Maplewood History: Photoshop in the Service of Historic Preservation

After I retired at the end of 2001, I helped some folks start the Maplewood Historical Society. One of our first projects was making enlargements of some of the historic photographs in our library’s collection and displaying them in a then empty storefront on Sutton. To save money we made the enlargements on Kinko’s copy machine.  Worked pretty good too.

Some of the first old timers I talked to were Elmer Wind Jr. of EJ Tire (on and in the Wedge) and Alan Blood of the Maplewood Mill. Both men had many old photos they generously allowed me to copy and use to promote our town’s heritage. From there I went to our library and with direction from the very able Kathy Whipple at the Chamber, I scanned much of the library’s collection of historic photos.

In December 2005 I bought my wife a small digital camera. I had a much trusted and loved Nikon F3 I’d used for 22 years. Definitely long in the tooth. It didn’t even have autofocus. The new digital camera came with a small photo editing program. I began experimenting with the new camera and its software. I hate to admit it but I never picked up that Nikon again. I even had eight rolls of Kodachrome with the mailers that went bad.

Local photographers Steve Maulin and Doug Smith got me hooked when they showed me some of the things possible with a full blown version of Adobe Photoshop. In the fall of 2006 I signed up for a semester of Photoshop at Meramec and wound up staying for two.

As one might imagine many of the historic photographs I post need some serious help before they’re ready for the world. These days I use a FujiFilm XT-1 or sometimes my Galaxy 7 phone to capture the photos and documents wherever I find them. Lately most of the finds are coming from readers of my blog.

I lay the photos out, usually photograph them using natural light and ignoring whatever angle I have to use to reduce the glare. With Photoshop I straighten them, adjust the exposure and crop (yes, crop) some of them. I may also do some minor repairs to make them more presentable. There are better ways to copy photographs. A high resolution scanner is one but I don’t have the time.

What follows are the afters and befores of some of the images I’ve doctored.  I’ll lead with the “after” because you might be surprised when you see what I started with.

This photograph of the 1840 something painting of the Maplewood area pioneer, Charles Rannells, was one of the first images I adjusted. My Canon camera came with some photo editing software called Arcsoft, I think. It worked well enough to get me hooked.

The prior image unadjusted. Restoration of a painting such as this is very expensive. It can be done, of course, but typically runs into many thousands of dollars. This image is courtesy of Greg Rannells.

This early photo of our familiar and popular turreted building at Sutton and Hazel didn’t need much adjustment.  Judging by the cars I’d guess the date of this image to be early to mid 1930’s. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

The original was just a bit cockeyed. This is very common with older photos and extremely easy to correct.

Here we have a very early and interesting photo of the Sutton Loop Depot (Called the Maplewood Loop in those days).  The buildings in the rear on Maple are all still there.  Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Sometimes I will crop a photograph in this manner for display on my blog. The space is a bit limited and not much content of any importance of the original was sacrificed.

This image is of many members of the Sutton family standing in their yard in front of their mansion. The mansion was located about where Dobb’s Tire is today. The view is to the NE. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Repairs like this can take a little while but are fairly easy to accomplish.  With an historic photo I think one should be careful not to over restore them.

Now here is an image I like a great deal. It is of the Empire Supply Company. Opened in 1931 and still in business in the 7200 block of Manchester.  I love that sign and would love to see it brought back.  Also this is a photo where ordinarily I could get away with cropping most of the street at the bottom.  But look closely.  In the bottom left hand corner is only the headlight and trim ring of an automobile.  I’m guessing that that headlight was once connected to a late 1950’s car.  It looks a lot like it could have been on a 1958 Chevrolet but I believe other cars as well had similar headlights.  This one detail that could easily be lost by cropping effectively dates this otherwise nearly undatable photograph.  Courtesy of Mr. Loomstein, the owner of Empire Supply Co.

This is the image that I took the previous one from. The lower photograph is of the Loomstein family. I have temporarily and embarrassingly lost my notes on them for the moment. As soon as I find them I’ll post just exactly who those folks were and are in the case of the youngest. Courtesy of Mr. Loomstein.

