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Osmond D. Putnam photographs

Identifier: ARL-081

Scope and Contents

Collection of 132 glass plate negatives, 150 photographs and information on images showing rural Adirondack life in the 1880s from the personal collection of Osmond D. Putnam (1861-1926). Sizes of the glass plates vary. Copy prints made from the glass plate negatives were used in Jeanne Robert Foster books, Neighbors of Yesterday and Adirondack Portraits. Original negative enclosures contain hand-written notes by Foster identifying the person, place or event taking place with additional anecdotal information. Subsequent notes have also been compiled giving each plate number, size and description. Images depict labor and industry, rural education, landscapes, architecture and portraits of community members near Johnsburg, New York. Miscellaneous photographs include reproductions of Putnam family portraits, gravestones, and other scenes of Johnsburgh taken later to reconstruct genealogy and family history. The original titles of the images created by previous custodians of the collection have been retained when possible for their historical context.


  • Creation: 1885 - 1986


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Biographical Note

Osmond David Putnam (1861-1926) was the grandson of Enos Putnam (1810-1865), a Methodist minister and abolitionist who preached at the Mill Creek Wesleyan Methodist Church in Johnsburg, New York. The church was built by the Putnams in 1859 after separating from the Methodist Episcopal Church, whose senior leadership had refused to speak out against slavery. The Putnam place was a stop along the underground railroad. Osmond began training to become a minister in the 1880s. To pay for his education, he began taking photographs with a five by eight inch camera, selling prints to rural residents for whom photography was a rather new service in a such an isolated part of the state. Though technically an amateur photographer, he had a critical eye for composition and his shots provide a glimpse into the close of the 19th century as the Adirondacks moved from an isolated wilderness to a permanently settled part of the State. The geographic scope of his work was limited to Warren, Essex, and Saratoga Counties due to the range of early stage wagons in the area. Though he probably shot other subjects, his Adirondack photographs are all that remain of his work. He was a second cousin of Jeanne Robert Foster. He eventually left the ministry and became a farmer and carpenter in Wilton, New York.


4 Boxes

1.39 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged in two series: Series 1, Negatives, 1885-1887. Series 2, Prints, 1885-1986. Negatives are in individual enclosures, labeled and organized according to identification numbers assigned by Jeanne Robert Foster and later maintained by Noel Riedinger-Johnson. Copy prints are individually labeled and organized according to negative ID numbers and include multiple copies of the same print in some instances. Original descriptions and numbering have been maintained when possible. Accompanying information for each photograph is included with the collection as maintained by subsequent custodians of the collection providing identification information.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Negatives numbers 30, 34, 98, 117 and 118 are missing. Emulsion is flaking and there is significant cracking and damage on some plates. As a preservation measure, researchers must view the copy prints or digital surrogates of each image.

Custodial History

It is thought that the majority of Putnam photographs, negatives and equipment were destroyed in a fire at the family’s farmhouse in Wilton, New York, in the 1920s. Thankfully, he had given over 100 negatives to his brother Elliot Putnam, who in turn gave them to Jeanne Robert Foster. At the death of Foster in 1970, her Adirondack materials were willed to the Riedinger family in Schenectady, New York, finally coming into the possession of Noel Riedinger-Johnson.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Noel Riedinger-Johnson in November 2019.

Related Materials

See also Noel Riedinger-Johnson papers (ARL-080).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Matthew Golebiewski with assistance from Margie Amodeo. This finding aid contains original creator-supplied titles. Original negative titles include ableist language and have been maintained to preserve the original context of how the creator labeled their files. The use of this description is not an endorsement of the language it contains. Original descriptive language has been retained to promote searchability and discoverability of the collection and to provide a glimpse into historical perspectives on disability in rural Northern New York.

Guide to the Osmond D. Putnam photographs
Matthew Golebiewski
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Adirondack Research Library Repository

897 St. David's Lane
Niskayuna NY 12309