Wednesday, October 8, 2008 Eight Hours

One of the few pleasures of cleaning out 50 years worth of trash and treasure from my mom's old house has been discover-ing the plethora of antique photos left behind. Including this tintype of my great grandpa. Now, I don't know about you, but I think he's handsome enough to "star" in his own historical romance novel. It's just one of many old pictures that give me inspiration.

Some of the pictures are ancestors and relatives that I recognize. Others feature unknown people and places that can't help but intrigue me. Some aren't marked at all, giving me full rein. And others offer tantalizing but incomplete clues such as the one depicting a tiny child: "Our Ruthie, a week ago." The one inscribed "A view of the place taken last spring" shows a storybook homestead. And I don't know where it was or who lived there.

In my soon-to-be-released Cactus Rose book, Marrying Minda, a daguerreotype has a part in this story of a mail-order bride. Around town, her groom-to-be loved to show off the tiny brown portrait of her. And when she sees up close and personal the tall handsome cowboy she marries a minute later, he looks younger and far more handsome than the daguerreotype he sent her. As well he should.

He's a different guy!

In this day and age of instant digital photography, I can't imagine how long picture-making took in days gone by. J. N. Niepce produced the first permanent image, a heliograph, in 1826 -an exposure that took 8 hours with a camera obscura! This was an image of an outside scene formed by a simple lens and sunlight shining through a small hole into a darkened room.

In 1837, his partner, Louis Daguerre, began to produce images on silver iodide-coated copper plates that took 30 minutes to develop with warmed mercury. The daguerreotype. Four years later, Fox Talbot patented his calotype negative/positive process with its 5 minute exposure time. He had already introduced the "negative" from which many images could be produced, but these paper negatives did not create the detailed images of the daguerreotype.

London sculptor Frederick Scott Archer never patented his 1851 wet plate collodion process, where he spread a mixture of nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcohol on sheets of glass. The result: the 10-second exposure "tintype."

Much cheaper than the daguerreotype, the tintype brought photography to everyday people. The name probably comes from the tin shears or scissors needed to cut the small pictures (about 2" x 3"), rather than the metal plates on which they were reproduced.

When he was 24 in 1880, George Eastman set up his Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester NY. By 1888, the general public had access to a simplified camera, thanks both to his "Kodak Number 1" model and his mass developing/processing service. A year later, Eastman produced the first transparent roll film. This was a vast improvement over the 20-foot roll of paper in the Number 1 that produced 100 two-and-a-half inch circular pictures.

In 1880, the first half-tone photo appeared in a newspaper, and ten years later, Eastman introduced the historic Kodak Brownie box camera.

And to think. Today I can take a picture with my cell phone in half a second and e-mail it to my computer within another second. Could any of photography’s pioneers have even dreamed such a thing was possible?

Well, I hope the blurb below tantalizes you. (To read more, visit my website's biography page.) Marrying Minda is truly a book from the heart, set in one of my favorite places on earth, the Nebraska prairie in one of my favorite time periods, the late 1870’s. Marrying Minda has received first place honors in two fiction contests, and I'm honored to have the book become part of the Cactus Rose Line. In fact, my short story, His Christmas Angel, which will be a free online read during the holidays, is also set in fictional Paradise and introduces the fine-looking young schoolmaster who quite literally fights that cowboy for Minda’s hand.

I figured he deserves a happy ending all his own. With Minda's sister.

Here's a quick pic of my darling great-gramma. Hmmmmmm. Maybe that's what Minda's sister looks like.

I hope you'll check out my website and blogspot and become my friend on myspace. I look forward to meeting all the authors and readers in the garden.

# # #

Norman Dale was simply not the charming father he'd presented in his letters. What other surprises did he have in store for her? Did he imagine her so besotted she wouldn't mind?

No matter. She'd signed that register pure and simple. He'd made her his wife, and she'd willingly taken him on as her husband. For better or worse.

"Set yourself down. I'll go get Silly and the rest of the kids," he announced with slitted lips. He raised his brows at the blond woman and she nodded, leaving them in private.

"The rest of what kids?" Minda’s skin prickled nervously. Deciding to obey him for the first and only time, she sat down.

"Our kids. Yours and mine."

