I know that this is a photograph I have used on the blog before, but when I used it last, I converted it into a rather cold grey-scale image. So today I thought I would use it again, but in all its sepia glory. It shows my paternal grandfather Enoch Burnett, with his donkey and cart and his set of ladders in the early 1900s. I am not sure of the exact date : the inscription on the cart proudly declares that the business was "Established 1906" and the photograph was certainly taken before the Great War. I have written about Enoch before (see A Family Six Pack Part 2 : Enoch Burnett). He was the stuff of family legends: the one member of the family of whom tales were told long after he had died (in 1950). During the summer he worked as a window cleaner and during the winter - when the weather was bad and people in Bradford weren't bothered if they could see out of their windows or not - he traded as a watch and clock repairer. Although I cannot remember meeting Enoch (I was only two years old when he died), I can remember visiting my grandmother and discovering, in her little back-to-back house in Bradford, a treasure house of old long-case clocks - presumably goods brought in for repair and never collected.
The picture is one of my favourite family photographs and I don't need too much of an excuse to dust it off and bring it out again : but the excuse is that I wanted to repeat the short description of the sepia toning process I gave when we first started Sepia Saturday. The term "sepia" was originally given to a brown pigment used by artists which was derived from the ink sack of the Common European Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). When, in the late nineteenth century, a chemical process was developed which converted any remaining metallic silver in photographic prints, to a sulphide - which is much more resistant to breakdown over time and which produced a brown-grey tone - it was called sepia toning. Sepia prints are more resistant to fading and chemical decomposition which is why most of the early prints we can still see are sepia toned ones. By the second decade of the twentieth century, photographic processing had advanced and chemicals were available which could reduce the amount of fading for normal grey-scale prints and sepia toning was used less and less. Eventually it became a specialist technique used to make photographs appear old rather than to preserve them.
Your photographs don't have to be in sepia to become part of the Sepia Saturday project : just old and soaked in memories. To see other sepia posts this week, go over to the Sepia Saturday blog. Sepia Saturday will return on Saturday April 10th.
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I must have missed this wonderful photo of your Pop and co-worker first time around. It is a keeper. I do love the lore of the cuttlefish...but their name, to me, makes them sound like they are so darn hard to catch! -J
hah WV -stingie
Great photo! (I have a soft spot for donkeys.) And thanks for the information about sepia-- I had no idea!ReplyDelete
There must be some strong DNA in your paternal line; the family resemblance between your grandfather and you is striking!ReplyDelete
Great post, Alan.
Alan,This May Seem A Daft Question, but Was this the same for old movies? Or had the photographic processing advanced enough by the time Mr Chaplin & Co strutted their stuff?ReplyDelete
what an incredible photo. love, love, love it!!!!!ReplyDelete
It's interesting that your paternal grandfather was from Bradford...my maternal grandmother grew up in Bradford, Alabama. The photo of your grandfather reminds me of my grandmother's father...they would have been contemporaries. He was a farmer.ReplyDelete
Are you sure this isn't you playing the part of a window cleaner. Talk about a resemblance!ReplyDelete
Interesting explanation of sepia toning. Saturdays are becoming quite and education. Unmissable.
Absolutely wonderful. Are you going to tell us some of the tales of Enoch? I very much enjoyed learning about sepia toning too. I saw cuttlefish in your title and wondered where that was coming in.ReplyDelete
Neat picture and a lesson about sepia at the same time. I love this photo.ReplyDelete
Alan, I wanted to tell you that although I can't participate every week I am truly enjoying the Sepia Saturday experience.ReplyDelete
There's an extremely interesting range of posts. I'm learning a lot (as in your post) and I'm enjoying the historical memories.
Happy Sepia Saturday
Evelyn in Montreal
I second what Southwest Arkie said. Also, it's Enoch in the ale poster, right? lol!ReplyDelete
Enoch looks quite proud of his donkey and cart. I love that his name is painted on the front!ReplyDelete
Interesting background on sepia tone prints, Alan.
