Unidentified women looking at photograph album,
John Nelson, Ericson, Nebraska. RG3542.PH:069-02
"When folks got to building
bigger and better houses they would arrange them with the parlor
and a spare room. The parlor was only used when company come
and was kept shut up most of the time with the curtains drawn.
Enlarged pictures of relations were hung on the walls and a large
fancy covered photograph album was part of the furnishings."
a 1939 interview with Mrs. Albert Waybright of Ashland Nebraska.
Early photographs were one-of-a-kind images, created as
positive pictures for which no negative existed. With no negative
from which to create duplicate copies, photographs were treated
like miniature paintings, to be individually framed and displayed.
With the advent of new photographic
technologies that produced a negative
from which multiple prints could be made, photographs became
objects to share widely with family and friends. This, in turn,
created a need for new forms of display and storage. Elegant
albums with pages specifically designed to hold these photographs
became popular in the United States around 1860 when commercial
photographers began aggressively marketing them. By 1864, Godey's
Lady's Book announced, "Photograph albums have become
not only a luxury for the rich but a necessity for the people.
The American family would be poor indeed who could not afford
a photograph album."
These early albums served an important
purpose during a time when the
population of the United States was experiencing dramatic changes.
Large numbers of people were moving west, drawn by the promise
of prosperity and independence. During the 1860s, the Civil War
ravaged the American population, and it was followed by a flood
of immigrants from all corners of the globe. Families were broken
up, often never to reunite. These new photograph albums were
how people kept the family circle together.
As improvements in transportation and
communication made separation by distance less daunting, the focus of photograph albums began to change.
In the late 1880s, Kodak introduced lighter-weight photographic
prints that could be pasted directly on the pages of an album
and, as photograph albums changed to accommodate these new "snapshot"
images, people began to incorporate memorabilia along with the
photographs. The family photograph album became autobiographical,
capturing events such as birthdays, weddings, and vacations more
than individual loved ones, and the line between scrapbooks and
photograph albums blurred.
W. B. Watson, Porter
William B. Watson,
William B. Watson was born in Missouri about 1853. He came to Nebraska sometime in the late nineteenth
century to live in Omaha. He was a porter and he and his wife
Luella had four daughters. He died in Omaha in 1942 at the age
Before the invention of the snapshot, photograph
albums were designed to accommodate
the more substantial formats of tintypes or studio portraits
mounted on a card. This kind of album left little opportunity
for creativity by the owner. Ownership of such albums and the
images that they held transcended race, education, and socio-economic
Diaries and Journals
J.A. Hill, Civil
W. Richards, Surveyor
J.S. Morton, Statesman
Sara J. Price, Teacher
W. Danley, Businessman
J. & E. Green, Farmers
S. Buck, Farm Wife
S. & E. Allis,
E. & L. Correll,
W.J. Bryan, Orator
Lucy Drexel, Student
Viola Barnes, Student
Willa Cather, Author
C. Calvert, Educator
Myrtle Soulier, Student
B. Watson, Porter
Margaret and Edward
Frances M. Creech,
Sierra Nevada Bunnell,