Rutherford B. Hayes Library / Photo Collection

Discussion in 'Panoramic Cameras and Accessories' started by DougGrosjean, Nov 13, 2007.

  1. DougGrosjean

    DougGrosjean Member

    May 23, 2006
    Medium Format
    Hoping this is the correct forum, due to panoramic subject. If not, feel free to move.

    I was looking through hundreds of photos at RBH Museum / Library this past
    Saturday, looking for swing-lens panos that I could re-shoot with at least
    semi-modern gear.

    What a neat collection!!!!! I'd been in contact with Nan Card at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential library, and she'd set aside a bunch of folders / binders for me. Filled an entire audio-visual wheeled cart. Some images (usually Niebergall's) had negs as well as prints.

    The pics were taken by two photogs: Langlois and Niebergall. I knew
    nothing about either man, at first. But then, looking at the pics....
    Langlois' pics were more artistic, he seemed more an extremely skilled
    hobbyist. Waves caught in the middle of exploding against a rock, Lake
    Erie Island life, rock formations, buildings on the Islands. Langlois had
    no panos. And he didn't have photos you'd run in a newspaper. He was
    extremely skilled, but his focus was not commercial.

    Niebergall was obviously more commercial. Groups, the Flood of 1913 that
    tore through Fremont and Tiffin (we still find red brick in the river
    bottom 3-4 miles north of Tiffin when kayaking / canoeing), trains,
    planes, ships, ceremonies for laying cornerstones of new buildings, people
    with their new cars, cutting ice, ice skating, company picnics, girl scout
    outings, band camp...... Immediately it seemed his work was salable,
    while Langlois' was more artistic.

    Niebergall did have panos, but not swing-lens panos. Instead, for panos
    he used negatives that were loaded into a flat filmholder, the negative
    being about 5"x12" or so. BIG negatives. Stiff film. And *flat*. You
    could see it in the pics where straight lines are straight, and there was
    evidence of the films coming from big filmholders where you load one sheet
    at a time in the dark. I can understand the choice. A non-rotating pano
    camera would be far simpler and less tempermental than one of the Cirkut
    rotating cameras.

    Niebergall's negs were also very overexposed by modern standards, ie, it
    looked like you could use most of his negs as welding goggles. In
    contrast, a general rule of thumb on modern films is that you should be
    able to just barely read a newspaper while looking through the neg. But
    they printed just fine, because often the negs and prints would be grouped
    together, and I'd see the results.

    I don't have anything to recreate Niebergall's straight-film photos, so I
    struck out on finding local Cirkut-type photos I could re-shoot. I know
    such cameras (straight-film) exist, but they're very rare, or made to
    order and very expensive. I've seen pictures of them, but never seen one
    in the flesh.

    More info on Langlois and Niebergall at the sites below. Langlois was a
    scientist living on one of the Lake Erie islands who was documenting
    natural things that intrigued / appealed to him, and Niebergall was a
    German immigrant who was a Sandusky-based commercial photographer. He
    shot news photos, disaster photos, families, scenery. It was sorta
    obvious from the pics themselves, reading the text after the fact only
    confirmed my hunches.

    Sadly, Niebergall was under suspcion as a German agent in each of the
    World Wars, and his cameras were confiscated for the duration of each of
    the wars. After WWII, color film arrived, and Niebergalls business never
    recovered to pre-war levels. He died broke in 1954.

    Langlois had a much better life. Google shows him publishing a bunch of
    papers on biology, and earning his income from his scientist position.
    Traveling the world, and recording exotic places on film.

    And the RBH museum ended up with their stuff. The value is that both guys
    kept records, so the subjects and usually the dates, are known.

    More info on Thomas Huxley Langlois:

    More info on Sandusky, Ohio photographer Ernst Niebergall:

    Even though I struck out, it was sure a neat trip back in time 100 years
    or so.
  2. BradS

    BradS Member

    Sep 28, 2004
    Sonora, California
    4x5 Format
    Thanks for the backgrounder. Langolis sure was productive...and, apparently, very organized.
  3. OP

    DougGrosjean Member

    May 23, 2006
    Medium Format

    You're welcome. Hoping you enjoyed.

    I suspect there's many photogs out there whose work or connections weren't quite enough for them to find fame in their lifetime. But then the archived photos survive long enough that a new audience discovers them, and wham..!

    There's a vintage NYC photog whose work has recently been discovered, about 50 years after his passing. It documents many monumental construction projects in NYC, many changes, many eras.... and was unknown until recently found in archives. And it's dazzling.

    Poor guys.
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    May 24, 2005
    Washington DC
    Multi Format

    actually, 5x12 cameras still exist in the modern world, and are being made (again) today. I have one from Keith Canham, and I know a couple other folks here on APUG do also. It's a great format, and a terrific travel size too, because I can carry it in the same bag more or less that I use for my 5x7.
  5. OP

    DougGrosjean Member

    May 23, 2006
    Medium Format
    Wow, thanks!

    I had no idea.

    I wish I could have seen my face when I thought I'd struck gold with pano negs, and then realized they weren't Cirkut negs....

    I'll have to do some reading on the 5x12 format. There were many, many excellent photos taken with that format in those archives.
  6. jolefler

    jolefler Member

    Mar 25, 2006
    Northeast Oh
    Multi Format
    Thanks for the tip & story, Doug!

    I HAVE TO make it over to your corner of the State more!

    Jo (big fan of thick negs :surprised: )