,” and I mean to find them.

Second view of 25th Street. Note horses and wagons on left
Washington Boulevard in winter, looking north. Carnegie Free Library on left
Lagoon? We don’t know. Do you?
City Hall block. Old fire station on right, I think.

Permanent link to this article: http://theunionstation.org/wonderful-things-found-in-union-station-archive/

1 comment

  1. Roberta

    Wonder what else is up in the Library, down in the vault and hiding elsewhere in that building? Great find.

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