Museum Open House features vintage glass plate photographs

A fine family gathers outside of their Almont home ‘back in the day.’

ALMONT — Area residents have a rare opportunity to literally take a peek back in time at the Almont Community Historical Museum this weekend.

An Open House at the museum will run this Friday, March 29 from 5-6 p.m. and this Saturday, March 30, from noon-6 p.m.

A brand new display has been installed featuring the historic—and some never seen before– photos donated last July by Beth Terry Flynn, whose roots run deep in the area.

Flynn discovered an old Hudson’s department store box that contained portraits of her grandparents and other vintage family photos. Also inside the box was a smaller box that contained 58 glass plate negatives, says Almont Community Historical Society President James ‘Jim’ Wade.

Wade says the negatives appeared to be from about 1884 to 1894 and most featured Flynn’s home.

“Nearly 90 years ago, the Terrys bought the house from David Cochrane, who built the home in 1884,” Wade says.

The glass plate negatives Flynn discovered were likely silver gelatin dry plate negatives, which were invented by Dr. Richard L. Maddox and first became available in 1873.

They became known as the first “economically successful durable photographic medium.”

Dry plate negatives were more easily transported then their predecessor—collodion wet plate negatives, which were invented by Frederick Scoff Archer.

Unlike the wet plate variety, the dry plates were easy to transport and required less exposure to light than the wet plates.

The dry plate glass was thinner, and coated more evenly with an emulsion than the wet plates, and were in common use between the 1880s and the late 1920s.

Wade says the Historical Society sought donations to cover the $800 or so cost of developing and preserving the photos.

“As is the norm for Almont, the Society quickly received more than enough in donations to cover the cost,” Wade says. “As is now standard practice for the Society, the excess funds will be placed in either our project or endowment funds and used to improve the museum.”

The plates were sent to Creative Corner in Romeo for processing.

Now that they’ve been developed, Wade says it appears that most of the photos date back to about 1900.

“Many of the photos are of the interior and exterior of the Cochrane home,” he says. “There are also a number of photos of other homes along West St. Clair Street.”

Additionally, Open House visitors will find photos of the Pere Marquette depot and rail line, as well as photos of the parsonage of the Methodist Church, the Ferguson house—currently owned by Christine Bailey—the Cochrane store while under construction and when completed, and a winter view of West St. Clair.

“There is even a photo of a young man pole vaulting—the bar looks to be about nine feet,” Wade says. “There are also several photos of buildings which were not in Almont and also a ‘side-wheel’ steam boat.”

All are welcome to attend the Open House at the Almont Community Historical Museum. There is no charge to attend.

The museum is located at 249 S. Main Street downtown.