Photographs

Photograph and Image Collections

Portrait of Burr family at the beach

Burr Family reunion, 1902

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The Library’s collections of historical photographs are prized by researchers and visitors.   Our general photograph collection of well over 1000 images contains photographs of Fairfield places, scenes, and institutions. Its two most popular areas are photographs of houses and other buildings filed by address and the photographs of  businesses filed by name.  Historic photographs have been used to help restore homes and gardens to their original design, to document the construction of roads and structures, and to provide a glimpse into the people and places of Fairfield’s past.

The portrait collection offers photographs of individuals, starting in the 19th century and extending into present times. The collection contains photographic prints on paper as well as negatives and is organized by family name. It also includes some photographic reproductions of portrait paintings and drawings.

In addition to these primary collections, we have several smaller collections:

  • the Fairfield Citizen-News Photograph Collection is a collection of about 600 black-and-white photographs from all aspects of Fairfield public life and events covering the period from 1975 to approximately 1996
  • the Photo Album Collection includes approximately 30 family albums and scrapbooks from the 19th century on. It is organized by family and indexed by family name of identified persons. Photographs contained in the albums document a broad range of photographic processes including collodion and albumen prints, tintypes, cyanotypes, and gelatin prints. The Bradley-Bulkley-Wakeman and the The Smith Family collections are individual collections of photo albums.
  • our Postcard Collection provides a view of the changing face of Fairfield’s beaches, gardens, and main streets. We also have postcards from surrounding towns and from elsewhere in Connecticut.
  • the Robert Bryan slide collection documents Fairfield city planning in the 1950s
  • the Charles J. Walsh Collection of Fairfield Houses and Scenes contains 265 photographs taken in the course of business of Charles Walsh’s real estate business
  • the William Weathered and William Clarke photo collections cover different local subjects in the 1970s and 1980s
  • the Wilbur Ressler photo collection documents the demolition of the Bullard Company plant in 1983

The Library also hosts three collections of glass slides:

  • the Fairfield History Glass Slide Collection includes portraits, maps and Fairfield structures
  • the Annie Burr Jennings Glass Slide Collection includes color slides documenting Annie Jennings’ social activities and garden
  • the The Mabel Osgood Wright Photograph Collection  documents naturalist Wright’s images of early 20th century Fairfield

We also have a Daguerreotype Collection, which consists mostly of portraits and group photographs, including some Civil War photography.   This includes not only daguerreotypes (characterized by their distinctive mirror surface that reveals the image only when lighted at the right angle), but also  ambrotypes and tintypes. (Ambrotypes are collodion positives on a glass base; the resulting ghost-like image becomes fully visible only when viewed against a black background. Tintypes or ferrotypes, often casually called daguerreotypes, use collodion on a metal backing.)

Another fashion in the history of photography is represented by FMHC’s collection of Stereograph Cards. Mounted on a special viewer, these cards produce a 3-D viewing effect, and were a prime form of entertainment starting in the 1870s. FMHC’s collection includes exoticized scenes and landscapes of foreign countries, Native American tribes, and fictitious visual narratives—the precursor to today’s movies.

 

Did you know?

A little-known curiosity in the Special Collections is a commemorative set of cartes-de-visite portraits of the members of the 1865 Connecticut General Assembly. The photographs are albumen prints and each bears a stamp and the person’s name.