Family Discovers Photography Treasure Trove

old photo
A photo of who is believed to be Henry Capewell (seated center) along with family and friends. The string used to activate the shutter is plainly visible in the foreground - courtesy of

When Joe Williams and Tina Garceau inherited several boxes from a neighbor of Joe’s father, the last thing they expected to find was a treasure trove of glass negatives dating from the early 1900s.

After going through the boxes the couple discovered nearly 200 glass negatives of photos that were shot by a gentleman named Henry Capewell, who owned a factory that manufactured glassware in South Philadelphia. Mr. Capewell was also an amateur photographer and spent a lot of time taking photographs of himself and his friends around the region.

Joe describes the process he went through to digitize the negatives here and the results are glimpse back in time to another era. The very first shot he developed was a picture of Niagara Falls frozen over, which happened in 1911.

In many of the photos you can Mr. Capewell, surrounded by friends and relatives, activating the shutter with a length of string. It must have been a trick to hold still while tripping the shutter as those old, glass plates would require very long shutter times.

frozen falls
Niagara Falls frozen solid in space and time in a photo believed to be taken by Henry Capewell - courtesy

What’s fascinating is trying to figure out how something like this would happen a 100 years in the future? Is someone going to find an old hard drive in an attic box…that’s if homes even still have attics? It seems unlikely images could be recovered from technology that old, but who knows what recovery technology will exist then. We as humans are simply not conditioned to think in time frames that long.

More of the collection can be seen here.