I would think that taking care of the donkey, the cart and all those ladders would of made for a challenging job.ReplyDelete
And you know most of his customers would tell him about any streakas or spots he missed.
He does seem to be very proud in this photo - I hope it was not as hard a job as I imagine
I loved learning more about the process of sepia! The donkeys are great...this is one of my favorites so far!ReplyDelete
Great story behind the photo, and thanks for the informative bit on sepia toning! Didn't know that!ReplyDelete
Oh, such a great photo, and so much information in this little post - thanks! I'm enjoying my first Sepia Saturday - what fun!ReplyDelete
Call me now educated in the sepia department. Especially the part about the fading. Difficult to redo old black 'n white photos ,wot? I remembered the photo ( and of course the story, heh, heh...)Ta Alan :)ReplyDelete
Such a wonderful photo. It always strikes me how simple, everyday labor from the times of our parents/grandparents and great grandparents took so much more effort than it does today. I cringe when I hear the young complain about things breaking down or needing to be replaced. My Father was from an era where you took care of what you had, fixed it when it needed fixing and treated it as if it needed to last a lifetime, cause it did. Your photo depicts to me this same survival attitude. Enjoyed the info on sepia...always wondered why they last so long and our Kodak memories fade!ReplyDelete
Boy, do I feel stupid. I never thought to come here to read YOUR Sepia Saturday post. I always read the one on the Sepia Saturday page and have been missing this one. I've got some catching-up to do.ReplyDelete
Very interesting about the sepia process and about your grandfather
Thanks for visiting my blog. I love the donkey cart! I used sepia ink in drawing before sepia toning in photography. I heard that you could boil down old black walnut shells to produce sepia ink. I used to teach very basic black and white silver process photography to high schoolers. We had a sepia toner that came in a bottle. It smelled like rotten eggs!ReplyDelete
sorry i missed this last week! this is a great photo. I often wish I knew more about what the ancestors in my photos did in their every day lives - this is a great glimpseReplyDelete
This photo could be sold and framed to be put in many homes...a photo of interest...it is so charming. The wagon...your grandfather...the donkey.ReplyDelete
Enoch...such an old and interesting name too.
Oh my, another donkey post!ReplyDelete
Love the little donkey. There are two donkeys in a field that I pass every time I drive to and from town. I think I would be heartbroken if they were ever not there anymore.ReplyDelete
I am glad you "re-ran" this photo; very interesting. I had never before known this history of sepia, so I enjoyed that too. Enoch sounds quite enterprising.ReplyDelete
What a wonderful idea for a blog! Just as sepia reduces the resistence to fading and loss, sharing the personal stories behind our old photographs, will help to accomplish the same thing.ReplyDelete
It's a wonderful photo and interesting information. I couldn't help but notice your uncle is quite tall...unusual for that era. A wonderful keepsake..ReplyDelete
Sorry, I don't know where I got Uncle from...your grandfather..ReplyDelete
Alan, this is a fabulous photo and well worth posting again in all its sepia glory!ReplyDelete
A wonderful photo, and a fascinating and informative post. I am thrilled to now know the source and meaning of the word sepia beyond the color itself, thank you!ReplyDelete
Wonderful photo of your grandfather, Alan! Of course, I cannot help but instantly be put in mind of the great George Formby's famous song, what with the window-cleaning job.ReplyDelete
what sweet memories your post brings.ReplyDelete
I so enjoyed learning about Enoch and sepia. You are fortunate to have such evidence of your ancestral past. My farmer ancestors apparently were not able to partake of photography. Thanks for this post.ReplyDelete
I was interested to learn of the sepia process. I loved to see that your grandfather is wearing his fob watch as he goes about cleaning windows. Watches and clocks were obviously valued by him.
Like the old sepia soaked memories. What stories that photo tellsReplyDelete