Photographs: Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes

October is American Archives MonthCan you imagine what it would be like to only have one picture of your family? Or if your family only had one picture of you, and there was only one copy of it anywhere?

Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified girl, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified girl, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs

Before photography was invented, the only way you might have an image of your loved ones was to have a picture painted or drawn, and even once photography was invented, it was a complicated and often expensive process.

Daguerreotype portrait of an unidentified man, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Daguerreotype portrait of an unidentified man, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs

The daguerreotype (duh-GARE-oh-type) process was the first widespread photographic process. It was developed by Louis Daguerre in 1839. A piece of silver-plated copper was coated in light-sensitive chemicals, which created the photographic image when exposed to light in the camera. This piece of metal held the original image, which was very delicate and placed under glass for protection when viewing. In order to both protect the image and to add rich decoration to this precious object, the photograph was usually put into a decorative case. This case could be closed and carried around, or propped open on a shelf. But each image was unique, and couldn’t be reproduced without being photographed again.

Daguerreotype case, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Daguerreotype case, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs

Ambrotypes were created through a similar process, using glass coated in certain chemicals, then placed into decorative cases. The difference is that while a daguerreotype produced a positive image seen under glass, ambrotypes produced a negative image that became visible when the glass was backed by black material. In fact, this main difference is also the most reliable way to tell ambrotypes and daguerreotypes apart: daguerreotypes are backed by shiny silver, while ambrotypes are backed by a piece of glass painted black. The daguerreotype appears to be on a mirror, so when viewing it at an angle the dark areas are silver. For an ambrotype, the dark areas remain dark even at an angle.

Daguerreotype portrait of an unidentified man, distinguishing format, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Daguerreotype portrait of an unidentified man, distinguishing format, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified man, distinguishing format, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified man, distinguishing format, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs

Getting your picture taken was a special occasion, even for the well-off. People wore their very best outfits and jewelry. Because the process of exposing the chemicals to light could take a long time, people had to sit very, very still while the photograph was being taken. The solemnity of the occasion, and the need to sit very still, is why people sometimes look sad or uncomfortable in very old photographs. All photography was black-and-white until the end of the 19th century, but people often added some hand-painted color to brighten up the image. Very often, cheeks would be painted slightly pink, and buttons or jewelry would be painted gold. Adding color or decoration to the image, and placing it in a fancy case, emphasized the beauty, importance, or wealth of the person photographed.

Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified man, image only, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified man, cheeks colored, image only, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs

In the Archdiocese of Newark photograph collection, we have a very few daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. The individuals in these images are not identified, but these photographs must have been precious to their families, which we know both from understanding the history of photography and the fact that these photographs survived to this day. Each of these images is unique, and was likely one of a very few, if not the only, photograph of these people their families may have had. We not only respect and care for these objects as fragile and delicate pieces of our history, but also for their beauty and for the people they so faithfully represent.

Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified man, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs
Ambrotype portrait of an unidentified man, from the Archdiocese of Newark photographs

Interested in learning more? There are many resources on the history of photography on the web, including some that focus on daguerreotypes and similar processes. The Image Permanence Institute’s Graphic Atlas lets you compare and identify formats, or just explore fascinating images of different types. Daguerreobase includes a great deal of helpful information on identifying daguerreotypes as well as many beautiful examples. And for those who want to delve even further into the history of photography, this blog entry on Hunting and Gathering features e-book resources for you explore.

The Archives presents the Seton family photograph album

Last year, the Archives and Special Collections Center acquired materials of special importance to the Seton Hall community: the Seton family photograph album and two books belonging to the Seton family.

Image 42 from the Seton family photo album, depicting the Setons at their home
Image 42 from the Seton family photo album, depicting the Setons at their home: William Seton Sr., Elizabeth, Thomas Jevons, William Jr., Alfred Booth, Isabel, and Lydia Butler, mss0074_042_01_adjusted_cropped

Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born saint, founded the first congregation of sisters in the United States, the Sisters of Charity; opened the first free Catholic school in the U.S., St. Joseph’s Academy; and is the namesake of Seton Hall University. Before converting to Catholicism in 1805 and founding an order of sisters, she was married to William Seton and had five children, all of whom were educated in Catholic schools.

