Historians Searching for Information About Victorian Criminals

Historians have been handed hundreds of mugshots of Victorian criminals. Now, armed only with the pictures and names, they are searching for the stories behind the stares, putting a crime to the face. Each image shows the arrested individual with their name written in chalk either on a board held in front of them or, in later years, on a slate above their heads. The later pictures also feature the arrested with hands raised to the chest to capture any identifying marks, tattoos or missing digits, and a mirror to reflect their profile. However, none of the entries give any identifying information about the people in the photographs nor is there any information about their crimes.

Wait a minute, is that great-great-uncle Harry on the left in that picture?

170,000 Great Depression Images Are Now Online

In the 1930s, the U.S. government sent photographers to all the states to capture America “at her most vulnerable.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s team wanted a record of what was going on — and images of real lives and struggles to help rally support for his New Deal policies. Over 170,000 images were taken.

Yale University and the Library of Congress have just made the entire collection available online on a site called Photogrammar at

I found the interactive map at Photogrammar to be very useful. The map plots the approximately 90,000 photographs that have geographical information. (Not all of the 170,000 photos taken included geographical information so only those with the information could be indexed.) The interactive map allows the user to customize the search by photographer, date, and place.

The picture shown above is from Fort Kent, Maine. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Billy the Kid Photograph Purchased for $2, Should Sell for $5 Million

Check your attic. You might have a valuable photograph there amongst the old photos you haven’t looked at in ages. A rare photo of legendary outlaw Billy the Kid, purchased in 2010 in a bunch of old photos for $2, could now fetch $5 million.

Billy the Kid is shown on the left in the above photograph taken in 1878.

Multiple Redundant Backup is the Best Way to Safeguard Your Photo Collection

I have written numerous times about families who lost their photo collections due to a disaster. That includes physical photographs as well as digital images. Yet when I read about the recent loss suffered by Oakland, California photographer Jennifer Little, I gasped.

Jennifer had 21 hard drives — containing some 70,000 photos spanning more than 10 years — stolen from her apartment. Gone. She had no other backups. Her multiple hard drives WERE her backups. Unfortunately, they all were kept at the same location and all disappeared at the same time. She had no off-site backups.

1906-1912: Ellis Island Portraits

Ellis Island in New York harbor processed more than 12 million immigrants before being closed in 1954. At the station’s peak in 1907, more than one million immigrants passed through in a single year, with 3,000 to 5,000 entering every day, mostly from Europe and its periphery.

Dutch Woman

Augustus Francis Sherman was the chief registry clerk at Ellis Island, and an avid amateur photographer. He had special access to the immigrants who were temporarily detained while waiting on escorts, money or travel tickets. Sherman persuaded many of these immigrants to pose for his camera, encouraging them to put on their finest clothes or national dress. A collection of his photographs are now available online at A larger collection can be seen in person at the New York Public Library.

Preserving Memories for Decades to Come

Generally speaking, people take and share far more photos today than at any other point in history. It’s only natural to want to capture as many precious memories as possible. Digital content is fragile. Every computer user has experienced the sting of losing photographs due to changing phones, accidental deletion or a computer failure.

Rare African American Family Photo Albums Give Glimpse of 19th Century Albany, NY

The Arabella Chapman Project provides two photo albums assembled by an African American woman and her family in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The pages are filled with layers of family, community, and politics. Assembled in Albany, NY and North Adams, MA — tintype, carte-de-visite, and snap shot images — Arabella Chapman’s albums tell histories both intimate and epic.

Black Americans, including Arabella’s family and neighbors, sat for and then assembled their own images, crafting counter-narratives that challenged a rising tide of racism. At the same time, in their images are a politics of pleasure. From careful sartorial choices in formal portraits to rare scenes of leisure, the Chapman albums provide us an intimate glimpse into how black Americans embodied the lived pleasure of everyday life.

Hands on with Google Photos using Unlimited Storage

Have a lot of photographs? If so, would you want to save backup copies of them in the cloud? Would you like to optionally share some of those photographs with friends and family? How about saving as many photos and videos as you wish without ever running out of space? How does the price tag of FREE for unlimited storage sound?

I wrote about the brand-new Google Photos service in the June 1, 2015 newsletter. (See The service was so new that I only had a chance to use it briefly before writing the article. I have now uploaded more than 34,000 photos from my cell phone and from my desktop computer’s hard drive, photos I have saved over the years. The collection includes more than 100 photos taken during my recent trip to Jerusalem. I thought I would write about my experiences.

What Your Town Looked Like on Penny Postcards

Years ago, postcards cost 1¢ to mail within the U.S. Postage was temporarily raised to 2¢ from 1917 to 1919 to cover the cost of World War I and the increase was rescinded after the War. In 1952, the required postage was raised to two cents and has slowly escalated ever since. Today, mailing a postcard cost 34¢. (Reference:

Over the years, many postcards were printed with view of a town or other area, then sold in stores within that town or area. Many of these postcards have been preserved and often provide an interesting glimpse of what life was like in “the good old days.” Possibly your ancestors saw these same views in person.

