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Gelatin Dry-Plate Glass negatives in the San Antonio Light Photograph Collection

October 9, 2017

What an incredibly fascinating collection.

The Top Shelf

Shortly after purchasing the San Antonio Light in 1924, Hearst newspapers hired Jack Specht to be their first full-time staff photographer for the daily paper. Specht used a Graflex camera with 4×5 inch glass negatives to capture the image. The negatives were ordered from photographic supply companies. Since the camera was bulky and the glass negatives somewhat expensive, Specht often took only one photograph to accompany most news stories. Specht and the other staff photographers processed approximately 23,500 glass plates before switching to film negatives in 1936. The Hearst Corporation donated the glass negatives to our collection in 1979.

Specht established a routine that was followed by subsequent photographers. The photographer returned from the assignment and immediately developed and fixed the glass plate in chemical solutions. Once the plate was dry, he wrote the names of the subjects in graphite in the margins on the emulsion side—a procedure that often…

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