Cirkut Maximus: The Capitol Photo Service Collection Progress Report II

Along with thousands of panoramic images, donors Mark and Douglas Segal contributed their father's massive Cirkut camera to the Society's collection.

Along with thousands of panoramic images, donors Mark and Douglas Segal contributed their father’s massive Cirkut camera to the Society’s collection.

The Capitol Photo Service Collection (SP 114) consists of several thousand oversized photographs of local business, organization, school, political, and other groups in locally significant settings, both indoors and outdoors, from 1957 to 2000. Since this spring, HSW interns have been hard at work towards making this collection accessible for researchers; this is Part II of a series of posts regarding their efforts. (Here’s Part I).

Guest post by Society intern, University of Maryland graduate student Emily Keithley:

Besides the wonderful photographs themselves, the Capitol Photo Service collection also consists of a rich body of supporting materials such as photographer job books, cameras, display images, and official badges.  We took a look at the supplementary material as part of the inventory process and were able to incorporate several items into the current display in the Kiplinger Research Library.

Thanks to numerous conventions and high school proms, the Capitol Photo Service was a familiar sight at the Shoreham Hotel.

Thanks to numerous conventions and high school proms, the Capitol Photo Service was a familiar sight at the Shoreham Hotel.

Capitol Photo Service’s job books were vital during the initial inventorying process. These ledgers document the photographic shoots, which were assigned unique identifiers, called job numbers. When photographs had illegible job numbers, the job books allowed the HSW interns to do some detective work and determine the proper job number from the corresponding notes about the shoot. Likewise, the books could often fill in missing information such as subject or exact date.

The donation included several pieces of camera equipment. All hail the Cirkut Panoramic Camera, which produced the oversized photographs in the Capitol Photo Service collection!The Cirkut was able to capture an incredible amount of detail, from majestic views of the National Mall to each individual face in Howard University’s yearly commencement ceremonies.

Manufactured by the Rochester Panoramic Camera Company starting in 1905, there were many models of this camera, including No. 5, No. 6, No. 8, No. 10, and No. 16; each iteration was named after the maximum width of the film (in inches) the camera could accept. To learn more about this ingenious type of camera, watch this video.

The collection included images created for display and sales purposes, including mounted prints and numerous framed ones, as seen here.

The collection included images created for display and sales purposes, including mounted prints and numerous framed ones, as seen here.

The display images are another fascinating aspect of this collection. These framed and mounted images depict particularly high profile D.C. events shot by Capitol Photo Service such as President Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration in 1985. Other display images are reprints from older photography firms bought out by Capitol Photo Service, such as the photograph capturing the Inter-Allied Games of 1919 in Vincennes, France. On a more sentimental note, one display image is of Sarah and Mark Segal’s 1993 wedding nuptials, which proves that taking work home with you isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Capitol Photo Service covered Presidential elections, religious conventions, high school reunions, and numerous events at the Sheraton-Park Hotel. While based in Washington, his company also covered events outside the metro area, including a 1985 AFL-CIO convention in Toronto, Canada. Ed Segal’s badges for several clients were included in the collection donation, along with business cards.

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Charlotte Gedney's Gravatar Charlotte Gedney
    November 20, 2014    

    My father, Plater T Gedney was a Washington, DC realtor with Koons and Montgomery in the 1950-1960’s. I have about 250 to 300 real estate appraisals of Southwest DC with photos, prices and owners that I assume relinquished the properties for development of SW DC. The rents are about 50 bucks, the prices under 10 grand and the toilets are in the backyard! I find this collection fascinating and I would like to donate to the National Historical Society. My great grand father on my maternal grandmothers side was Colonel John Tayloe of the Octagon House. My uncles, Charles and Walter Gedney were etchers and engravers employed by the Bureau of Engraving in the 1800’s. The collection fills a plastic 10 gallon tub. I sent my negatives and photos to scan digital but I cannot afford to preserve this collection with scan digital. I estimate that the cost could exceed 3000 dollars. This would make a good dissertation on development for a grad student or intern I think…….