Boston: Self published, 1902. Collection of eight original dry plate glass negatives featuring images of Boston and New York area trolleys, circa 1902-1914 but developed shortly after, shot and struck by photographer Paul W. Rowell, with his last name in holograph pencil on a few of the accompanying manila envelopes. Each slide with identifying annotations etched prior to development, and housed in original manila envelope, with “No.,” “Name,” and “Remarks” printed on one side, most of these sections filled with annotations and dates in holograph pencil, three with “Trolley Interior” in holograph red ink.
Little is known of Rowell, but he was advertising his services in New York photography publications as late as 1884, and moved to Massachusetts a decade later. Aside from his photography he was an accomplished painter, and his paintings have turned up at auction while his photography remains mostly unknown. Here, his steadfast vision of a trolley is presented almost always in glowing natural light, with passengers in boater and bowler hats, women in bonnets, and some faces intentionally blurred. Interiors of empty cars and exterior profiles, ads for beauty products, food, tobacco, furniture, and magazine companies with New York street addresses line the cars’ interiors. Other shots feature empty railcars and a line of school children boarding a “Special Car” with “City Point South Boston” signs along the roof.
The Boston Elevated Railway began in 1894, about the time Rowell was a city official in Salem, and his fascination with the then burgeoning electronic railway system is evident in these slides.
Each slide 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm), 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) thick, one side matte with the developed negative. Plates are in extraordinary condition, with a few tiny chips at the edges, all told about Near Fine, each slide in its original separate protective envelope.