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Glass plate negatives show early 1900s Brookings life

From the Frank Ross Glass Plate Negatives Collection is an image of three dogs posed around a stool.
Sitting pretty: The Frank Ross Glass Plate Negatives Collection includes an image of three dogs posed around a stool.

The existence of the Frank Ross Glass Plate Negatives Collection is a case of right time, right place.

The collection was produced by a Brookings area photographer named Frank Ross, according to a Nov. 17, 2022, Arlington Sun article. Ross captured portraits and images of daily life in and around Brookings County at the turn of the 20th century.

“It gives a quick glimpse into life around the early 1900s,” said archivist Michele Christian.

The collection was nearly lost to a garbage pile around 1960. The Arlington Sun reported that Tom Teller saved the glass plate negatives from being thrown away when his in-laws cleaned out Ross’ farmhouse after his passing. Ross was a great-uncle to Teller’s wife, Dee.

There are 227 glass plate negatives in the collection, which was recently donated to the SDSU Archives and Special Collections through the facilitation of Arlington Sun editor Frank Crisler with Ross’ family.

Some of the scenes depicted in the negatives are of schools, farms, steam agricultural farm implements, winter weather, and graduations.

“This collection adds to the history of Brookings,” Christian said, noting the materials may be helpful in genealogy searches and research about this time period.

Prior to this acquisition, the Archives had only a handful of glass plate negatives. The Ross Collection materials will be cleaned, scanned, and placed in appropriate housing. The digital items will be uploaded to the Digital Library of South Dakota. If you’re interested in supporting this work, please see contact Michele Christian or call 605-688-5094.

From the Frank Ross Glass Plate Negatives Collection is an image of a man in a horse-drawn sleigh during winter.
An early 1900s winter scene of a man in a horse-drawn sleigh is part of the Frank Ross Glass Plate Negatives Collection at the SDSU Archives & Special Collections in Hilton M. Briggs Library.