The Great Snowball Fight of 1916 — (Maybe)!

This month’s image is an enlarged detail from a glass plate negative, measuring 4 by 5 inches, that came tucked in a strip of folded scrap paper with the handwritten title “School children at play.” It was included in a box with 37 other negatives, a list of titles, and stored in the Snohomish Historical Society Archives with no other information. The image of the Gorham home and family, shared with you last month, was included, and it may be a clue linking the collection of photographic plates to the first publisher/owner of the Snohomish County Tribune.

Kodak ContestThe Eastman Dry Plate Company began manufacturing prepared plates in 1880 and they were still available into the 1920s when finally overwhelmed by the ease of using a Kodak Camera: “You press the button – we do the rest.” Photographic plates remained in use for astronomical photography into the 1980s, when replaced by “charge-coupled devices” – better known as CCD cameras.

Today, any point-and-shoot camera can freeze a playground snowball fight without a trace of the motion. Fortunately, for most of us, no snow has fallen before going to press in order to make my point. Besides, who knows where this historic snowball battle took place?

As to the when, the image may be further photographic evidence of the excitement around documenting the record snowstorm of 1916, that I have written about in the past. Even today, a snowfall of any amount brings out our urge to capture this living metaphor of nature, especially of our children showing us how to enjoy it fully.

In any event, I am taking a holiday from doing a repeat shot this month to share with you this historic image of captured motion – and the joy of the season. Looking closely you may hear the loud, excited din of children at play.

And I am interested in your reactions to this blurry snapshot, that would be impossible to tag on Facebook — please leave a comment below.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, December 18, 2013

2 thoughts on “The Great Snowball Fight of 1916 — (Maybe)!

  1. Lita Sheldon

    What a great photo. I don’t know what constitute great photos, but I like this one. The blurry snowflakes remind me of exclamation points, as if to underline the fact that “We’re all having fun here!” And the appearance of the children makes me wonder what is the boy on the right holding, a plate? Why isn’t the girl in the middle wearing a coat – it looks like she is just wearing a dress — did she just step out of a warm classroom? And why is the little boy on the left turning his back on the action? Did he get hit too hard with a snowball? Thanks for sharing this exuberant photo, Warner.

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