Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D.

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Museum Studies, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Cynthia Conides, PhD

Department Home page

First Reader

Cynthia Conides, PhD

Second Reader

Jiuan Jiuan Chen, M.A., C.A.S.


In the spring of 2011, the Buffalo History Museum (BHM) received a donation of over 57,000 gelatin dry plate glass negatives from the Howard D. Beach Photography Studio located in Buffalo, New York and in operation in various manifestations from 1896 to 1954. Beach was a prominent portrait photographer of notable Buffalonians, including Darwin D. Martin, Ansley Wilcox, Katherine Cornell, Margaret Wendt, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This paper serves to explore the results of the pilot study of various physical and chemical properties of the gelatin dry plate negatives in order to understand Beach’s photographic working methods and compare them to the industry standards. Answers to numerous questions are sought in conducting the research necessary to grasp a somewhat complex and often contradictory story.

Results reveal which brands of dry plates Beach preferred to use for his portrait work and whether or not they were favored by others in the profession. Visual and scientific analyses are used to verify or disprove certain characteristics of the dry plates as described in the literature in order to aid in identification of a specific manufacturer and brand. Examination of Beach’s journal brings to light his choice of developers and exposes his propensity for technical experimentation and artistic license in order to create his sitters’ images.