"Our kids? What in the world do you mean, Norman Dale? You wrote that you've got one daughter. Fourteen years old." Minda’s voice rose and despite the heat, her shoulders tensed with a sudden chill as if a clump of snow had just fallen from the treetops. "What kids? What on earth are you saying, Norman Dale? Your letters didn't say one single words about kids."

He glared down at her. "You must’ve misread my brother." The last two words slid from his tongue in slow deliberation.

His brother? For a moment, she sat helpless, hopeless, paralyzed against the back of the hard little chair. For a long moment, she had no air to speak.

"Your brother? Your brother? What do you mean?" she managed at last.

He leaned close to her again, like he had during that kiss at the altar, but at her ear he growled, low.
"You promised to wed a Haynes today. Well, I'm the only one left. Your Norman Dale, my brother--" His fingers, calloused and hot, held her chin still so he could glare into her eyes, "--is dead."

Bye for now...please keep in touch.
~Tanya Hanson


Linda LaRoque said...

Oh, my, goodness. You've got my attention!

I too love the old photographs and have several displayed in my home with a box full of others we have no idea of who they are.


Cheryl said...

Loved this! I bought a book about Louis Daguerre called The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre. Haven't started it yet, but I've very interested, and your blog whetted my interest even more! Your excerpt is tantalizing, too!

Judith Leger said...

Wonderful post, Tanya! I remember looking through the old photo albums with the black triangle tabs to hold the old black and white photos in the book.

Thanks for reminding me with this great post!

Celia Yeary said...

Just beautiful, Tanya. Oh, how I love old photographs. We're very lucky, aren't we, if we find treasures of images of our ancestors. Your story sounds fascinating, and your research about the camera is very well-done. I suppose since we all write historicals, we love historical items--I know I do. The photographs intrigued me--Imagine one stepping from the photo and becoming a living person--what would he/she do? Celia Yeary

Helen said...

Tanya, those old photos are wonderful! I, too, love old photos. Genealogy is a hobby of mine, and I have photos of my ancestors all over my house.

And, of course, you know I love the excerpt from Minda!


Tanya Hanson said...

Hi ladies! I'm really enjoying your comments. Sounds like we history buffs all love those old photos. I haven't any idea how Louis D. and the others figured out how to use chemicals etc. to make images. But I'm sure glad they did.

(in that same vein, I have no idea how a modern camera works. And digital ones...makes my brain tired.)

Thanks also for your very kind comments about my upcoming book :)


Lauri said...

I just recently found a tin type of a Conferderate Soldier while cleaning out my Grandfather-in-law's house. I have no idea who he is, but he's sitting on my desk patiently waiting for the Texas Ranger to get out of my head so he can tell me his story.

Great post, Tanya, I love old photographs, and cameras still amaze me too! LOL.

Wonderful excerpt!


Anne Carrole said...

I have lots of old photos including my very proper Victorian Great-Grandmother in all her finery posed in front of Niagra Falls with her very fancy cousins--one of my favorites! And Tanya, I loved your blurb and your excerpt was even better! Can't wait to read it!

Anne Carrole said...

PS--your great grandfather was very handsome!:)

Paty Jager said...

I have several boxes from both sides of my family that have intriguing photos in them. If I'm ever at a loss for a story I just drag it out, find a photo that catches my eye and start 'what iffing'.

Great info on the history of photographs. My latest book, "Outlaw in Petticoats" actually starts with the hero and heroine arguing over a tintype of his parents. One the heroine insists her father had and said the man in the tintype was his brother.

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi again. Paty, I'm just now starting Perfectly Good Nanny...I got it at the literacy signing in SF. And Linda and Lauri, your excerpts have indeed intrigued me. I'll be adding you to my TBR list.

It's such fun here at Cactus rose!

Genella deGrey said...

Oh, Tanya, you lucky girl! I've always wanted to go on a treasure hunt -

I can't wait to read your book.

dad122503 said...

Oh! My first camera as a little kid was an old, old brownie passed down through the family to each child when they were 6 or 7. That thing could take a beating let me tell you!

Great pics of your family!

Tanya Hanson said...

Thanks, everyone. This blog is a spinoff of one I did as a guest at the wonderful western blog, Petticoats and Pistols, where I featured a ton of the old pix. And guess what? My blog got picked up for syndication by the Chicago Sun Times. Yee haw.

Thanks everybody, for stopping by.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Tanya,
What great photos of your great grandparents. As an historical writer, I love anything historical. Love the whole site.