Monday, May 25, 2009

Lewis W. Hine’s photographs of Hastings in the George Eastman House collection

Part I
By now you surely know that the famous photographer Lewis Wickes Hine was a Hastings resident. Hine moved to Edgars Lane in 1917 and remained there until his death in 1940. Hine is perhaps best known for his photographs of children working in mines and cotton mills, which helped speed the passage of child labor laws. As part of our annual meeting program on June 7th, author and historian Joe Manning will be telling us more about these children and their descendents, whom Joe has managed to trace. (For more information on this program see the upper right corner of this blog page.)

You probably also know that the Hastings Historical Society has a small collection of original Hine photographs of Hastings subjects. We posted two of these photographs of Protection Engine Company on this blog on March 28th. And Frederic Perrier has put many more of them in his online article “Lewis Hine in Hastings-on-Hudson.”

You may not know, however, that George Eastman House in Rochester, one of the oldest film and photography archives, has in their collection at least 50 additional photographs that Hine took of Hastings. Some are duplicates of photographs we have in our collection, but many are unique. They came to George Eastman House in 1952 in a group of over 4,000 prints and negatives that were originally given by Hine’s son to the Photo League after his father’s death.

Below is a small sample of the Hastings photographs in George Eastman House’s “Lewis Wickes Hine Negative Series.” If you click on one, it will take you to the photograph’s page on the George Eastman House web site.

(Photograph courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film)

Wouldn’t this have been a perfect illustration for Judy Chamberlain’s article on Hastings’ barbers? Hine has even given it the title “Hoffman Barber Shop.” It shows the shop at 558 Warburton Avenue in the 1930s, when the building still had the same brick decoration as the building further north. In the doorway to the left of the shop you can see Jake Hoffman’s barber pole, and to the right is Memorial Park and the V.F.W. building. Often we can only guess at the circumstances of Hine’s employment, but this photograph may have been commissioned by Jake himself for advertising purposes.

(Photograph courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film)

This photograph is of the 1933 Hastings High School senior class posed in front of the School Street entrance to the "new" (1927) high school building. It appears in the yearbook, though without Hine’s name attached to it. From the yearbook, we know that Hine’s son Corydon must be in this photograph, as well as John Lynch and Arthur Kling. There are eight of these class photographs in George Eastman House’s collection, and they can all be dated by comparison with the yearbooks to either 1932 or 1933. These are the earliest photographs we know of that Hine took for the school system. Later Hine pictures in our collection include photographs of the football team, the orchestra, art exhibits, and shop and home economics classes, as well as general class pictures like this one.

(Photograph courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film)

You probably recognize this building, even though it’s not quite finished yet. It is La Barranca, at 465 South Broadway. In the foreground is Broadway and on the far left you can see the original sales office for the building. Behind the building, on the right, runs the Old Croton Aqueduct path. Because it was Hastings’ first apartment building, its construction was a source of local comment and debate. Articles were written about it in the Hastings paper, and both Lewis Hine and amateur photographer A.C. Langmuir took pictures of the construction. And this is very lucky, because Langmuir’s photographs help us to date Hine’s photograph. One of Langmuir’s photographs, dated May 1929, shows the construction at an earlier stage. Another, dated October 1929, shows the finished building. Hine’s photograph is one of twelve of La Barranca in George Eastman House’s series of negatives, all taken from different angles. Hine even took one from the roof, with a view of the river. Why were the photographs taken? We don’t know. But it is possible that the photographs were commissioned by the real estate company, possibly to refute local complaints that they were removing too many of the surrounding trees.

Have we gotten you interested? Want to see a few more of Hine’s Hastings photographs? Tune in next Monday for Part II!
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  1. My father was always interested in photography and somehow as a youngster he got to know Lewis Hine. He told me that when he was young Mr. hine printed several of my father's negatives for him. In later years my father would visit him when he wasn't well. I had the impression that he died almost penniless.
    Regarding the photo of Jake Hoffman's barber shop, the entrance was through the door just to left of the barber pole. You entered a hallway and turned right through a door into the shop. Only the shop window on the left was his. If you look carefully between the curtains in his window you can see Jake to the right in his white smock with his arm raised cutting someone's hair. Bill Ewen

  2. I understand that my late wife's grandfather, Percival Robert Moses, once owned La Barranca. Family lore has it that circa 1930, P.R.'s daughter Ann and her husband Stewart Hoskins, later the distinguished editor and publisher of the Lakeville Journal (Conn.), lived there, as did quite a number of the Hoskins's friends. Also that when the young couples began to have families and so needed to move to larger quarters, they resolved to get together whenever possible on New Year's Eve. And they did. I was the beneficiary of one of these, in 1968, when the Hoskins daughter, Lee, and I went to the family home where the old gang was congregating for mild New Year's Eve celebrations. Lee and I were married in May 1969. We went to La Barranca just once.