Windows in time: Famed Hatfield photographer’s century-old negatives discovered in Hadley garage

  • This late-19th century glass plate negative made by Hatfield photographer Lewis H. Kingsley may depict a school and schoolchildren. It was among several boxes of glass negatives that Joe Malinowski Jr. of Hadley uncovered in his family home. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • At the Hatfield Historical Museum, a 19th-century print of a lathe manufactured by the Porter-McLeod company in Hatfield has now been matched to a glass negative by photographer Lewis Kingsley, thanks to a discovery of 200 of Kingsley’s negatives in a Hadley house. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Linda Hannum of Hadley holds up a late 19th-century glass plate negative of Dickinson Memorial Hall in Hatfield taken by Lewis Kingsley. The negative was among 200 plates made by the Hatfield photographer that sat for decades in the home of Joe Malinowski Jr. of Hadley.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kathie Gow, curator of the Hatfield Historical Museum, holds a sample of work by the late 19th-century Hatfield photographer Lewis Kingsley; over 200 glass plate negatives by Kingsley have been recovered from the home of Joe Malinowski Jr. in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • New prints from Lewis Kingsley’s glass plate negatives were made by Sloan Tomlinson, a Hatfield fine art printer and photographer. Tomlinson scanned over 200 negatives made by Kingsley, a late 19th- and early 20th-century photographer.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Linda Hannum of Hadley pulls a 5- by 7-inch glass plate negative from a box of late 19th-century images made by Hatfield photographer Lewis Kingsley.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Some of Lewis Kingsley’s glass negatives come with notes, but the Hatfield photographer didn’t label most of the slides in the stash. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A print of Sunderland, looking west to Mount Sugarloaf, taken from a glass plate negative made by late 19th-century photographer Lewis Kinglsey. The print was made by Sloan Tomlinson, a Hatfield photographer and fine art printer who scanned over 200 of Kingsley’s negatives. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING


  • One of some 200 glass plate negatives made by 19th-century Hatfield photographer Lewis Kinglsey. It was among several boxes of glass negatives that Joe Malinowski Jr. of Hadley uncovered in his old home. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Linda Hannum, left, and Joe Malinowski Jr., right, both of Hadley, are seen with Hatfield Historical Society President Bob Osley and some photos by Lewis Kingsley. Malinowski has donated his collection of glass plate negatives by Kingsley to the Hatfield Historical Museum. Photo courtesy of Kathie Gow

  • This late-19th century glass plate negative made by Hatfield photographer Lewis H. Kingsley may depict a school and schoolchildren. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Thursday, December 03, 2020

Joe Malinowski Jr. wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at. He only knew it was pretty old.

This past summer, Malinowski began cleaning out the attic in the garage of his old family house in Hadley, on Huntington Road, to prepare it for his daughter Ashleigh, who was moving back home from Springfield (Malinowski lives in a newer house a little further up the street). In the garage were some wooden and cardboard boxes filled with old glass photo negatives; they’d been sitting there for over 50 years, and Malinowski had first seen them as a kid.

He didn’t want to just throw them away. So a few months ago, Malinowski, a former maintenance worker at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who now works for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, turned to a friend and photographer from Hadley, Linda Hannum, to see what she thought.

In fact, once Hannum and a few other people got a look at the material, they realized they had a lost piece of local history in their hands.

The glass negatives, it turns out, belonged to Lewis H. Kingsley, a prominent Hatfield photographer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Kingsley, born in Hatfield in 1853, had worked at first with the Star Printing Co. of Northampton but then set up his own photography business — winning, according to a history of western Massachusetts published in the 1920s, “great fame as an artistic photographer … [his] work was known and appreciated by connoisseurs the world over.”

As Hannum noted during a recent interview in Hatfield, when she realized what she was looking at, “My first thought was ‘Oh my God — what a find!’”

Some 200 of these glass negatives, 5-by-7 and 5-by-8 inches, are now at the Hatfield Historical Museum, part of the town of Hatfield, and they’ll be jointly managed by the town and the nonprofit Hatfield Historical Society. They offer snapshots of a vanished time from town and other points in the Valley, from the 1880s into the early 20th century: farms, landscapes, the Connecticut River full of logs destined for paper mills, portraits of people outside their homes, horse-drawn wagons and more.

