Edna Benedict Collection
Edna Georgia Benedict was born in West Meredith, New York on July 19, 1888 to Andrew Fortner and Mary Smith Georgia. Edna and her younger brother, Wendell, were raised on a farm near the intersection of Warner Hill Road and the Delhi-Treadwell Road.
Edna was educated in the one-room schoolhouse located on Warner Hill Road and attended the Delaware Literary Institute in Franklin, New York, where she trained to be a teacher.
Since her childhood Edna had been interested in photography, teaching herself the difficult glass plate process. It is not known how or exactly when her photography interest developed. Diane Galusha in her book, Through A Woman’s Eye, speculates Edna may have been influenced by magazine articles and advertisements, by students or teachers at the Delaware Literary Institute, or by amateur and professional photographers that passed through the Meredith area.
Whether taking pictures of home and family, friends and school children, or church gatherings, Edna was there with her camera. She was recording the daily happenings in her life and in the lives of others. As Harry Benedict related to Diane Galusha in Through a Woman’s Eye, “She would set the camera up on the tripod, and then put this dark cloth over her head to focus – she would do that several times, moving the camera around just so – and then the class plates would be slid in the side of the camera. She would go under the cloth again and push the shutter release to take the picture.”
The glass plate negatives were developed in Edna’s darkroom. She had set up a darkroom in the basement of her parents’ house. After her marriage to Howard Benedict, a darkroom was also assembled in the basement of their farmhouse. There were several steps for Edna to follow in developing the pictures. She also had acquired a good knowledge of chemistry to accomplish the task of exposing, developing and printing the glass negatives.
For many years she taught in area schools, but in 1913, at age 24, she married Howard Benedict. Women teachers could not be married at that time, bringing an end to her teaching career. She and Howard purchased a farm in Meredith where they raised Jersey cows.
Howard and Edna enjoyed children, although they were not able to have their own. Nieces and nephews spent time on their farm, sometimes staying overnight. There was often time to fish with their uncle and picnic in the fields during haying. Edna often had her camera along for picture taking and keeping memories. If the weather was not good for outdoor play, there were board games, like Chinese checkers, to challenge each other.
Edna and Howard were each active in their church. They taught Sunday school, Edna sang in the choir, and they hosted church socials.
Edna continued to pursue her interest in photography. The majority of her pictures, mostly depicting the rural community in which she lived, were taken between 1904 and 1925. She eventually exchanged the labor-intensive glass plates for the simplicity of a Kodak Brownie box camera and outside processing.
Friends and family were fortunate to have Edna present in their lives and in their community to preserve their memories and share their history.
Edna died on April 2, 1963 following a stroke. At the time of her death she was 75 years old.
From Hats Off: Notable Women of Delaware County, NY, by Mary Jane Henderson and Barbara Coleman with Tim Duerden & Angela Gaffney