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Exhibition Catalogue, 1976
Arthur Trory's photographic prints, negatives, albums, diaries, newsclippings and camera equipment reflect a life-long passion for photography. Central are the prints taken by Trory over a period of seventy-eight years and those by other photographers, both amateur and professional, which he collected. The substantial number of prints includes tin types, albumen, blueprints, color images, and Polaroid varying in size from 4x3cm to 29x24 cm. Additional prints from the family are being received.
The Arthur J. Trory Collection is housed in the American History Research Center of the Kent State University Library under the direction of Dr. Leslie Stegh.* All of the prints are fragile and irreplaceable; many suffer from fading or are brittle with age. The primary objective of the Center is to preserve the precious originals and make their contents available in a usable form. Each print is stored in an acid-free folder to retard deterioration. Study prints like those in the exhibition are being made from selected prints and negatives. A variety of visual reference systems are under investigation.
Prints are being catalogued, or grouped together, by subject since few bear identifying information such as time and place of origin. By comparing prints, important relationships have become apparent for dating and determining some subjects. This method also has aided inquiry into which prints are by Trory. Diaries, scrapbooks, letters, newsclippings, family and local residents have helped to supplement the knowledge drawn from Trory's notes.
The cataloguing process has been an opportunity to view and begin evaluating Trory's photographic activity as a whole; from this, interesting profiles of the man, his photography, and Kent have emerged. Overall, Trory's prints are the record of a serious amateur. It is probable that this amateur aspect allowed Trory greater freedom than professional associates to develop his own ideas in subject matter and technique. There is a spontaneity and general good cheer about the prints that must have come from Trory's personality.
Prints by Trory preserved in the Collection begin around 1896 and continue until his death in 1967. The first thirty-one years are the concern of the report and exhibition. During this period, Trory works primarily with his Graflex camera and it is in these years that the formative periods of both the man and Kent are seen.
The scope of subject matter is highly personal. In Trory's photography there is all the vitality, enthusiasm and optimism that must have seemed present in the free enterprise system of turn-of-the-century America. Prints of his family, friends and associates especially reflect this view of life. Factories, the poor, the exotic have brought fame to other amateurs. Art Trory focuses on life in the drugstore, gatherings of the Riverside Cycle Club, college days, parades, reunions and other everyday genre. His landscapes are usually cityscapes, documenting the growth and changing skyline of Kent. Pure landscapes are rare: usually framing a picnic or a Sunday boating party. Often his results are beautifully lyrical.
Both university and community are fortunate that Betty Trory McCormick generously made available her father's valuable record of modern age photography. It is hoped that the importance of materials and documents relating to this Collection, and to others like it, will be recognized and preserved for the future.
* Web Editor's Note: The Arthur J. Trory Photograph Collection is now housed in the Kent State University Special Collections and Archives.
Modern photographic history can be followed through negatives by Art Trory. Along with other amateurs, Trory utilized the new Dry Plate Process introduced in 1879. 1 Found in the Trory Collection are glass plate negatives 1-½x2-½, 4x4, 5x7 and several odd sizes; 5x7 sheet film; and a variety of roll films such as 116, 126, 127, 620, 828, 35mm and 8mm.
On the glass plates one can discern oxidation or where the emulsion is beginning to silver and to pit in places. Emulsion on some is chipped. A few plates are broken. The majority of Trory's gelatin negatives are on nitrate film, made prior to the 1940's. More recent negatives are on safety film. Increasing age has made the nitrate compound volatile.2 Copy negatives will have to be made from these. Preservation plans include duplication of other damaged or deteriorating negatives.
Trory fortunately packaged some negatives according to subject and date. This has been a great asset in attempting to arrange the Collection in its proper sequence. However, not all packaged negatives bear Trory's handwriting. This raises a question of attribution: do these represent the work of other photographers. Until this is resolved, a true Art Trory style cannot be ascertained.
Most importantly, the negatives provide information on non-surviving prints and allow for the reproduction of those that are deteriorating. They are essential for establishing the broader scope of the Collection and in effectively analyzing Trory's oeuvre. Art Trory's negatives take us from the carriage and streetcar days of the 1890's to the beginnings of the space age in the 1960's.
* Web Editor's note: For the processed negative collection, please see the collection Inventory under Section 9: Negative Collection, or go directly to the Negative Collection's People, Places, or Things.
In order to properly assess the Trory Collection and the work of Art Trory in particular, it is necessary to become familiar with the photographic equipment that was used. Although only five cameras belong to the Collection, twenty-two others have been made available for study. Along with the great variety of cameras there is an Amateur Kodak Enlarger and an amateur printer.
The button camera made in 1886 was introduced mainly for the amateur market. This intriguing silvery disc approximately 6 inches in diameter was worn under a vest and activated by a string worn down the sleeve.3 It could not be determined whether Art Trory ever used the 1889 model in his collection, but perhaps this unique device sparked an interest in photography that was to last for over seventy years.
Art Trory had several models of field cameras including the 4x5 and 5x7; however, according to Betty Trory McCormick, his daughter, his prized possession was the Graflex which he bought on time for over $100. The Graflex had many fine features that made this camera the choice of professionals. Perhaps his association with some local professional photographers influenced his purchase.
Like his two brothers, Fred and Charles, Trory became a pharmacist. One of the prime locations for amateur photographic equipment was a drugstore. Art Trory was exposed to the newest amateur cameras and supplies all of his life. He constantly tried many different models, collecting some of his preference such as a Brownie Box 2A, No. I Pocket Kodak, a stereo vision camera, Spartus "35", the Polaroid Land Camera, and 8mm movie camera.
These cameras and equipment span the years 1889 through ca.1960. It is expected that study of this equipment when completed will aid in the identification of prints and negatives taken by Trory.
1Robert Taft, Photography and the American Scene: A Social History, 1839-1889 (Dover Pub., Inc., 1938), pp.380-382.
2Kodak Tech Bits 76-2, Kodak Publications No. P-3 (Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, 7-76-DX).
3Taft, p. 377.
4Kent Courier, March 28, 1913.
5Ibid., April 4, 1913.
6Karl H. Grismer, The History of Kent (The Courier-Tribune, Kent, Ohio, 1932), pp. 100-101.
7Kent Courier, March 28, 1913.
8Kent Courier, June 3, 1904.
9Grismer, p. 70.
10Dorothy Parsons, "The Middle Years," The Stately Mansions: A History of the United Church of Christ of Kent, ed. James N. Holm, (Privately printed for the 150th Anniversary of the United Church of Christ, Kent, Ohio, June 18, 1969), p. 87.
11Portage Heritage: History of an Ohio County 1867-1951, ed. James B. Holm, assistant editor, Lucille Dudley, (Portage County Historical Society, 1957), p. 332.
12Record-Courier, July 25, 1963.
13Ravenna, Republican, October 30, 1889.
14Kent Courier, November 9, 1899.
15Record-Courier, July 25, 1963.
16Kent Courier, October 11, 1912.
17Ibid., January 24, 1913.
18Ibid., November 23, 1912.