William Seton II (later called William Seton Sr.) was Elizabeth’s oldest son, born in 1796, and after completing his education he joined the United States Navy, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. He married Emily Prime in 1832 and the couple had seven children of their own before Emily died in 1854. William made a home in New York, in what is now the Bronx, called Cragdon. This estate had a large home, barns, and extensive grounds; it overlooked the village of East Chester and offered beautiful views of the surrounding area.

The Seton family photograph album was made in 1867. The photographer(s) is unknown, but the first page of the album is inscribed to William Seton from Thomas Jevons (who later married William’s daughter Isabel) and Alfred Booth. Jevons and Booth were British businessmen, and it isn’t clear how they came to be acquainted with the Setons, but the album was apparently a gift from the two, featuring photographs of the Setons’ home and surrounds.

The 51 photographs in the album include hand-written descriptions of each image and may have been written by one of William Seton’s children, as he is referred to as Father in at least one image. Many of the images are of the Cragdon house and the areas nearby, including trees, a brook, meadows, ledges, caves, and the nearby East Chester village. A number of the images also include members of the family, usually identified in the caption, and friends and family, as well as clearly beloved pet dogs, also usually named. Winter, spring, and summer are represented in the images, as are activities appropriate to each, including sledding (called “coasting”) and a fishing party.

Image 42 from the Seton family photo album, depicting the Setons at their home, original scan
Image 42 from the Seton family photo album, depicting the Setons at their home, original scan, mss0074_042_01

Although the original cover of the album is missing, the photographs are in good condition and only a little faded, with almost no silvering (a phenomenon of many old photographs in which dark areas turn silver due to chemical changes over time). These lovely images are quite striking now, as they show an area that would today bear little resemblance to the past captured here. For those interested in Mother Seton’s family and the history of Catholics in America in the 19th century, these images depict a genteel family and their home. For those interested in other historical figures, the images include Army officers of the Civil War and active businessmen of New York and England, as well as the costumes of men and women of the upper-middle and serving classes in 1867. For those interested in nature, the images show trees, flowers, and scenery long vanished from where they stood when these pictures were taken, although the current Seton Park in the Bronx may include areas depicted here.

This album is available for research in the Archives and Special Collections Center; view the finding aid for the Seton family album, 1867, Mss 0074. Only one photograph from the album has been digitized at this time but it is hoped that more will follow. Also acquired with the album were two books belonging to William Seton, the Odyssey of Homer and Select Pieces on Religious Subjects by Effingham Warner, both of which are due to be cataloged and made available to researchers. Other resources related to Mother Seton and the Seton family can be found in the A&SCC: Collection on Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, 1840-2006, Mss 0006 and Seton Jevons family papers, 1780s-1930, Mss 0005.

Second Vatican Council Event Thursday, November 21 in the Chancellor’s Suite

General Congregation entrance pass for Msgr. Oesterreicher, signed by Bishop Pericle Felici
Entrance passes: General Congregation (18 – 28 November 1963) entrance pass for Msgr. Oesterreicher, signed by Bishop Pericle Felici, mss0053_b53_15_01

50 years after the Second Vatican Council, scholars, clergy, and Catholics all over the world are still considering the impact of one of the major Church events of the last century. For those with an interest in religious studies or Church history, this is an important time of discussion, analysis, sharing, and review.

The Department of Catholic Studies has put together the event “Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council: Celebrating the Decree on Ecumenism,” taking place tomorrow, November 21 2013. This afternoon event will feature speakers and a panel discussion on Unitatis redintegratio, the Council’s document on ecumenism. The full program linked above lists the speakers, topics, and timeline, and the main portion of the event will take place from 2:00 p.m.  – 5:00 p.m in the Chancellor’s Suite.

The Archives and Special Collections Center is participating in this special event with a display of collection materials related to the Council. Including materials from the John M. Oesterreicher papers, the George Shea papers, the Martin W. Stanton papers, the Walter W. Curtis papers, and the Mrs. Frank Whitrock scrapbooks, this selection highlights the involvement of some of those from the Archdiocese of Newark who participated in the Council, as well as how those at home saw it unfold. This display shows photographs, Council documents, writings, pamphlets, newsclippings, and invitations from these five collections and is just a small sample of related materials held at the A&SCC. More information can be found in the flyer put together by the Department of Catholic Studies. For more information on research materials related to the Second Vatican Council held by the A&SCC, consult our LibGuide page on Vatican 2 collections.

The A&SCC wishes to thank Dr. Ines Murzako and the entire Department of Catholic Studies as well as Dr. John Buschman, Dean of University Libraries, for inclusion in this event.

