Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paulson/Swenson Families Historic Photos

It is with GREAT pleasure that SweAme presents this next article.  It is a story about a special Swedish American immigrant family who was fascinated with photography. 

For the PaulPaulson and Anders Swenson families, it was necessary (as it was for the majority of the Swedish immigrants) to work hard on their farms and/or at their city jobs for survival.  But, photography MUST have been a very strong passion for this family. 

A great-granddaughter of Paul and Elina Paulson – Bet Ison - is herself not a stranger to passions.  She seems to tackle major projects that bring life back to everyday items via the older crafts and processes. 

Bet lives with her husband Cecil Ison in Eastern Kentucky.  For a hobby, she has completed many hand stitched quilts using the old fashioned wooden frames.  Her quilting designs are very unique and are very colorful. 

But, this story is not about Bet.  It is about the desire of her ancestors the Paul Paulson family and their Swenson cousins who took a significant number of photographs in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Texas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

We were delighted to receive an email to our SweAme website when Bet had noticed that we had on the website an image of one of her “glass plate” photos.  The photo that she found was taken in Olivia, Calhoun County, Texas.  It was first printed in the original Swedish language Svenskarne I Texas, I Ord Och Bild  book on page 1147, published in 1918.  This photo is of a young couple – Severin Swenson and Emma Wilson who are sitting patently on the seat of an oxen drawn wagon for the photographer.

Bet has uploaded an image of the original “glass plate” of this photo at: Severin Swenson and Emma Wilson.

Think about it, what Bet has here. Some of you can barely remember the cameras that required those little rolls of film that had to be sent off to be developed.   Much less remember or know about the process of taking pictures that were documented on large “glass plates”.  That was even before my time.

Bet Ison is still working hard to scan and document these glass plate photos.  But now that she has a good start and a good process of identifying and preserving these photos, she now wants to share them with the world via the Internet.

In Bet’s words:

Starting about 1893 -- during all those years, those travels, those metamorphosing from Swede to American --- the Paulson family took pictures!!!! And in the end the boxes of the glass plate negatives ended up in my cousin's basement in Minnesota where they lay until one day my cousin said -- "and there are all those negatives -- who knows whats on them -- and it would be too expensive to find out....." and I said -- "I think I can digitize those on my home scanner..." So here I am 450 negatives later with quite an interesting treasure. And the rest of my family is digging up the pictures that were originally made from the negatives and which were sometimes sent as postcards with messages and post dates (and sometimes not.) The glass plates end about 1917 -- about the time of the birth of my mother - when they switched to film negatives.
We truly recognize Bet as an outstanding member of our Swedish American Community.  She is someone who is proud of her past and strongly desires to share her wealth of history as documented in these photos with the remainder of us.  We really appreciate her generosity.

You can view her Blog presentation of the photos that were taken by her ancestors at:

To enjoy future Bet Ison Blog posts, submit your email address on her Blog to receive notification emails when she posts the next photos.

The most important part of this project is the feedback that you can provide.  Yes, I understand most of you will think that you have no chance of being able to offer any input on her historic photos.  But, you may know more than you think you do.  You might recognize and see similarities in some of your own historic photos.  Maybe not exact locations, but you might be able to offer a comment to Bet that will lead to a better understanding of what LIFE as protrayed in these photos was Really like.  How was it “down on the farm” 100 years ago for our Swedish immigrants?  I am sure that these photos will cause all of us to react in some way or another.   So, don’t be SHY.  Enlarge and study each photo and offer your comments and/or questions to Bet to help her work through this process of understanding the reasons that these particular images were so important to take in the first place.

Finest regards,
David Borg


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for putting my new blog in the spotlight, David. The SweAme website has been absolutely key in my researching of these pictures. Especially - the "Swedes in Texas" book which put me firmly on the trail of information about Olivia Colony Texas and its residents. I've referred to it over and over for background information and for the pictures that have allowed me to identify many of the people in my own photos and find out about their histories and lives. The family trees attached to this information on your site has also been super important. Thanks so much to you and all the others who are building this Great resource! -- Bet Ison