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History Center is Digitizing Photos from Glass Plate Negatives

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 3rd, 2014

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.


Recently, the West Virginia and Regional History Center has turned its attention toward digitizing its collections of glass plate negatives.  Among the first to be scanned were the plates in the Newbraugh collection, a grouping of 91 images documenting Berkeley Springs that were collected by local historian Fred T. Newbraugh.  Current and future researchers can feel fortunate that Mr. Newbraugh chose to publish a number of these photographs with identification in his 1976 book, Warm Springs Echoes, since it’s probable that the content of many of these photos would otherwise have been left unidentified.

The Newbraugh collection includes this photograph of the Morgan County court house, which exhibits evidence of damage to the plate:


Newbraugh Morgan County Courthouse

Morgan County Court House, ca. 1900.


This was Morgan County’s second court house, built in 1845 and replaced by a new building in 1908.


Newbraugh identifies the location of the following picture as the front porch of the Gustin family home in Berkeley Springs, otherwise known, for some reason, as “Marble Hall”; the “straw boater” hats date the photo to the turn of the 20th century:


Image of two unidentified women on the porch of Marble Hall

Porch of “Marble Hall” looking south, subjects on porch unidentified, ca. 1900.


The Confederate diplomat Beverly Tucker, once on the Union “Wanted List,” rented “Marble Hall” when returning from exile after President Johnson’s amnesty proclamation of 1868.  Newbraugh opines in Warm Springs Echoes that Tucker’s acceptance in Morgan County “…among the Union zealots and Yankee society is not easily understood.”  Perhaps it had something to do with relatives between the Tucker family and the Pendleton family of Berkley Springs.


The Newbraugh collection also includes a glass plate of the local Catholic Church, St. Vincents, located on Liberty Street; a photo in a published church program featured in Newbraugh’s book dates this image to the turn of the last century:


Newbraugh St. Vincent's Catholic Church

St. Vincent’s Catholic Church, ca. 1900.


The first public school in Berkeley Springs was established in 1867 as a two-room schoolhouse.  In 1878, a much larger school building made of brick was erected on a hill overlooking the town.  This school was named Mt. Wesley Academy.  A group portrait of its student body can be seen below in a photograph dated (by Newbraugh) from 1904:


Newbraugh Mt. Wesley Academy

Class portrait, on front steps of Mt. Wesley Academy, 1904.


With a little research, it became possible to identify the subjects of photos in the Newbraugh collection that were previously unknown, and thus make them useful to future researchers.  We look forward to future discoveries among the glass plate collections we are processing.

One Response to 'History Center is Digitizing Photos from Glass Plate Negatives'

  1. News | WVU Libraries Says:

    […] our glass plate negatives.  Previous blog posts have discussed the glass plate negatives of the Fred T. Newbraugh collection (scans online here) and the James Green collection (scans online here).  From those posts, we […]