17 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Photoshop in the Service of Historic Preservation

  1. Any old photos of 3400 block of commonwealth would be of great interest to me. Let me know if I can search through the archives. Thanks. -marc

    • Off the top of my head I can’t think of any, Marc. If I should discover any I’ll forward them to you. My collection of digital images contains less of the residences than one might think. I have seen most but not all of the Maplewood public libraries collection. I focused on the old photographs mainly and the slides collected by the Renaissance Society. You might possibly find something in their newspaper clippings but there is nothing that I could direct you to specifically. Sorry.

  2. Doug, I enjoyed your photo re-do’s….excellent editing. It really does make a difference to the viewers.
    Thanks, Nora Cahill

    • You are welcome, Nora. Thanks for your compliment and feedback. They are much appreciated.

  3. Photoshop and a scanner are your friend. I have some photos from my days in Maplewood, where would I email them after I scan and PS them?

    • Hi Don, My apologies I hadn’t noticed your comment. I may be interested. What sort of photos are they? My main interest is photographs of people and places in Maplewood. The older the better. I’ll be very picky about ones taken in say the 1980’s or more recent than that. But it all depends on the subject and the content. You can contact me at dkhouser@gmail.com. Your name is triggering something in my dim memory. Have you already given some copies of the train depot to our old historical society? I look forward to hearing from you.

  4. I know Gary was having a little trouble with the interface here. If I can figure out how I’ll delete his duplicate comment. Editor Miner if you read this it means I haven’t figured it out. Send it into cyberspace, will ya? Thanks.

  5. Doug, don’t forget about the large archive at the Baptist Church, also the para normal surrounding Canterbury and Tennyson area, Gary

    • Gary, If I had known about the large archive at the Baptist Church, I had forgotten it. Thank you for reminding me. I think the paranormal happenings that you refer to deserve more investigation. I don’t think a community can have too many ghosts. I may be naive to say that. Thanks for your comments. I always appreciate them.

  6. Very interesting, as always! Thank you, Doug. I find it funny that you really got going with a gift from you to your wife! lol

    • Things happen in a round about way sometimes. You are welcome, Pat. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Excellent attitude toward the using Photoshop to preserve, not alter history, Doug. I might have left the foreground in the Sutton Loop Shot as it contains information about the lack of development near it. Just my preference. As for copying photos without a scanner, I think it is sometimes the preferred method. The scanner light can, in some cases, be a bit like flash on camera for some originals. I have a fairly high end scanner and frequently opt for the camera copy for certain prints.

    In my opinion, you are making all the right decisions and doing an invaluable service for Maplewood. I do hope you are appreciated now and in the future.

    • I agree, Doug, more of the foreground would be informative in the Sutton Loop picture. Also thanks for the information on using the camera to copy these images. That makes me feel better.
      I have created an historical data bank that very few communities the size of Maplewood have. I have 35+ gigs of mostly historic photos and documents related to Maplewood. It is stunning the amount that is still out there. Most of it is still waiting to be discovered in boxes in basements and attics and by researchers in the data banks of our libraries and various archives. At irregular intervals I copy everything and stash it around town with the instructions that should anything happen to me take it straight to the library. A couple months ago I gave a copy to my neighbor who works at the Missouri Historical Society. The Maplewood Public Library has a large amount that I have given to them on DVD’s. They are planning on putting much of it online. When they do I’ll be glad to advise them however I can.
      The work will survive me and I do feel good about that. This is the most rewarding endeavor I have ever undertaken. Many folks like yourself tell me how much it means to them. I thank you and them for that.

  8. .
    Re; Empire Hardware picture, I remember that we still had parking meters back then. I used to like to kid with the owner, Bob Loomstein, by referring to it as “Vampire Hardware”. Bob had a good sense of humor and would have a quick comeback remark.

    • Thanks for your recollection, Tom. Vampire Hardware has a nice sound to it. I wonder if anyone has tried it.