Leonard Dreyfuss and New Jersey Civil Defense Display in the Archives

Currently on display in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room are items from the Leonard Dreyfuss papers, 1786-1972 (bulk 1931-1972), Mss 0001.

Leonard Dreyfuss materials on display in the Archives Reading Room
Leonard Dreyfuss materials on display in the Archives Reading Room

Leonard Dreyfuss was a resident of Newark and the city’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 1942. A businessman in advertising, Dreyfuss was also very active in war efforts on the home front during World War 2, and continued his civil defense involvement after the war.

The United States Civil Defense was a non-military organization created to prepare and educate Americans on potential military attacks. Their purpose was to create and inform civilians of evacuation plans, fallout shelters and routes, survival skills, and alerts. Local chapters of Civil Defense created newsletters, passed out pamphlets, and held demonstrations and test alerts so citizens would be prepared. Leonard Dreyfuss was heavily involved with the organization’s activities in New Jersey, particularly in Newark, and served on the Governor’s Civil Defense Advisory Committee during the 1950s.

Items on display include materials related to Civil Defense activities in New Jersey, including photographs and newsclippings, and items published or distributed by Civil Defense, including pamphlets, armbands, and a poster. These items demonstrate the kind of organized efforts made by local citizens to prepare for conflict. During the Second World War, Americans were concerned with supporting the war effort and about the possibility of the conflict suddenly coming to American soil; after the war, nuclear war and weapons of mass destruction became a major concern for most Americans. The materials on display reveal one aspect of how local people tried to address those concerns and prepare for the worst.

Leonard Dreyfuss and group next to Civil Defense Rescue Service truck, from the Leonard Dreyfuss papers, Mss 0001
Leonard Dreyfuss and group next to Civil Defense Rescue Service truck, from the Leonard Dreyfuss papers, Mss 0001

How do you see these activities and materials from the 1940s-1960s, and how does that compare to similar concerns today? How do you think people deal with fear of conflict at home, and do you think it has changed over time? View the materials on display and get a historical perspective!

These items will be on display through November, 2013. Special thanks go to Lucia Alvarez, intern at the Archives and Special Collections Center, for putting much of this display together.

Ace Alagna photographic collection: Online Finding Aid

Ace Alagna with camera.
Mss 0018: Ace Alagna with camera. 00182583

The Ace Alagna photographic collection, 1944-1998, Mss 0018, is a unique, rich resource depicting the history of Newark, the Italian American community in and around Newark, New Jersey politics, people, places, and events in beautiful black and white. This collection, which has more than 2,000 images already available online through the Ace Alagna photographs digital collection, has about 40,000 items including photographic negatives, prints, videos, and layout sheets from the Italian Tribune newspaper. Now, a finding aid describing the almost 30,000 negatives in the collection has been completed and is available online.

Ace Alagna was a photographer from Newark who worked in the White House Press Corps before buying the Italian Tribune newspaper. He edited the newspaper for almost 30 years, during which time he and the Italian Tribune were the organizers and main sponsors of the Newark Columbus Day parade. The annual parade usually had a celebrity grand marshal, often someone of Italian heritage, who would be present for the parade and attendant celebrations. Ace Alagna knew a wide a range of people in New Jersey, and traveled around the country and around the world.

Ace Alagna and Frank Sinatra at Tribune Award in Atlantic City.
Mss 0018: Ace Alagna and Frank Sinatra at Tribune Award in Atlantic City. mss0018_E0388_011

The Ace Alagna photographic collection, 1944-1998, Mss 0018, includes images of notable politicians, actors, athletes, musicians, and writers such as John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, N.J. Governors Richard Hughes and Brendan Byrne, Congressman Peter Rodino, Danny Aiello, Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis, Phil Brito, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Piscopo, Tony Curtis, Bob Hope, and Tony LoBianco, among many others. The collection includes numerous pictures of Newark and the Columbus Day parade from the 1970s-1990s, and a large number of pictures of N.J. politicians in the state senate and assembly.

Many of the images in the collection have been scanned, and so far a small percentage of those scans are available online. There are also unprocessed portions of the collection that have not yet been described in the finding aid, particularly black and white and color prints of many of the negatives, videos related to the Columbus Day parade, and some materials that appear to be layouts for images to appear in the Italian Tribune. Materials that are not available online are available for research, with the assistance of Archives staff, at the Archives and Special Collections Center. Additional scans will be made available online in the future, as time permits, and unprocessed materials will be added to the finding aid as they are processed. Keep an eye out for more images and materials, and meanwhile, take a close look through this rich window into Newark’s history and culture!

