Historical Photographs on Fold3
A number of historically significant images can be found in these collections.
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A list of photo collections available on Fold3, with links to each title page, is below.
Also, on this description page, you'll find:
Historical photos featured on Fold3
by Maureen Taylor
A popular proverb proclaims that a single picture is worth a thousand words, but can you imagine the worth of the stories in a picture collection? Immeasurable. The value of an image extends beyond its ability to generate word count. As social history documents, photographs let us peek into the past whether they were taken a few minutes ago or decades earlier. Each is a freeze frame of a historical moment in all its complex aspects, from family history to political events.
For instance, in this photograph of Clark Gable as an Air Force officer, there are several levels of meaning. It’s just one photo in a collection that documents the activities of the United States Air Force during World War II. The photographer wasn’t capturing an image of a Hollywood personality, but of Gable as an ordinary member of a flight crew. His fame was lost in the greater story being told—not of a man, but of a crew and its mission. Yet, within this photographic moment there is an element of family history. Each of those men—Gable included—had relatives hoping for their safe return. The names of the individual men have been added to this public picture adding depth to the historical meaning of the photo.
Titles within the historical photograph collection
- Calvin Coolidge, 1917-1943
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1913-1945
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1943-1961
- Harry S Truman 1885-1953
Military and wartime
- Mathew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs
- Ardelia Hall Collection: Wiesbaden Photographs
- World War II U.S. Air Force Photos
- Photographs of Japanese Soldiers and of Allied Prisoners of War, 1942-1945
- Photographs of Marine Corps Activities in Vietnam, 1962-1975 (Color)
- Photographs of Marine Corps Activities in Vietnam, 1962-1975 (B/W)
- Photographs of U.S. Army Operations in Vietnam, 1963-1973
Mathew B. Brady and the Civil War
Mathew Brady and a team of photographers sought to photographically capture an essence of the Civil War. A staggering 5,600 pictures present viewers with a sense of the war and its aftermath. Gazing at these images creates a historical context in which to view our ancestors who lived in the same time period. For example, clothing and settings let us see individuals in terms of the past, while photographs of Fort Johnson in South Carolina offer insights into the written descriptions, left by men of their battlefield experiences, by showing us the actual scene. During the Civil War, photography was only a couple decades old and images largely consisted of family portraits. Brady became famous because his images documented the war, represented the reality of the conflict, and brought it into American parlors.
(More about the Mathew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs may be found here.)
Adjust the image
Fold3’s handy and simple to use image-enhancement tool allows users to improve the brightness and contrast of a digital image. Look for the sun in the toolbar above an image and click it. Even if you’ve never edited a photo before, you’ll quickly be able to use it. Slide one of the bars up and down and watch how the image (picture or document) changes. Then try the other bar. I tried it on a photograph of the Honorable James Nye (B2879) in the Brady Collection. The picture seems clearer when you slightly increase the contrast and decrease the brightness. Try it yourself and see! Check the invert box to reverse a document from positive to negative. This often increases readability.
More about image adjustment on Fold3 is in this May 8th entry in the Fold3 Blog.
Using the photo collections
Search within the historical photo collections by a specific ancestor’s name. It may be listed in the caption or annotated by a Fold3 member. You may discover previously unknown images of your family. Browse the collection by time period to gain a sense of the world events through which your ancestors lived.
Recognizing one of your ancestors in an image is an opportunity for you to interact with the past by telling the story of their lives in a Fold3 story page. Attaching the story page to the digital image broadens the depth and breadth of the history embodied in a single picture, making it worth more than a thousand words.
About the contributor