Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Nifty photo postcards of Luray Caverns from 1906

Entrance Avenue

These five postcards feature J.D. Strickler's photographs from 113 years ago of the natural wonder that is Luray Caverns in Virginia. Never mailed, they are part of a 10-card series titled The Beautiful Caverns of Luray. It was, according to the text on the back, possible for the Luray Caverns Corporation to mail the set to any address for 17 cents. (Mailing individual cards at that time was just a penny.)

An article by by C.H. Claudy titled "Some Subterrestrial Photography" in the June 1907 issue of The Photographic Times discusses Strickler's work. Here's an excerpt:
"The making of photographs beneath the surface of the earth is not usually a popular occupation. Not that it is not of itself enjoyable, but because it is so hard to get below the top of terra firma! And when somehow, somewhere, we do get below the surface and take flash lights, what flat and uninteresting pictures we do produce, to be sure!

"In presenting the accompanying pictures of underworld marvels, it is of course evident that the photographer had wonderful material with which to work — nowhere in the three miles of rooms and galliers in the Caverns of Luray could a camera be set up and anything taken which would not be both wonderful and beautiful. On the other hand this particular photographer has displayed a great deal of taste in the selection of his pictures, and shown an excellent appreciation of the force of light and shade, and particularly of contrast in the making of these plates. It is with the more pleasure that I am glad to name him. Mr. J.D. Strickler of Luray, Va., and to praise his excellent work and the keen 'know how' he has displayed in getting his results..."
Despite that heap of praise, Claudy does criticize Strickler's choices and work a fair bit throughout the article. At one point, Claudy writes: "Mr. Strickler has used a long focus lens of twelve inches focal length on an eight by ten plate in most of the pictures. This is a decided mistake from all possible points of view — a wide angle — at least a seven inch lens, being clearly indicated." Ouch.

Here are the other four postcards...

Approach to Ball Room

Saracens Tent

Ball Room Looking Toward Millers Hall

Collins Grotto

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