Online exhibit from the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA)

Treasures of the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA): Women Religious: An exhibit online through October 2013. Screenshot.

The Archives and Special Collections Center at Seton Hall University is proud to be a part of the new web exhibit Treasures from the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA): Women Religious. This exhibit, conceived of by SHU Librarian Marta Deyrup, highlights archival and special collections materials related to women’s religious orders held by a variety of institutions, both by members of the CRRA and non-members. Thirteen institutions contributed images on a variety of topics and in a variety of formats, making for a diverse and fascinating exhibit.

Each contributing institution gave information about the collection from which they included images. Some collections focus on a particular school, highlighting the academic and service contributions of the sisters and educators, while other collections focus on a particular order, documenting the missionary, nursing, or other work performed by the sisters of that order. Some collections belonged to an individual, highlighting the range of activities of one remarkable woman. All of the materials provide insight into the depth and breadth of women religious, and the many accomplishments or contributions they have made to their orders, schools, families, and communities.

The exhibit can be browsed or searched in several ways. Images can be viewed by contributing institution, geographic region, time period, format, or subject, or browsed through from the home page. There is also a search box available. Each image allows commenting, and viewers are invited to comment, or to share information about additional resources not included in the exhibit. Information about several institutions not included in the exhibit is provided on the Additional Resources page, but the exhibit creators would welcome further suggestions. Information about the exhibit and links to the CRRA and the home institutions are also provided. The exhibit will be live through the end of October 2013, and will be available online after that, but comments and questions will no longer be answered.

Marta Deyrup of Seton Hall Libraries was the main motivator behind this exhibit, and Tracy Jackson (that’s me!) of Seton Hall Archives helped deal with the images, as did Tom McGee (who created the site) and Mike Soupios of Seton Hall’s Teaching Learning and Technology Center (TLTC). Jennifer Younger and Pat Lawton of the CRRA were very helpful and supportive as well, as were all of the institutions who contributed, and the hardworking archivists, librarians, and special collections folks at each who selected and scanned the images, wrote the description, and sent them along.

Check out the exhibit, and then explore the related resources via the CRRA’s Catholic Portal!

Campus Under Construction

Anyone who has been on campus in the past few weeks (not to mention the past year) has noticed some construction going on at the Recreation Center. Construction on campus can lead to traffic and parking headaches, noise, and re-direction or confusion, but is also important progress on improving life and learning for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

As these photographs show, Seton Hall today is quite a bit different from the Seton Hall of yesterday, and as we continue to grow and develop, who knows how the campus will look in another 50 or 100 years? Construction, like change, is an essential part of campus life – so see some of the changes our predecessors oversaw!

Seton Hall College panoramic postcard, 1916
Seton Hall College panoramic postcard, 1916

This postcard shows the campus as it appeared in 1916. The Administration Building seen here is now President’s Hall and the Library is present-day Mooney Hall. The Chapel and Bayley Hall are in their present locations, but where we would today see McQuaid and Jubilee Halls are grass and trees.

Aerial view of SHU South Orange campus with Corrigan Hall under construction, circa 1943-1944.
Aerial view of SHU South Orange campus with Corrigan Hall under construction, circa 1943-1944.

This aerial view of campus in the 1940s shows construction on Corrigan Hall, and an early incarnation of the present-day Richie Regan Athletic and Recreation Center behind Mooney Hall. Boland Hall has not yet been built.

Addition to Boland Hall- progress of construction, 1965.
Addition to Boland Hall- progress of construction, 1965.

This picture from 1965 shows construction progress on Boland Hall, with Corrgian Hall in the background.

Construction for Walsh Library. View towards recreation center and parking deck.
Construction for Walsh Library. View towards recreation center and parking deck.
Construction for Walsh Library. View towards Duffy Hall and Mooney Hall.
Construction for Walsh Library. View towards Duffy Hall and Mooney Hall.

Walsh Library was constructed in the mid-1990s. These photos show very early stages of the construction, and the effect this had on the south-east corner of campus.

For more pictures of Seton Hall as it looked in days past, check out the digital collection of Seton Hall University photographs!