W. L. Worley, Photographer

His photographs, cameras, & equipment from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

My Great-Great Grandfather's name was Willis L. Worley. He was a general store manager, school director, and farmer, but was also well-known as a professional photographer. He practiced the art of photography, from the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, during which time he took thousands of photographs of local residents, family members, and school students. He spent his early years apprenticing in York, Pennsylvania, after which he returned to York Springs, PA, where he worked with local photographer H.J. Harman. Before long, Willis began to mark his own photographs with the familiar stamped signature of "W.L. Worley". This collection consists of my Great-Great Grandfather's photographic equipment, the photographs he took, and the memories he preserved. Please enjoy the W.L. Worley Photographic Collection.

E & H.T. Anthony & Co. Camera

Willis Worley's professional camera from the late 1800s. It was made by E & H.T. Anthony & Co. of 591 Broadway, New York. Four patent dates marked on the camera range from the years 1884 to 1888. The camera includes the original camera box along with a brown photographer's cloth, a light-proof plate holder so that exposed plates could safely and easily be transported to a darkroom without fear of damaging the photographs, a small piece of paper with handwritten notes on focal length, and an even smaller almanac for the year 1904. It is interesting to note that the plate holder is somewhat heavy, leading to the conclusion that it may contain one or two glass plates.

Photographer's Chair

This is a Photographic Posing Chair, also known as a Photographer's Chair. Willis acquired the chair from photographer H.J. Harman of York Springs. The chair was made in the late 1800s by George Knell and marked as #3. What makes it a photographer's chair is the adjustable back, which is able to be moved up or down to accomodate different sizes of people. Included in this gallery are several original photographs of the chair in use.

Photographs of Willis Worley

Contained within this gallery are photographs of the photographer and his family, several of which were taken long before Willis began practicing the art of photography.

Unique Photographs

Of the thousands of photographs taken during Willis's career as a professional photographer, only a fraction of that number are known to exist. Presented here are several photographs from the collection, chosen for their uniqueness in pose, style, and/or composition.

Photographs of Men

While it is impossible to present every photograph taken by Willis, this group, as well as the following three groups, contain portraits taken in his studio. This gallery contains portraits of men. Almost every photograph is unlabeled and unmarked except for the familiar photographer's stamp, "W. L. Worley" Any identifications are welcome and appreciated.

Photographs of Women

This gallery contains portraits of women from all different age groups. In several of the photographs, it is interesting to note the extravagant hats.

Photographs of Children

Willis took many student photographs as part of his career. Some students were fortunate enough to receive discounts if they held a special certificate, cutting the cost of a photo to nearly half-price (see paper materials collection, below, for a copy of the certificate).

Photographs of Infants

Infants and children were often presented much the same as adults, often using robes or blankets to make the child appear larger than he/she truly was. This gave the infant a greater presence in the photograph.

Glass Plate Negatives

Found wrapped in a newspaper dated 1903, this small number of original glass plate negatives have been preserved by photographing the illuminated negatives and then digitally recreating and color-correcting the positive images. It is unknown as to why these particular photographs were kept together. Only the two group photos with the barn in the background are identifiable. Both the original negatives and the finished photos are provided for comparison.

Paper Materials Collection

Few paper materials still exist, some advertising his photography business, some from his earlier endeavors, and others which fall into miscellaneous categories.

Contact Print Frame

Made by Scovill Mfg. Co. in New York, this piece of equipment is known as a contact print frame. It was used for the reproduction of glass or film negatives. Inside the frame, the negative was placed directly against photographic contact paper. The wooden back was then closed and the metal brackets turned to lock the back tightly into place. The dial on the back reminded the photographer how long an exposure was needed. A cut-out photograph is attached to the front of the frame, most likely to create a vignette effect on the finished photo. Included in this gallery are two unidentified photos, taken by H. J. Harman of York Springs, showing the effect that would have been produced.

The Photographic Dry Plate

One of the most popular mediums for the taking of photographs during the late 1800s was the photographic dry plate. Here is a small collection of dry glass plates from The Stanley Dry Plate, The American Dry Plate Co., The Standard Dry Plate Co., and The Hammer Dry Plate Co.

R. Walzl Lens & Camera

Camera from the mid to late 1800s, unmarked. The glass on the back measures 8.5 inches square. I haven't expanded the bellows as they seem fragile. The camera lens is marked as R. Walzl No. 1624 of Baltimore, MD. Further research reveals there was a R. Walzl's Palace of Photography at 103 West Baltimore Street in Baltimore, MD. Richard Walzl's business was located at this address between 1866 and 1872.

The Photographer's Mark

Willis's mark was often in the form of a stamp, though it was also known to be hand-written on the photograph. The mark almost always consisted of "W. L. Worley" in cursive letters. Found on the back of a photograph among others in the collection, the mark to the left is unknown. It remains to be seen whether it was, or was not, a mark of Willis L. Worley.

9-Shot Camera

Camera from the mid to late 1800s, unmarked. Takes nine photographs at once.