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Twelve-foot Panoramic Photo of Alamo Plaza in 1935

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472.     [PHOTOGRAPHY]. [SAN ANTONIO: ALAMO PLAZA]. [GOLDBECK, EUGENE OMAR]. DUPREE, H.L., Jr. Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, Tex. [at lower center, with scroll decorations] H.L. DuPree, Jr., Photo No. 3127-C, National Photo & News Service, San Antonio, TX [at lower right, within outline map of United States]. Gelatin silver print, 81.3 x 359.3 cm (32 x 141.46 inches), on two sheets (approximately 4 and 8 feet respectively) joined with museum tape and backed with smaller sheets of thin paper. San Antonio: National Photo & News Service, n.d. [1935]. Approximately 4 x 1.5 inch abrasion to lower right of caption, including small hole in image, narrow area of vertical scratches approximately 16 inches high, 2 inch tear in lower left margin, a few other small tears, abrasions, marks, and stains to image. Despite the few flaws, a very good copy of a remarkable survival of a large and fragile artifact. Excellent exhibit item.

This stunning panoramic view shows the Alamo Plaza area from the west, with the center of the photo looking to the east up Crockett Street. Major buildings visible include (from left to right) the old Post Office, the San Antonio Express News, the Medical Arts building, the Alamo, the Crockett Hotel, the Menger hotel, and Joske’s department store. Two other negatives in this series, 3127-A and B, taken at the same place and time, are in the collections of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin in a box with a penciled date of “2/7/35.” The photograph can also be approximately dated by the presence of the old post office building, replaced between 1935 and 1937 by the current post office and courthouse, and what may be tentatively identified as a 1935 Ford automobile just above the center caption.

The National Photo Service was founded in 1921 by Eugene Omar Goldbeck, a native of San Antonio and specialist in panoramic photography and images of large military groups. The company was renamed the National Photo & News Service during the 1930s (Handbook of Texas Online: Eugene Omar Goldbeck). H.L. Dupree, Jr., the photographer who captured this image, was probably in the employ of Goldbeck’s firm when the picture was taken, due to the presence of his name within the National Photo & News Service stamp at the lower right corner of the image (Roy Flukinger, personal communication).

 Clyde W. Burleson & Jessica Hickman, The Panoramic Photography of Eugene O. Goldbeck (Austin: University of Texas Press, [1986]), p. 101):

Most of Goldbeck’s photographs were produced as contact prints using the large negatives from his Cirkut panoramic cameras, but his studio also had the capability to produce enlargements of staggering size. The enlarger has taken a seat of honor in modern darkrooms. In Goldbeck’s installation, the enlarger was a seldom-used piece of equipment. When it was called upon, the results were overwhelming. Seeking a unique exhibit for the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, he hit upon the idea of producing the world’s biggest photograph. To do this required an enlarger arranged to project horizontally onto a square of white wallboard. He took a panoramic negative of the skyline of San Antonio and fed one end into a custom-made reel, which wound it past a light source and projected it several times larger in size. The negative reel was linked through a series of gears to a huge roll of printing paper which was pulled across the object board in synchronization with the unwinding of the negative. When he was set, he hand-cranked the control unit; the negative spooled past the lens and was projected onto the unrolling paper at a rate judged to make a proper exposure; and the job was done.

Speaking of this unique enlarger, Goldbeck noted, “I should have asked for a patent on the device,” but it was “one of many ideas I built to do a job.” The result, after processing, was a 52-foot long picture, 50 inches high. It proved to be a money-making crowd pleaser.

Another of Goldbeck’s innovations, which he did patent, was an adjustable wedge which allowed the panoramic photographer to shoot down from a height, as in the present example (U.S. Patent number 1,787,309, “Photographic Apparatus,” filed April 16, 1929). Although Goldbeck died in 1986, the Goldbeck Company continues to operate in San Antonio, specializing in panoramic photographs of school groups.


Sold. Hammer: $4,500.00; Price Realized: $5,400.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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