THE SUPERIOR VIEW COLLECTION
In 1978, after 110 years of business, Child’s Art Gallery went out of business. Founded in 1868 by Brainard F. Childs, Childs Art Gallery operated photographic studios in Marquette, Houghton and Ishpeming Michigan. Famous for his stereoscopic views, “Gems of Lake Superior”, Child’s Art Gallery went on to dominate the portrait business and win many awards for their 100 years of Mining and Skiing photographs.
In 1978, I was 25 years old and about to open a photography studio in downtown Marquette. I was looking for a large format view camera, when cameras and negatives from Childs Art Gallery ended up in the hands of an auctioneer. I purchased all the photography equipment and was able to acquire thousands of the oldest glass negatives.
The first time I displayed prints made from the Child’s negatives, I was at a local art fair. Someone came up to me and asked if I was interested in glass negatives, because there was a basement full of them on Bluff Street in Marquette. It was amazing that after a two-day estate sale at this home, the negatives were still in the basement. Several thousand glass negatives, still in their original boxes from the G.A. Werner Studio of Marquette and Ishpeming. Werner was also a stereo photographer and a great portrait artist. He captured the famous “Worlds Fair Load of Logs in 1893. This was my second purchase, just months after acquiring the Childs collection.
A wonderful woman named Ann Roberts sold me my next collection. Her family once owned the Miller Brothers Grocery in Negaunee. There were hundreds of glass plates showing the life of a well to do family in a prosperous mining town. Mr. Miller’s plates are all 5x7 inch and perfectly exposed.
Early in the 1980’s while taking tintype photographs at an art show in Copper Harbor, a Mr. Ken Bracco told me he owned a glass negative collection that was taken by Paul Pallard of the Michigan Auto Company of Calumet. He sold me hundreds of negatives of people and automobiles around the Copper Country, including many car wrecks. This same trip led to a huge negative collection from the Northland Studio of Calumet. Not only did they take great photos in the 1950’s, they also copied hundreds of historic Copper Country photographs. If that wasn’t enough, it was on this same trip that I heard the name of J.W. Nara for the first time.
In an antique store in Lake Linden, I got my first look at the work of Calumet’s J.W. Nara. The shop owner said the Nara family lived right down the road and were starting to sell of some of the hundreds of photographs that had accumulated in the last 80 years. When I stopped at the Nara farm, it turned out they were selling photographs and had donated many to Michigan Tech. I asked a different question, “Where are the negatives?” It turned out nobody had expressed any interest in the negatives, and a couple hours later I backed my truck up to an old sauna packed full of glass and celluloid negatives. This collection includes the Copper Strike and Italian Hall Disaster of 1913, as well as personal, intimate images of life in the Copper Country.
I ran a ” Wanted to buy” ad for years. A call came from an auto garage in Gwinn. Hundreds of glass plate negatives still in their original boxes and wooden crates. The auto garage was part of the Peterson Block. The Peterson Brothers were photographers who captured the beginnings of Gwinn. The Peterson collection included the rural towns between Menominee and Gwinn. The brothers were also hired to photograph the construction of the Menominee River Dam in 1910.
Early in my collecting I kept hearing about the Sincock collection. Charles Sincock lived in Hancock and eventually gave me a personal tour of his negative collection. His family was related to the Barnes brothers, photographers who came from Grand Rapids to Hancock. He showed me incredible photographs of Great Lake ships and G.R & I and Copper Country trains made from the plates. It was quite a tease because nothing was for sale. Ten years later Charlie passed away, and I was able to purchase the plates at auction.
Ray Brotherton was a historian and 3 rd generation surveyor from Negaunee. He was an avid photograph and negative collector. He managed Grand Island for C.C.I. and was a past president of the Marquette County Historical Society. He lectured with lantern slides on Michigan history beginning in the 1930’s. In his collection was the Sporley glass plate collection. Sporley owned a hardware store in Negaunee and had a 5x7 plate camera. He captured hundreds of classic hunting and fishing images, as well as life in the 1890’s.
I met Frank Korotney, a doctor from Jackson Michigan at my Mackinaw City store Views of the Past. He wanted to show me prints he made from glass plates he collected over a 25 year period in Lower Michigan. Several years later he sold me his negative collection, which filled two cargo vans. I still haven’t looked at everything.
Professional, free-lance photographer Ike Wood sold me his negatives in the 1990’s. Ike shot from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. Ike wrote the book, “One Hundred Years of Hard Labor” about the history of the Marquette Branch Prison. He gave me prisons images going back to the 1880’s.
Munising photographer Mary Jayne Hallifax gave me hundreds of her negatives. Mary Jayne and her husband were pros who shot every event in Munising for almost 50 years. The Hallifax’s were at the opening of the Mackinac Bridges in 1957 and those negatives are included in her collection.
In the past thirty years, thousands of original negatives by amateur and family photographers were sold or given to me, and reflect a time period of 1900 to the 1950’s.
The Copy Negatives
All copy negatives were made with a 4x5 Linhoff Technica with Schneider lenses. My film for the first 25 years was Kodak Copy Film and later T-Max 100.
For many years I worked for two of the greatest Michigan historians, Mac Frimidig of Laurium and Fred Rydholm of Marquette. I not only copied hundreds of photographs from their collections, but they both led me to dozens of other private collectors and photographers.
I copied the best of “Wild Bill” Brinkman of Redridge, Jack Foster of Calumet, Nickolai Oli of Mohawk, Burt Boyum of Ishpeming, Leo Lafond of Negaunee. Russell Kanerva of Gwinn was at the launch of the Edmund Fitzgerald and shared several incredible views that were never published. I copied thousands of original real photo postcards from dozens of collectors. The greatest connection I ever made was with David Tinder of Dearborn Michigan. His collection is the greatest in Michigan and he shared hundreds of great images with me.
Another source of images came from my 34 years of being a copy and restoration specialist, through my store Superior View. I’ve seen the greatest private, family collections and almost everyone offered me the opportunity to make copies for myself. Some of my most intimate, and unique images came from the pages of hundreds of family albums that were brought to me. I always asked for, or traded for the permission to market their photographs.
Hundreds of original entertainment photographs were copied onto 4x5 film. Many Hollywood stars, as well as hundreds of movie and TV stills have come into my possession. I have also collected hundreds of sports photographs. Robert Wimmer the author of the book on the Olympia Stadium and the Red Wings, shared many of his best images with me. Hundreds of professional baseball photographs from the collection of John Ashby, was also put on 4x5 negative film.
The Boutrell collection consisted of hundreds of original photographs. Harry Boutrell of Marquette started his photo albums in 1913 at Ishpeming High School, then at Northern Normal. Boutrell became a radio operator on the freighter Harry Coulby in the 1920’s. Harry using large format cameras took many photographs, from all over the Great Lakes. He then became a professional photographer on several ocean liners, taking photos on the ship and at every port around the world.
It’s hard to remember 35 years of collecting. There are many more collections I haven’t named. I’d like to thank everyone who ever shared a photograph with me. I hope these images live on forever.