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Picture This

Seattle Times photographers offer a glimpse into what inspires their best visual reporting.

October 22, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Introducing 'Postcards from the past'


Eastern Washington wheat harvest, undated.

In the basement of the former Seattle Times building, rows and rows of file cabinets housed more than 75 years of negatives. Open a file and thousands of assignments were organized in small brown envelopes. Cursive writing in faded pencil described the basics of journalism: who, what, when and where.

If it's possible to have an at-work hobby, mine is digging through The Seattle Times Archive. Since 2005, I have scanned more than 500 images into our digital archive, one at a time. Our complete archives contain literally millions of images in negative, print, and digital formats.

I never know what I am going to find while I am mining through history. "Postcards from the past" a place where I'll be sharing these long-ago images with you. As a 5th generation Washingtonian, I love to imagine ancestors from my family tree participating in similar scenes.

The image of a horse-drawn wheat harvest is my favorite find so far. It's an undated image, made on a glass negative. I think that's why I like it so much. Dry-plate glass negatives were most common from 1880 to 1910. Another glass negative I discovered was from 1931, so it's possible the photographer was using a vintage (for his time) medium, just as our photographers today sometimes choose to shoot assignments on film.

Over the years some of the images were used in stories, or made available for purchase in a historical gallery. But the majority have remained forgotten in our archives.

Until now.

Postcards from the past is an occasional feature, highlighting images from The Seattle Times historical archive.

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