“So many things could have gone wrong with this,” said Kathie Gow, curator of the Hatfield Historical Museum, which has a small collection of other photos by Kingsley. The glass negatives “could have been broken, they could have been lost, or they might have been thrown out. Instead we’ve been able to recover this wonderful piece of local history.”

After she had taken a good look at the glass negatives, Hannum reached out to Sloan Tomlinson, a Hatfield photographer and artist who runs a photo and fine art printing business, to have him clean and scan the images. Gow says the Hatfield Historical Society reimbursed Hannum for this expense and is now soliciting donations to cover the cost.

In some cases, the negatives — and the black-and-white prints produced by Tomlinson’s scans — retain their air of mystery. Many of them are unmarked, Gow and Hannum note, so the setting is unclear and the people depicted are unknown. But other negatives have information engraved on them, Hannum said, and some were stored with paper sleeves with the date of the photo, the setting, and other details.

Some of the images are also of recognizable settings and buildings, offering great “then and now” comparisons. There’s one Kingsley took of Dickinson Memorial Hall on Hatfield’s Main Street — the building that now houses the town’s historical museum — that would not be out of place today, save for a small wooden cabin behind the building that no longer exists.

Another photo is of a house and barn on Main Street, just south of the museum; the scene looks remarkably similar today. There’s also a distant view of Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield that seems clearly to have been taken in Sunderland, possibly from what today is the intersection of routes 47 and 116. Wooden frame houses, muddy streets and a horse-drawn carriage are part of the scene from that print.

What’s also striking about the prints is how clear and sharp they are, which is partly a function of using 21st-century technology and materials to bring the old glass slides to life. “Sloan did a great job cleaning up the [negatives],” Gow said. “We’re getting a really fresh look at our region from this.”

Tomlinson says he was impressed with the quality of the work he scanned.

“Kingsley was clearly a very good photographer,” he said. “He knew all about lighting and focus, about proper exposure, he used high-quality negatives and emulsions ... Of the 200-odd scans I did, there were only a few that were out of focus.” 

He notes that he has scanned old negatives before, though not for a project of this scale: “It was a lot of fun to be part of this, to capture some history right from my own town.” A native of Michigan who’s lived in Hatfield for 10 years, Tomlinson has since discovered, through genealogical research, that he has ancestral ties to some of the town’s earliest families. That made the photo project “even more interesting to me,” he said.    

From Hatfield to Hadley

In a phone interview, Malinowski said his father, Joseph Malinowski Sr., grew up in a house on Prospect Street in Hatfield, one of three houses that his father (Malinowski Jr.’s grandfather) once owned on that street. Joseph Malinowski Sr. later moved to Hadley and, after his father died, he cleaned out the old Hatfield home and moved many of the materials in it to Hadley, probably sometime around 1968.

The glass negatives were part of that transfer, which makes Malinowski wonder if one of the homes on Prospect Street in Hatfield once belonged to Kingsley himself. “That could explain why they were in the house in the first place,” he said.

He’d looked at the negatives a number of times over the years, wondering if they might have some resale value or what he might do with them. Though he didn’t know of Kingsley or see any way specifically to identify most of the images, “I could tell these were from the Pioneer Valley,” he said. “I figured someone would be interested in them.”

He and Hannum eventually decided they’d donate the slides to the Hatfield Historical Museum. “That seemed like a good home for them,” Malinowski said, and Gow says she and the town are grateful for the gift. 

Gow says she’s also hoping the images can draw more attention to Lewis Kingsley, who not only became a popular and respected photographer but also served in Hatfield town government for about 20 years in the early 1900s, first as town clerk and then treasurer, tax collector and in a few other posts. He died in 1925.

In addition, one of his older brothers was Elbridge Kingsley, who became a famous engraver and illustrator in the late 1800s; he won a number of awards for his wood-based art, including a gold medal at the Paris Exposition of 1889.

Outside the Hatfield museum recently, Gow displayed a few of Lewis Kingsley’s photos that show Elbridge at work in, or standing outside, a covered wagon that he used as a kind of mobile studio.

In fact, one of the photos depicts Elbridge Kingsley standing with another man, who Gow and Hannum suspect might be Lewis himself. Trying to confirm that and to discover the settings of other photos should provide some enjoyable detective work down the road, both say.

Next year, Gow hopes the Hatfield museum can put together an exhibit of some of these photos (the museum has been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic). There also could be a virtual exhibit. “We’re really looking forward to sharing this with people,” she said.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.