When the lawyer David J. Whitcomb bought a three-story building in Geneva, New York, last December, he didn’t expect to find a trove of century-old photographs – including a suffragist portrait Susan B. Anthony– in his attic.
As Tina MacIntyre-Yee reports for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the 43-year-old bought the property to house his law firm. But when Whitcomb and a friend removed the water-damaged drywall from the building’s third-story ceiling, they came across a previously unknown sealed attic. Inside was a 20th century photography studio filled with historic images and equipment.
“The first thing I saw was a whole bunch of photo frames stacked on top of each other and those frames are beautiful,” says Whitcomb. CNNIt’s David Williams. “They’re at the turn of the century, they’re golden, golden, and they were really shining and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ I got down and said, “ I think we just found the Goonies treasure. ”
The couple returned the next day, spending around 12 hours rummaging through old cameras, photographs, backdrops and Various materials.
According to CNN, the man who sold the building to Whitcomb was unaware of the attic’s existence, as were the people who had purchased the property before him in the 1960s. At some point before, the owners of the space apparently converted the third floor into an apartment and concealed the attic with a suspended ceiling.
According to Ben Hooper from United Press International (UPI), the objects likely belonged to James Ellery, or JE, Hale, a prominent photographer active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hale’s name was written on many objects in the attic, including letters and photographs, and he once owned a studio next to the New York building.
One of the highlights of the discovery was the setting Anthony portrait, which was taken by Hale in 1905, a year before his death. The sepia image shows the suffragist seated while reading a book.
Speak with Victoria E. Freile for another Democrat and Chronicle Whitcomb says, “It was really like stepping back into a time capsule. “
He adds: “I love the story. I love antiques. It was just such a snapshot of the history of photography. It’s so powerful knowing that the (negative) glass was in the same room as Mrs. Anthony. (Whitcomb found fragments of the fragile glass plate but told CNN he fears the rest may be lost for good.)
Hale eventually gave the copyright in Anthony’s photograph to the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Association, which reproduced the image on prints and postcards sold to raise funds for the suffrage cause. The Library of Congress houses an album clipping with a copy of the portrait.
A staunch defender of women’s suffrage, Anthony is widely regarded as one of the founders of the first women’s rights movement. Although she did not live to see her passing, her work helped lay the groundwork for the 19th amendment, who gave a lot – but not all– American women have the right to vote when it is ratified on August 18, 1920. In recent years, however, Anthony has faced increased scrutiny over her racist remarks and exclusion of black suffragists mainstream movement, as Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers have noted for the New York Times last august.
Other significant finds from Hale’s treasure include a photograph of another suffragist Elizabeth cady stanton, photos of local sports teams, glass negatives, props, backdrops and frames.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1850, Hale was a photographer for most of his adult career, according to the Democrat and ChronicleIt’s Freile. During the 1880s he lived near the Finger Lakes and photographed a number of women involved in the suffragist movement, in addition to Frances folsom, who was then engaged to the president Grover Cleveland. In 1892, Hale moved to downtown Geneva, where he lived and worked until 1920. Around 1900, Hale moved his photography studio from a nearby building to 35 Seneca Street – the property that Whitcomb owned. purchased in December.
“[Hale] has made a name for himself in the world of photography ”, Dan Weinstock, former president of the Historical Society of Geneva, tell the Democrat and Chronicle. “Certainly not Ansel Adams, but he was active in photography associations and was a credible photographer.
Whitcomb brought all of the items to the Canandaigua auction house One Source Auctions and Antiques for restoration and possible sale. Appraisers estimate that the entire treasure will sell for up to $ 100,000.
“It’s a great collection,” auctioneer Aaron Kirvan told the Democrat and Chronicle. “And this is a very rare find, especially since this is the main photo of Susan B. Anthony in the Library of Congress.”