Natchez Yesterdays

A Tireless Photographer’s Record of a River Town


The Man Of A Thousand Faces

PLYMOUTH , Vt, Dec., 1925-Up here in the cold, silent hills of Vermont, his old friends and neighbors are afraid that success may be spoiling Colonel John Coolidge’s son Calvin. As a boy, to be sure, he was regarded as a bit of a chatterbox, and his grandmother, Mrs. Galusha Coolidge, would lock him in the attic until he quieted down, but Amherst and law studies were supposed to have sobered him up. It was old Vermont speaking when he wrote his father that “I see no need of a wife as long as I have my health.” He was twenty-nine.Read more »

Mole’s Other Masterpieces

The question of how many angels can dance on the point of a pin stimulated debate among medieval scholars. Absurd, we say. But before we chortle, we might recall that a latter-day photographer once spent his time figuring how many men would be required to form a giant profile of Uncle Sam or a really big Liberty Bell. Read more »

Dark Carnival


In 1973 Michael Lesy published perhaps the most unusual Ph.D. thesis of all time under the title Wisconsin Death Trip . In this strange and controversial book he selected some two hundred of the thousands of photographs taken in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, by Charles Van Schaick between the years 1890 and 1910, and presented them along with clippings from local newspapers. The clippings were brief, mordant accounts of murder,.Read more »

“backward, Turn Backward, O Time, In Your Flight…

It seemed to me paradise then,” said Mrs. Alden Van Campen, “permanent and timeless.” Mrs. Van Campen, a surviving niece, was speaking of the bright and languid life of the Drakes of Corning, New York. And indeed that family enjoyed the crest of an era when moderate wealth brought with it an extraordinary amount of security, ease, and even the general approval of those not wealthy. It did not last. Mr. Drake was caught in the recession of 1913, and everything had to be sold— the bank stock, the big Corning house, Drake Point and all its furnishings.Read more »

The Children’s Hour

When the daughters of James A. Drake were born, in the 1880’s, Queen Victoria was on the throne of England, and she and her brood of nine were the first family to the world at large. A fond mama who is said to have filled a hundred and ten albums with family photographs, she has survived in our memories as a ruler with very strict ideas about how people should comport themselves.Read more »

An American Panorama

The happy meeting of a young matron and an extraordinary camera produced a memorable record of turn-of-the-century America

The little group of figures below, who have composed themselves with such artless grace on a sun-dappled lawn beside a lake, were photographed in the first decade of this century by an ingenious camera called the Number 4 Panoram Kodak. It was manufactured in relatively small numbers between 1899 and 1907—and some still exist. The photographer simply levelled the camera by referring to a device like a carpenter’s level mounted on the top of it and pushed a button that made the lens swing from one side to the other by means of a spring.Read more »

Candid Camera

Horace Engle’s An amateur photographer surreptitiously captured the mood of unsuspecting neighbors—with affecting results

“I photograph for my own pleasure and culture.” Thus Horace Engle—agriculturist, mineralogist, electrical “experimenter”—summed up what was an avid hobby for most of his eighty-eight years. Engle took his most unusual photos when in his late twenties in 1888-89. They were the product of a “spy” camera, a round can six inches in diameter and less than two inches thick. It had a fixedfocus lens and single shutter setting—but no viewfinder.Read more »

The Small Bright World Of Anna Lindner

She was eighteen—pretty and sensitive, to judge by her photograph, taken in 1863. For many another girl, that age would have represented a new chapter in life in the form of a husband, children, a home of her own. But not so for Anna Lindner, for she had been crippled by polio when an infant in Germany, before her parents came to America; she could get about only on crutches, and was otherwise confined to a wheelchair. Instead 1863 marked the year of her first known dated painting.Read more »