As an intern for the IMLS CHART project, I have been working on scanning and cataloging lantern slides from the Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection. Containing some 130 slides, it is a popular collection at Brooklyn Historical Society, since the photographs depict A.V. Martense (1852-1898), other family members, and extends far beyond the lantern slides. As early Dutch settlers, the Martense family established a homestead and farm in Flatbush, part of which now is Greenwood Cemetery.
Most immediately related to the content of the lantern slides are two photo albums featuring some of the same lantern slide images. The existence of prints suggests that the lantern slides were likely copied from original negatives, as does the speed with which some of Martense’s images must have been captured. Lantern slides are not negatives, but positives, since they are designed to be projected and viewed. Lantern slides were created either by printing negatives exposed in a camera onto another negative (thus producing a positive for projection) or by exposing a sensitized glass negative directly in the camera and developing it in such a way as to produce a positive. Since lantern slides have the emulsion sandwiched in glass, it can be a little harder to determine which side is the front, so it is nice to have something like a print to reference. Perhaps more importantly, the albums feature captions and additional annotations that help answer some questions that the lantern slides alone do not. Among the images not reflected in the lantern slides are a number of group portraits.
The matting applied to the lantern slides can be anything from a simple border to an oval, blocking the rest of the image when it is projected. Strangely, some of the matting suggests an editorial process as opposed to a finished product meant for an audience. Some of the matting crops the image at an angle, not parallel to the edge of the glass.
A few weeks back, while looking at an image of Martense holding a camera we debated what kind of camera it might be. A pinhole camera? A Brownie? A pinhole camera was probably too rudimentary for the photographs he was taking. Kodak did not introduce Brownies until 1900. However, in one of the albums, there were multiple references to a “Single Waterbury Lens”. The Waterbury Lens was put out by Scovill Manufacturing Company, who also manufactured box cameras and view cameras. The camera that Mr. Sherrill holds in the photographs below looks similar to Scovill’s Waterbury Detective Camera, which was developed in the late 1880s, a few years after some of the images labeled “Single Waterbury Lens” were taken. So it seems that Martense was at least working with some sort of box camera and not a pinhole camera.
This map of Flatbush from 1842 shows the names and locations of prominent families of early Dutch settlers. Apart from the Vanderveer and Martense families, Adrian Vanderveer Martense had familial ties to the Lefferts and Ditmas families, among others. In the collection of Martense family papers, there is evidence of landownership, farming, slave ownership and indentured laborers. Much of the business dealings seem to center around Garrit Martense, Adrian Vanderveer Martense’s first cousin once removed. (For those of you with as terrible a grasp on genealogical terms as I have, Garrit was his grandfather’s sister’s son.)
The collection also includes a number of scrapbooks that contain clippings of humor pieces (some accompanied by great illustrations), poems, society pieces, and a few relating to church, politics and Martense’s family. One clipping in particular, gives a nice history of the Vanderveer family, describing how one among them had been taken prisoner by the British but at the point of meeting his sentence at the gallows a business relation interceded on his behalf.
Adrian Vanderveer Martense’s photographs reveal an enviable life: hanging out with gentlemen, taking photographs from the comfort of his horse-drawn carriage, playing tennis, or sailing. Apart from recreation, there is rich documentation of early architecture: from mansions, churches, and resorts to barns, toll booths, and windmills.