W.E. Grande Glass Plates Collection

Cover Image:
Grande Glass Plates Collection
United States Hotel in Winter, Saratoga Springs, NY - Image Source

Collection Facts


Historical Context

Saratoga Springs native George S. Bolster was a photographer and collector of photographs; in his collection, he had images by J.S. Wooley, Harry B. Settle, Seneca Ray Stoddard, and Gustave Lorey, among many others. When he died in 1989, he willed the bulk of his own photography and his collection of the works of others to the Saratoga Springs History Museum. According to his former assistant, photographer Michael Noonan, many of the smaller glass plate negatives that had been part of Saratoga Springs photographer Harry B. Settle’s collection remained behind, tucked into boxes and drawers in Bolster’s home- the will only included the 8X10’s. The Estate was ultimately purchased by Willard E. Grande and several hundred glass plate negatives and cellulose prints were part of the estate purchase.

Harry B. Settle (1881-1956) was a commercial photographer in Saratoga Springs, having at the age of 18 moved to the City from Ballston Spa where he set up his shop. As a commercial photographer he was often called upon by large city newspapers to supply images, particularly during “The Season,” as Saratoga summers are known. Many of the news photographers who came to the area used his shop for their work. And, as photography began to catch on for amateurs, he would provide processing services and then keep the original glass plates. Per both Michael Noonan and Beverly Mastriannni (local artist and sculptor who also worked with Bolster), many of the images that Willard “Bill” Grande had purchased were either originally taken by Settle or were ones he processed for others. They both believe the vast majority of images in the current collection are not replicated anywhere else and many have never before been seen.

Within the collection are several boxes of the exposed negative plates. The boxes were the original boxes that would have housed pre-coated dry emulsion plates, a process invented in 1873. George Eastman, who ultimately founded Eastman-Kodak, further developed the process allowing for commercial production of the pre-coated plates. By 1883, Eastman had emerged as the largest manufacturer of the dry emulsion coated plates. The ability to take an image, then store and transport the plates for development and printing, opened the door for photography’s growth to the masses. Settle appears to be experimenting with new technology in some; notes on the envelopes indicate that he was trying to use new the new “Flash Powder” technology to capture indoor scenes, something previously not possible without additional light sources. It also appears amateur photographers probably created a number of the images. One box was marked R.W.Lawrence; according to the City Directories, Mr. Lawrence appears to have been employed at the G.F. Harvey Co., a local merchant of chemicals and pharmaceuticals whose employees are depicted in several images.

Willard E. Grande (1933-2015) was a native Saratogian; he was a builder who built many homes in the Saratoga region that were considered affordable, as well as multiple commercial projects such as the Adirondack Trust Co., Fasig Tipton, the Saratoga Raceway and Stewarts. He was a passionate collector of Saratoga memorabilia. The Grande Glass Plates Collection is part of The Willard E. and Holly Grande Collection and was purchased from the family by the Saratoga Springs Public Library in 2019.

Scope of Collection

The Grande Glass Plates Collection consists of 245 glass plate negatives depicting many “non-tourist” scenes from Saratoga Springs and the environs. Some of the plates are in fragile condition- a group of 100 have been chosen to submit to the New York Heritage database. A large portion of the collection is of various members of and properties owned by the Shackelfords- a prominent Saratoga Springs family. The majority of the images date from the 1890s.