Break Frames | Home
9 The Strand 191 (February, 1895)
Some Curiosities of Modern Photography. Part II.
By William G. FitzGerald.
The beginning of photography in the bowels of the earth may be traced to Mr. Bretz, of the Kohinoor Colliery, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. That clever engineer's apparatus consisted of a number of tin reflectors shaped to parabolic curves, which concentrated the light produced by from six to ten inches of ordinary magnesium ribbon. Later on, an installation of electric light was placed in the mine, the five arc lamps having a nominal power of 2,000 candles each.
Although the light failed somewhat, out of seven exposures made, five negatives turned out well. An exposure of from eight to thirty minutes was allowed, and pyrogallic acid and carbonate of potash were used for developing. Mr. Bretz, by the way, now uses an ordinary flash-lamp, and on a recent occasion, when he burnt eight or nine ounces of powder, he succeeded in obtaining a negative measuring 22in. by 18in.the largest subterranean photograph ever taken.
The expert in foreign stamps has in photography a powerful ally. The searching eye of the camera brings out the crude lines of bogus varieties, and even when the microscope itself fails to reveal a chemically obliterated post-mark, the ghostly strokes appeal to the sensitive plate.
Galton's finger-print method of identification, which has been grafted on to the Bertillon system for use in our police departments, has proved its efficacy in a rather curious way in America. A packet of paper money was tampered with in transit between New York and New Orleans, two seals having been broken open and the notes extracted; one seal was afterwards re-fastened by thumb pressure.
The expert who examined the package had thumb impressions taken of all the Express Company's employés on that route. The impressions were then magnified by photography, compared with the seal mark, and the delinquent easily discovered.
Enlarged photographs of merchants' books that have been passed by accountants have been exhibited in court, and the breaking up of the paper fibre caused by fraudulent erasure has been clearly shown.
A curious use was found for photography at the Naval Academy of Annapolis, in Maryland. The principal instructor could not induce the students to remain still during gun practice; they would start violently and stop their ears. Therefore the chief officer took a number of instantaneous photos., showing the cadets in "undignified and unwarlike attitudes." These pictures were hung up in the academy, and the young men thenceforward forced themselves to keep still during gun fire, for very fear of the camera.
Heirlooms, wills, and fortifications are photographed; so are all alterations made by overseers of estates abroad owned by gentlemen and residing in this country. Mr. Traill Tavlor possesses an orange grove of a hundred acres in Florida, and his foreman in that sunny State hardly cuts down a tree without showing the whole thing to his master in a photograph.
Contemning the photo-maniac who causes photographs of himself, his wife, and his near relations to be reproduced on the family china, Mr. Traill Taylor tells an interesting story of the wonders of applied photography. An English gentleman had a big apple-tree of which he was inordinately fond, trained against his garden wall. Fearful of pruning it himself, however, he took a sharp photo and sent it to an expert gardener et Hyèresit might have been Timbuctoo. In due course the photo. was returned, showing certain pencil marks through numerous branches These the gentleman had lopped off by a "handy man," while he himself directed operations, photograph in hand.
In many Continental cities where passport are required, the holder's photograph is impressed upon the document; and at Tacoma, in Washington, electors are photographed as they record their votes.
It may interest my lady readers to know that famous costumiers seldom place in the window their choicest confections in costume or the last "sweet thing" in bonnets, lest perhaps the pirate pattern seeker should come along with his or her (generally her) kodak. Then, again, patterns of costly lace have been photographically stolen without a camera at all, but simply by means of a sheet of paper rendered sensitive with bichromate of potash or nitrate of silver, and then dried. A sheet of glass completes the apparatus.