We Want That Picture! Fred Gildersleeve’s Record Breaking Texas Cotton Palace Print

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

In 1905 or 1906, Fred Gildersleeve came from Texarkana, Arkansas to Waco to work in the photography business. He later became a pioneer in the field of industrial photography in the state. One of his more famous pieces of work was his enlargement of the Texas Cotton Palace Main Building in Waco, Texas. Shown is a picture of the enlargement being processed. At the time, this photograph set a world record among photo prints at 120 inches wide. A representative from Eastman Kodak personally delivered the large roll of photo paper it required and supervised the enlargement process. The photo was exhibited for some time until it was sold for $50.00 to the building’s architect, Roy Ellsworth Lane. Gildersleeve later recalled that was “a good price in those days…as you remember, at that time 1913 the largest enlargement ever made. Eastman Kodak sent George McKay to supervise this. It was written up in Studio Light Magazine and also used this photo.”

Gildersleeve’s notes on the back of this photo also include ID’s and notes for the men numbered in this scene:
1. Herman Hood
2. Gustafson
3. Fred Gildersleeve
4. James Pudig
5. George McKay, (Eastman Kodak representative)
6. Herbert Guinn (“My first male employee, died of TB [Tuberculosis] in El Paso, Tex. Compton undertaker and I gave him a decent burial).

Gildersleeve’s notes on the back of this photo also include ID’s and some sizes for the photos on exhibit below the giant enlargement:

1. “Sister’s Collie dog” [Jessie Ellen Gildersleeve]
2. “Battle Ship Texas photo made 1913″
3. The $8,000.00 silver service set the Y.M.B.L. [Young Men’s Business League] received the money, this [U.S.S. Texas aka Battle Texas BB-35] was anchored in Galveston Bay.” [Y.M.B.L., forerunner of the Waco Chamber of Commerce, gave this Tiffany silver service engraved with Texas scenes to the U.S.S. Texas in 1912, and Gildersleeve states the organization received the proceeds.]
4. Another view of Battle Ship Texas, yes, I made the crowd, crew, etc, and Herman Hood helped.”
5. “U.S. Capitol Washington D.C.”
6. “Amicable Building, carbon on porcelain (blue)” [a porcelain sheet was used instead of photo paper as the film base. Carbon printing on this base would have made it similar to transfers on dinnerware]
7. “Days Lake a carbon on porcelain (brown)”
8. “Washington Home – Mt. Vernon”
9. “East Waco – June 1914 Flood”
10. “Dan Patch, a trotter but his owner posed him with a saddle, as his owner Ted Sloan did ride on the streets, in Dallas, to advertise a race that way to be run, against Man of War…”
11. “20×40 enlargement. Washington Monument.”
12. “Mrs. Louise Crow’s …Cats 16×20.”
13. “Dr. Clifton…” (writing illegible)

There is no record of the giant print being saved after all of these years, but it just may be out there somewhere. All we can do now is crop the photo hanging on the wall in the above Gildersleeve exhibit and process it in Photoshop to recreate a digital example-see the Gildersleeve signature in the lower left corner like the original! To gauge the enormity of the photograph-the framed pictures above it are all 8×10 inches, it truly was a huge print in its time and even more so being produced on photo paper!

Photos used in blog are from the Gildersleeve-Conger collection #0430, Folder, Photo Prints: Gildersleeve Studio.

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