Any clues to the years and locations for these glass-neg images?

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

Where are these horses lined up? Near what waterway? In what year? (Courtesy Tom Reese)
Unidentified history – in glass!
By Clay Eals

Tom Reese, former longtime photographer for The Seattle Times and the photographer for the 2016 book Once and Future River: Reclaiming the Duwamish, has a mystery that he would like help solving.

Actually, he has 15 mysteries. They are the stunning scans of 15 glass negatives that he recently purchased at the Antique Mall of West Seattle.

When and where were they taken? The clues are few. Perhaps one of you reading this blog can help.

The Antique Mall had no information about the negatives other than they came by way of an estate sale, perhaps from a family in Magnolia.

Most are of exteriors – showing horses, logs, sailboats, falls and settlements. (A “Jonks Bros” sign peeks out from one. The image with tents shows men in uniform waiting in line. A left hand protrudes in another image.)

Two show interiors – a kitchen and some dishware. (A blow-up of the hanging phone book is little help. In the dish photo, two boxes in the background say “Specially manufactured for Case, Gravelle & Ervin Co, Butte, Mont. by William Liddell Co, Belfast, Ireland.”)

A scrap of a 1901 newspaper clipping (below) was slipped between two of the negatives — a clue?

Are these from the Northwest? Is there a thread among them? Even if only one image were identifiable, it might make for a great “Now & Then” column!

We ask ye of endless curiosity and skill to help us piece together this story – or stories. To do so, please reply below. The first person to reply with at least a partial and substantive solution to these mystery photos will receive an inscribed copy of Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred!

(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
A detail from the kitchen photo. (Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
A detail from the previous photo. (Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
A detail of the previous photo. (Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
(Courtesy Tom Reese)
A newspaper scrap that was tucked between two of the glass negatives. (Courtesy Tom Reese)






11 thoughts on “Any clues to the years and locations for these glass-neg images?”

  1. Searched for Jonks Bros in old newspapers with no hits but Jones Bros got a few from Spokane. Believe the picture with “tents” is Fort Spokane. Hill views could be Spokane as well. Out of time to look. Have fun!

  2. My knee jerk reaction is Spokane in some photos. Would love to know who had a boat named Floyd. But there are some things that seem Midwestern in other photos, particularly the ad for the Chicago Great Western (Railway). Still looking…

  3. Clay, I had other things to do tonight and am now obsessed and will be peering through my magnifying glass at these photos into the wee hours of the morning… There are so many clues in that photo of the city, so many names on the sides of the buildings. I seem to see Lion Brand Paints, New York Family Bakery, Henry Halbinger (Baldinger?), Haas & Anderson, Boston Clothing, The Model Furniture Co.– I keep leaning towards Minneapolis and St. Paul. Lion Brand Paints were a product of the St. Paul White Lead and Oil Company and if you strain your eyes enough, you can see that on the side of that building as well. Could this particular photo be St. Paul? Many of these seem WWI era as well. Those pyramidal tents were in use even in the Civil War but were sometimes used during even WWII.

  4. Haas Anderson says something about tin, copper, smelt. Note the cans of Old Dutch Cleanser in the bathroom, That would be Chicago/Midwest-based. That wall phone model would have been available as early as 1905 but was still around in the 1920s. That gorgeous majestic stove seems early 1900s. The sink and plumbing are that era too and remind me of what’s in the Panama Hotel in Seattle (circa 1910). I wish I could date the “Hires Root Beer/Good All the Time” sign. But it was 1893 and later that the beverage would have been marketed or become that widespread, I think. The picture of the silver seems to be of wedding gifts, and the longer I look at a can in the pantry, the more it says, “wedding peanuts.”

    This postcard is of St. Paul around then, See more at That could be the early Robert Street Bridge in our photo. I keep thinking that I see the church turned high school and a landmark hotel but think I’m looking too hard now. Much of it seems WWI era, but 1905-1918-ish overall– in several different locations.

    I hope you’ll do another blog post once these are all identified. Ships, bridges, ads, and buildings will solve this. (I need to eat dinner now, guys, it’s nearly 9 P.M. and I shouldn’t have read this “Where’s Waldo?” bit before bedtime either.)

  5. “Hires Root Beer: Good All the Time” ad– post-1893. Gorgeous Majestic stove, early 1900s. Sink and faucet, early 1900s, similar to what’s in Seattle’s Panama Hotel built in 1910. Wall telephone could be as early as 1905. Photo seems to be of wedding gifts. The more I look at a can in the pantry, the more it seems to say “wedding peanuts” (were matrimonial legumes a thing, or was it a joke and a springy snake popped out?). Note the two cans of Old Dutch Cleanser. Chicago-based, I think. Artwork was used a while, see, but those strike me as 1910-ish as well. Still think some photos look like WWI uniforms, tents, facilities.

    Bridge in downtown photo could be old Robert Street Bridge in St. Paul. I don’t know St. Paul but everything seems to point to St. Paul or a similar Midwestern town in that downtown photo. See I keep thinking I see St. Paul’s church turned high school or landmark hotel, but if I keep looking, I’m going to see Jim Morrison, Where’s Waldo, and the Honjo Masamune as well.

    These photos strike me as very similar to my Norwegians’ photos. They came from Norway through Minnesota to the Puget Sound and their daughter married during WWI. I am betting 1908-1912-ish although some may be WWI.

    PLEASE keep us posted as to what you find out.

  6. Great photos! The 5th one down, with the tall four masted clipper ship at anchor, looks to be Astoria, Oregon. I tried to get a similar view from today’s Google maps street view, but could not find the exact same spot, But here is a similar view from a few block west,

    The original picture shows old downtown Astoria looking northwesterly toward the Columbia River mouth. In the distance, Washington state’s Fort Columbia state park.

  7. And in picture 11 with the gentleman sitting on the grass with his stylish straw hat, I would say it’s Council Crest in Portland, Oregon. Looking Northeast with the Willamette River running across the center of the picture and off in the distance the Columbia River. If it was a clear day, Mount St. Helens would have elegantly framed the horizon.

    Here’s an August 2011 Google street view from this location,,-122.7078618,3a,75y,49.19h,84.78t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sWqJ6Gl3uHInXz9hHRQIX2Q!2e0!5s20110801T000000!7i13312!8i6656

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