a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Broken glasses

DONORA, Pa. – The best asset of the Donora Historical Society is its vast collection of old photographs, and the one, above, now ranks among my favorites.

Like most of these images, this unusual portrait was captured by a man I have nicknamed the "mysterious photographer of Donora steel" because so little is known today about him.

And, nothing was jotted down by the photographer, Bruce Dreisbach, to identify the young black steelworker who posed for this photograph, or explain why the kid was wearing at the time shattered eyeglasses.

Brian Charlton, curator of the historical society's equally-unusual Donora Smog Museum, reminded me the other day when I noticed this photo that the photographer had worked in town during the 20th Century as a product inspector for U.S. Steel. It's possible, Charlton said, that Dreisbach used the image as a reminder for employees to wear safety goggles while on the job. It's anyone's guess.

Regardless, the society recently had 197 new prints made from the more than 1,000 glass negatives it inherited from Dreisbach.

They were produced by Photo Antiquities, a Pittsburgh museum dedicated to preserving vintage and antique photos.

I look forward to sharing more of Dreisbach's photos here, as soon as possible.

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