Glass Photo “Mammoth” Plates?

IMG_2875So, my photography-loving friends, what are “mammoth plates” and do these count? Glass measures 24″ x 20″ and framed they are 26″ x 22″. They are a lot like lantern slides because they have some sort of emulsion trapped between two sheets of glass and the image is hard to see without light shining through it. But when you do shine the light oh my! Because of their size, the detail and relationship to the viewer is impressive. Are these rare? Is the technique itself compelling? They were cataloged into our collection in the 1960s, and the database suggests they are “dry plate” or “transparency” but I’m not sure those are the correct terms for the photographic process used.

We are considering pursuing treatment of this collection of 1903 images by the Miles Brothers. Seems these photographers came to Alaska during the gold rush at the behest of a railroad company and took pictures meant to attract investors? It was probably the Valdez, Copper River and Tanana Railroad Company. We believe the images were later displayed at the AYPE (Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition) in Seattle in 1909.  The Miles Brothers are better known for their early motion picture work, and had a studio in San Francisco. The negatives from this Alaska venture were apparently lost in a fire following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

I don’t know if we’ve got a complete set here, probably not. Our first image is from  Southeast Alaska, and then they seemed to go up to the Valdez area and headed for the Yukon River and finally out to the Bering Sea. The sequence below is my best guess, corrections welcome.

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Taku Glacier on Taku Inlet. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-9. Note the strange brown bubbled area in the middle. Can this be fixed?

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Glory Hole of Treadwell Mine. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA-UC-136. This plate is broken and the glass itself would need repair

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Hawkins Point on the White Pass & Yukon Railway. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-14

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Fort Liscum, Military Fort on Valdez Bay 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-138. I noticed online there is a nice image of this at the Anchorage Museum, apparently belongs to the Cook Inlet Historical Society. I don’t know if it is a print or something large like this.

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Valdez in 1903. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum. Strange brown stain, could this be burned? Also, the shattered flaking in the sky is seen on several of the images, but often in lighter areas?

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Pioneer’s Home and Garden at Valdez. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum

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Crossing Copper River. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum

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Tonsina Crossing on the Trail Between Valdez and Fairbanks. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-11

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Horses Crossing the Kotsina, A Branch of the Copper (?) River. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-133

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On Elliott Creek, Copper River District. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-10

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Typical Prospector’s Camp. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-13. Another one with a broken edge. You can see we propped these up on a light table just to get some record of what they look like…

 

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Fire Department at Circle. Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-360. The hands give a sense of scale for these glass plates. The scale gives an intimacy to the image beyond a normal sized photo.

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Detail from Fire Department at Circle, Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-390. Note how the message on the fence says, “RING LIKE H-L IN CASE OF FIRE.”

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Another detail from Fire Department at Circle City. Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-390. Look at that good dog! How about the moustache/beard?

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Detail of the wood and copper framing typical of those that have frames

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Star City on the Yukon River. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-12. Note the uneven lighting behind this one, makes the image hard to read. This one is on exhibit right now, and the light bars behind it are not so bad in person.

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Detail from Star City on the Yukon River 1903.     Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-12. Look at the fur and the texture of the harness!

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The Garden of Pioneers in Interior. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-139. Note the paper stuck to the back of this one. Many of these are missing the back piece of glass, making them very vulnerable.

 

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Pioneer Cabin. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-134. Look! This one has been hand colored. In some areas you can see fingerprints.

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Sunset on the Yukon. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-8

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Eskimo Children of St Michael. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-135. Unfortunately, the area of two of the faces is completely missing here.

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Eskimos Carving Ivory…Reindeer Camp. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-132

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Ducks…near Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-138. Note the strange rounded damage areas near the bottom center. Is this mold perhaps?

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Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-15

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Winter Came to the Arctic Sea. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-131

 

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