For January, the “Artifact of the Month” on display at the Western Illinois Museum is a selection of panoramic photographs from the museum’s collection.
A panoramic photograph has a different format from most photographs. The image is usually at least twice as wide as it is high; they are literally big pictures.
A panoramic photograph is unique in that it enables the viewer to take in more visual information than the naked eye. A human eye can take in 70 to 160 degrees of what it sees before it, while a panoramic photo generally includes 180 degrees of a field of view.
Because a panoramic photograph can show more than the human eye, this style of photograph works especially well in showing large groups of people and enormous scenes of special occasions. The heyday of the panoramic photograph was the 1910s-1930s and the museum has a number of very fine examples from that time.
In this exhibit are the following panoramic photographs:
Truman’s Pioneer Stud Farm Parade, Bushnell Horse Show, Bushnell, Illinois Oct. 12, 1911
This photograph measures 36 ½ inches long and 9 inches wide. Before the age of automobiles, horse breeding was an important business in McDonough County. The most successful operation in the county was the Truman’s Pioneer Stud Farm, established in the 1870s. Located on 100 acres outside of Bushnell, this farm was known nationwide by the turn of the century for producing prizewinners. The Truman’s organized the first Bushnell Horse Show in 1908. A parade down Main Street was the highlight. The photograph shows a view of downtown Bushnell in 1911, decorated with flags, buntings, and the parade of horses lined up as spectators thronging the streets.
46th Co., 161st Depot Brigade, Camp Grant, Illinois, Sept. 12 198
This photograph measures 41 ½ inches long and 9 inches wide. Camp Grant was located near Rockford, Illinois and was built in 1917 and covered over 5,000 acres. During World War I, over 43,000 men were housed and trained there. Camp Grant is no longer functioning but there is now a museum and restaurant at the site. For more information visit http://www.campgrant.org/.
Eldon Alton, a retired farmer, formerly of Fountain Green Township, now living in Macomb, donated the Camp Grant photograph to the museum. In the photograph Alton’s father, Carl John Alton, (born 1894- died 1978), a soldier stationed at Camp Grant and a Blandinsville area native, is identified in the front row with a mark on his chest.
Eldon remembers his father speaking of experiences during World War I, particulary his father recalled being sick during the 1918 flu epidemic in which over 50 million people worldwide died. Luckily, Carl Alton survived; he was only in the Army a short time, less than a year. During his military service, Alton never fought and he never went overseas. This photo was taken on September 12, 1918; the war ended on November 11 and on December 4, 1918, this company was discharged.
Hardisty-Hainline Reunion June 14, 1925
This photograph measures 33 inches long and 7 ¼ inches wide and shows approximately 125 members from both families, aged from babies to senior citizens, standing in front of possibly the Blandinsville High School. This visual record shows a moment in time when two families that have lived in the area for generations, gathered for a special day.
Both families came to the area from Kentucky in the late 1830s when McDonough County was being established. The 1885 History of McDonough County lists three Hainlines, John Jacob and George that came to farm. It also cites a marriage between a William Hardesty and Susan Hainline, possibly the first link between the families.
Also on display are:
Four Western Illinois University group portraits with Sherman Hall in the background.
The congregation of the Colchester Christian Church standing, in the snow in front of the church dated 1924. It has white paint numbering each church member.
An undated group portrait of factory workers outside an unidentified brick building, standing beside railroad tracks, possibly Macomb.
Panoramic photography has been around a long time and became popular shortly after photography was invented in 1839. At first panoramic photographs were just sequential images of a scene pasted together in a strip to present a complete view. However, new developments in photographic technology in the 19th century saw the invention of special cameras to take complete panoramic photographs.
Two types of panoramic cameras were especially popular at the start of the 20th century; each operates in a different technology to create a panoramic image:
Swing lens camera, also known as the short rotation or rotating lens camera.
The way this camera operates is that the lens of the camera rotates, while the camera and the film remain stationary. The film is on a curved backplate. One of the most popular models of this type of camera was the mass-produced “Al-Vista”, introduced in 1898. Manufactured in the United States, this camera used roll film and made small panoramic photos about 12 inches long.
Rotating camera, also known as the full rotation, or slit scan camera.
This camera used a motor to make both the camera and the film rotate at the same speed while the film was pulled through the camera. This exposes the film evenly and a sharp image is produced. A popular model of this type was the “Cirkut” camera, introduced in 1904 and manufactured by the Eastman Kodak company. It was capable of making a photograph up to 20 feet long. The “Cirkut” model was the most widely used panoramic camera used by professional photographers to record special events and create large group portraits. Because the camera rotated, it was possible to get closer to the group and still capture the entire group. Panoramic photographs made by the “Cirkut” camera became very popular during the First World War, when they were used to photograph large groups of soldiers. Many “Cirkut” cameras are still around and used by many photographers. This is probably the type of camera that was used to take most of the photographs on display at the museum.
Nowadays, many digital cameras are able to take panoramic views. If your camera cannot take panoramas, there is a simple way to create your own panoramic photograph. Just take numerous photos of the scene before you, taking overlapping views and carefully adjusting yourself as you progress across the scene. Then, at home, on your computer, there is software that will help you “stitch” together your images into one panoramic view.
From an essay by Heather Munro