At one time photographs were made on glass. The glass plates were coated with a light sensitive substance and then inserted in the back of the camera. After the photo was taken, prints were made by having the glass directly in contact with the photo paper. A lamp was then placed over it to develop the contact print.
Glass plates were heavy, easy to break, unhandy to develop and difficult to store. But a musty old cigar box filled with them was stored in Grandma’s attic for over 50 years.
When I was a child, sometimes on a rainy day, I was allowed to explore this attic. Two of the most interesting things to me were a celluloid box filled with porcupine quills and another with glass negatives along with the original contact paper.
When Grandma died and the house was cleared out, I got those negatives. For another 30 years, they were tucked away in that same musty cigar box.
A couple of times, I tried developing them with little success. Although I could get prints by using blueprinting solution. Blue ancestors just didn’t make the grade, even though I have True Blue Ballou blood.
At one time it was possible to buy the proper contact paper for developing, no longer. A friend had a scrap of that paper and developed just one of my 30 glass plates. It is the most beautiful, sharp black and white picture. Grandpa George Fredrickson is on the right.
One day, hurrah, I found a company on the internet to print my negatives digitally. Grandma Faye Fredrickson is the lady on the horse.
Modern technology is great, but I miss some of the old techniques and wish they could be revived. Yet, it is much easier to revive my ancestors because of this internet technology.
…Gayle Neuhaus, Winnetoon, NE
Have your own glass negatives and don’t know what to do with them? Learn more here: