Photos of West-Central Minnesota Farm Life, Early 20th Century

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One of the main families in these photos.

These negatives -- hundreds of them -- came in a box of miscellanous photography equipment bought at an estate auction. I didn't realize they were negatives at the time: they were neatly packaged in used photo-paper boxes, stuffed amongst unused boxes of photo paper.

Based on information in the photos and written on the boxes, these photos are from the Borup/Ada Minnesota area -- and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my family hails from this area as well (a little more southwest, though). We've remarked that it is likely I'll find out that I'm related to these people somehow; unless somebody recognizes the people in the photos, it's unlikely I'll find out who this family is. All I have are negatives, and the marks on the box and negative bundles only identifies how the photos are organized...I suppose they assumed that whomever acquired these negatives would know who's in them, and would only need help putting them in order.

The best dates I have so far, based on items seen in the photos, is that they cover fifty or so years from the early 1900s into the 1950s, moving from pre-electricity, post-depression, through World Wars and some lesser wars; a time when this part of the country was still quite removed from the rest of the US. Not until REA brought electricity to the farmland did people get their information from anything other than a newspaper, so without radio and television to help feel a part of the big-city life, farmers tended to live their own lives without the pressure of conspicuous modernizing. From Borup and Ada, Fargo was around 30-40 miles away, Grand Forks around twice that, so even the most modern cities in the area were good-sized jaunt in the Ford, its throttle wide-open at 15mph.

The negatives were divided up into "albums," presumably reflecting how the hard copies were organized.

The Images


The Black Album

The first I found, but possibly not the first chronologically. Seem to belong to the mid-1930s to late 1930s, early 1940s.

Tornado damage.jpg

The Red Album

The second box scanned, which appear to be from the early 1950s.

Baby in the flowers.jpg

The Small Album

Third box scanned, from the 1920s, possibly earlier.

The Loose Negatives

A bunch of negatives, from the bottom of the box; all poorly exposed "rejects", but that makes some better than the rest.