1500 Turn-Of-The-Century Pictures from Hungary Made Public

If your ancestors came from Hungary, you will undoubtedly be interested in a new online collection of turn-of-the-last-century Hungarian photographs. Pictures taken by the legendary German-born Hungarian photographer György Klösz (1844-1913) are now available online in the Fortepan digital photography archives after a total of 1500 photographs from his estate have been made available for unconditional usage by the Budapest Municipal Archives.

Google Photos with Unlimited Storage is Now Available

Have a lot of photographs? If so, would you want to save backup copies of all of them in the cloud? Would you like to optionally share some of those photographs with friends and family? How about saving as many photos and videos as you wish without ever running out of space? How does the price tag of FREE for unlimited storage sound?

Google Photos is now available for Android, iOS, and the Web. Google Photos lets you back up and store “unlimited, high-quality photos and videos, for free.” The new service maintains the original resolution up to 16 megapixels for photos and 1080p high-definition for videos.

QromaScan: A New, Smarter Way to Scan Photos

Here is a simple scanner to help you organize those boxes of old photos you’ve got gathering dust in the attic. One caveat: it only works with an iPhone. Oh, and another caveat: it isn’t available yet.

QromaScan is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. If successful, the developers plan to start shipping in July. It looks like they may be successful. The developers have a goal of $20,000 to fund production. As of today, with 19 days left to go in the 30-day Kickstarter campaign, they have already raised more than half of the amount needed.

30,000 NYPD Crime Photographs Will Go Online

I like the idea of placing all government information information and photographs online but must admit I am not too thrilled with this announcement. Some of these photos can be gruesome.

Stage Line “accident” December 6, 1919

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has photographed crime scenes almost since the technology was available. Some of these are scenes of traffic accidents, parades, or public events. Others are crime scenes. A new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will support the digitization of around 30,000 of these photographs from 1914 to 1975, making them viewable to the public for the first time. The goal is to eventually place all of the 2.2 million photographs, videos, audio files, and other material online.

Rare 1928 Photos of England in Color

Or should that be spelled “Colour?”

In the late 1920s and early 1930s National Geographic sent photographer Clifton R. Adams to England to record its farms, towns and cities, and its people at work and play. Adams happened to record it all in color using the Autochrome process, something that was radically new at the time. Prior to 1928, many people had only seen black-and-white photographs.

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

Free: Adobe Photoshop Express

Perhaps the best bargain for improving digital photographs is Adobe Photoshop Express. It works with built-in cameras on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, Android devices, Windows Phone, and Windows tablet, as well as with the online photo service.

The full version of Adobe Photoshop can cost you hundreds of dollars, but the Photoshop Express app is free.

To be sure, Photoshop Express contains only a small subset of the features available in Photoshop or even in the cheaper Photoshop Elements. However, the capabilities of the free Photoshop Express are still very impressive. The app appears to be designed primarily for editing pictures snapped by a cell phone’s or tablet’s built-in camera. According to the Adobe web site, Photoshop Express includes the following:

Easy touch-ups

Are You Storing Family Photographs in Lignin-Free Storage Containers?

Your newer photos are digital but you may still have photos from your pre-digital days. Old family photographs often are family heirlooms and need to be stored carefully in order to protect them. Sure, you can scan them to preserve them forever but you certainly won’t throw the original copies away, will you? The originals need to be protected for as long as possible.

Many people purchase photo albums or photo storage boxes that are “Archival” or “Photo-Safe” or “Permanent.” Writing in the Practical Archivist Blog, Sally Jacobs points out there is no such thing. She writes, “The term ‘archival’ has been applied so loosely and so inappropriately that it’s no longer used in International Standards for photographic materials.” She tells why lignin-free is important. She also describes a Photographic Activity Test that we all should learn about.

Preserve Your Family Documents and Photos at RootsTech 2015

RootsTech 2015 will be a 3-day event offering more than 200 classes; an expo hall of hundreds of exhibitors and sponsors, including interactive booths to assist in your family history journey; general sessions with well-known and inspiring speakers; and entertaining events at the end of each day. See my earlier article at for details.

One vendor in this year’s exhibits hall, EZ Photo-Scan, is inviting all attendees to bring their family pictures, documents, and any memorabilia that can be digitized, for free scanning on site.

$1,000 Reward Offered for an Historic Photograph – If It Exists

Shawn Adamsson is looking for a photograph taken between 1887 and 1899 of the 19th-century London, Ontario, railway turntable building with locomotives in the shot. Can you help?

How To Preserve Old Photos Without Losing Your Mind

Chris Cummins is a professional photographer who writes a personal blog about photo preservation and a number of other topics as well. He recently published How To Preserve Old Photos Without Losing Your Mind that focuses on simplifying the overwhelming process of turning old family photos into an organized, safe and searchable digital archive with tips for how to preserve the film and paper originals.

The article covers a lot of topics, including:

The Fashions of Our Female Ancestors

Photographer Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) captured everyday fashion in the early 20th century. He used photographs of friends, family and servants as reference models for his art. He was an illustrator and the chief cartoonist of the English magazine Punch.

According wife Marion’s diary, his photography eventually moved from hobby to obsession. You can see a collection of some of his photographs, all apparently taken from 1905 though 1908 on the streets of Kensington, London, at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,822 other followers