Albert R. Stone, the photographer for the Rochester Herald in the early 20th century, captured tens of thousands of moments in Rochester history, some of which are part of RMSC collections. His unique and beautiful view of the city comes to life in black and white, capturing important events and day-to-day life. In honor of his 150th birthday, we’re highlighting some of the images that our RMSC team loves most.
Diner at 60 North Street (1917)
RMSC President and Chief Science Officer
To me, each image in the Albert R. Stone Negative Collection is like experiencing travel in a time machine, and in these images are signs and clues related to the social history of Rochester.
In this image, one of several I have admired in Stone's archive, I'm drawn to the way light interacts with the snow, and the way a path has been made along the sidewalk. There is a cold pragmatism in evidence, and the character at left seems resigned to the conditions surrounding him, trudging ahead with hands set in his pockets.
As with so many of Stone's images, you may build your own narrative set into the time and place presented by his amazing work. In this image, I place myself at a table in this dining car, and imagine a simple meal served to me there. I would imagine some form of soup or stew that might contain remnants of a meal served on the day before, perhaps chicken. I would also imagine a dessert like pie, on a heavy pottery plate that has a matte finish from being washed again and again, and maybe knife marks along the surface of the plate.
As a child, I wouldn't bother watching a black and white film, or studying an older black and white image in a book or magazine. Now I can't get enough of them.
Mary Ann Pitcher Lass (1912)
My favorite Stone image is of Mary Ann Pitcher, a farrier, or person who shoes horses. We used this photo in our exhibit about the Rochester's Public Market over 15 or 16 years ago. In the exhibit, we featured many Stone photos of Rochester people who were all a part of the curious culture of the city. Not only did I find it surprising that a woman would be in this occupation during that era, but also that she is only 16 years old!
I liked this photo so much, that it has been hanging in my office since the closing of the exhibit.
Apples on display at horticultural show (1917)
As Registrar, I have had the chance to work intimately with the Albert R. Stone collection on a regular basis. With around 14,000 images, it is hard to pick just one that is my favorite because I love so many. I picked this image because it is not only a favorite, but also speaks to a season that we are rapidly approaching, apple season! Rochester and its surrounding areas have been proud of their agricultural achievements for centuries and this image feels like an embodiment of that. The rich diversity of apples displayed is so striking in the boxes and on the plates. You almost feel as if you can grab one from the plate and bite into its crisp flesh.
I grew up in Hilton, NY, where we have the Hilton Applefest each year. People come out in droves to see local artisans, support local groups at the food stalls, and wait in a super long line for a bowl of piping hot apple crisp. As the tradition to celebrate agriculture continues, many of our towns have festivals centered on crops and food. This image makes me look forward to so many fall activities like picking through a bushel of apples for the perfect one, sipping hot apple cider on a fall day, and picking up a warm apple fritter on a chilly fall morning. I feel lucky to live in a place that can support such an amazing diversity of crops and appreciate the farmers who still do the hard work to keep us all fed.
Picnic for Airscout Boys (1918)
I picked a Stone image that I love, but I could never choose one favorite. It seems like every time I search the collection I find a new image that perfectly illustrates the topic at hand. What I like about this image and so many others is that Stone frequently captured the a sense of community. The ladies look similar at first glance, all dressed in festive summer finery, yet they are definitely individuals: Young girls possibly looking for a beau, older matrons eager to share their special delicacies, and one or two very spirited smiles.
As a clothing historian I could spend an hour examining the dresses, hats, and hairstyles! I wonder who these women were and about what the Airscouts organization was like. But the most important aspect for me is the one that Stone did so well—this is a warm portrait of a loving community. You can almost hear their greetings to each other and to their guests, the murmur of conversation and the appreciation expressed by the boys for the delicious meal. Albert Stone's photographs are evocative, leading us back to a very specific time and place.
Milking a Rattlesnake (1910)
Online Marketing Specialist
My favorite thing to do with the digitized Albert R. Stone Negatives collection is to just put in a keyword and see what I discover. I am endlessly surprised!
I “meet” people who lived in my city 100 years before me, living in homes and working in buildings that I pass regularly as I go about my everyday life. I learn about their lives and discover stories.
One of my favorite Rochester characters is Peter Gruber. Imagine a well-dress man with a matching suit coat, bowtie and shoes. Now imagine taking a closer look and realizing all of those things are made completely out of snake skin. That’s fashion à la Rattlesnake Pete! Rattlesnake Pete was a man who milked rattlesnakes for their venom and promoted various snake-related cures.
I’d seen these odd pieces of clothing and accessories in our RMSC collection before, but seeing the Albert R. Stone image of Pete actually milking a rattlesnake really brought the story to life for me. Seeing his hands at work reminds me that it isn’t a fictitious, local legend, and that a real living, breathing Rochester resident once walked around in these clothes. I imagine Albert R. Stone sticking around to chat with Peter after taking the photographs and wonder what the conversation might have been like.
I’m so looking forward to sharing this story and others in the Rochester-focused area of our upcoming exhibit, The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
What photos will you discover in the Albert R. Stone Negative Collection?
Take a look in our online collections! Put a keyword of your choice into the search bar and, if there are matching images in the collection, select “Albert R. Stone Negative” in the right sidebar.