Holidays past

Photographer captures Christmas memories.
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This living room at 458 Adams St. SE was photographed on a 5-by-8-inch glass plate negative. Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Library

This holiday scene shows what Christmas looked like in a house at 458 Adams St. SE, circa 1925. Dick and Belva Thomas lived in the home with their son, Glenn, who was about 14 years old. Dick worked for many years for the James Bayne Co., known for taking product photographs of furniture and producing high-quality catalogs for salesmen to use. In his role as an engraver, Dick would have produced the plates used to print images in the catalogs.

Dick Thomas Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Library

Outside of work, Dick took photographs, like this one, using glass plate negatives, even after roll film and consumer cameras (like the Kodak Brownie) were available. When working with glass plate negatives, photographers had to carefully handle the glass, transferring it in and out of the camera from a plate holder and making sure not to expose
the negative to light before developing it in a dark room. This deliberate process of taking
an image means photographers were likely more intentional about what they chose to
capture than we are now. The family’s gifts — the wooden case radio, the silver serving
dish, the Eureka Model 9 vacuum cleaner — look modest to us now but were worthy of
an exposure in 1925.

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