WorcesterThen: 1895



A treasure trove of black and white photographs of Worcester about 1894-95:  Elbridge Kingsley and Frederick Knab, Picturesque Worcester, published in 1895 (163 pages, 11 by 13 inches). Part 1 (of three on Worcester County), features approximately 485 photos taken in Worcester, some of which are and will be used in WorcesterThen.  The volume also includes 100-plus photos taken in towns around the city.

The book has long been out of print and is in the public domain, but reprint editions can be found

online for moderate prices.  Not having seen any of them, I can not say how well the photographs have been reproduced, and without the pictures the book’s value is considerably diminished.  In defense of its narrative content, however, some sections are well done in the traditional sense of history as a record of events, organizations, institutions, businesses, people, buildings, etc.



The cover page inside.  By modern standards and contemporary uses of such books, this one is badly organized.  It rambles from topic to topic, with only minimal sense of geographic consistency, and it has no real table of contents – just an alphabetized list of subjects in the back of the book.  The authors do not say where the photographs came from, so it is assumed that they took the pictures themselves.  Accordingly, photographs from the book used here are said to be from Kingsley & Knab, and are assumed to have been taken in the early 1890s, probably about 1894.

This page gives evidence of the general plan and orientation of the company, W. F Adams of Springfield, to produce and publish such “coffee table” books, as they might now be called, for various places around New England, and a couple of other areas as well.  Worcester County and the western part of the state fared best in their plan, at least by 1895.  Whether they went on to produce other such volumes is unknown.

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Don Chamberlayne, 2016