Sunday, July 3, 2016

Photo Booth

I ran across something today that piqued my interest – what appears to be an early photograph from a photo booth.  Could it be?

Levy Brothers c1898

The strip is pretty small (about 1”x4”) but the first thing I noticed (even without my glasses) was the older gentleman in the light picture on the right.  I think that is my great grandfather, Herman Levy.  The youngest son, Ben, wrote an autobiography and in it he showed a picture of his dad.  Pretty clear it’s the same guy.

Herman Levy c 1906

Is it possible that there were photo booths before the turn of the century?  According to Wikepedia, there were!
The patent for the first automated photography machine was filed in 1888 by William Pope and Edward Poole of Baltimore. It probably was never built. The first known really working photographic machine was a product of the French inventor T. E. Enjalbert (March 1889). It was shown at the World Fair in Paris in 1889. The German born photographer Mathew Steffens from Chicago filed a patent for such a machine in May 1889. These early machines were not reliable enough to be self-sufficient. The first commercially successful automatic photographic apparatus was the "Bosco" from the Inventor Conrad Bernitt of Hamburg (Patented July-16-1890). All these early machines produced ferrotypes. The first photographic automate with negative and positive process was invented by the German Carl Sasse (1896).
Since Herman and Goldie (Benas) Levy had four sons (one of which was my grandfather, Sigmund) it didn’t take long to guess that the four kids in the photos were my grandfather and his brothers.  So I decided to zoom in and take a closer look.

Levy Brothers c1898 Take 1

How cute are these boy in their hats?  This would be Leon (1886-1962), Herbert (1884-1952) on the top and Ben (1892-1965) and Sig (1888-1968) on the bottom.  While I love all of their hats, I really love the conductor looking hat that my grandfather was wearing – although maybe I’m just a bit biased.

Here’s a cute pose.  But the best part is Ben’s little sailor suit. 

Levy Brothers c1898 Take 2

A little more traditional – I love how they always seemed to line up by age.  Makes figuring out who is who much easier, although I’d know my grandfather anywhere.

Levy Brothers c1898 Take 3

Dad jumped in for the last pose – thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for that!  Who doesn’t love to see photos of their great grandparents from their younger days?

Levy Brothers c1898 Take 4

Even after I darkened up the photo it’s still hard to see the two older boys but there is my grandfather looking cute on the right! 

Another gem I found in the box was what I believe to be the older three boys in their swim suits.

Levy Brothers c 1892

If I’m right that would be Sig on the top, Leon on the left, and Herb on the right.  Ben had either not joined the family yet or was too little to sit for a photo.

I have so much to go through but I always seem to find new gems when I least expect them.


  1. Don't you love the modern marvels of scanning?! Thirty years ago it would have been hard to see the details of these photos, let alone edit them to be able to see them better. What a treasure this little strip of photos is, Debi!

    1. I get frustrated when I find a photo and am not near my scanner - how can I even begin to study a 'real' photo?

  2. Debi, what splendid photos! They reveal so much about how your grandfather's family lived. Happy times, weren't they?

    I have a copy of a photo strip too, and what a doozy! It was evidence of infidelity in a divorce case.

    1. I think we need to see your photo strip, Wendy!

  3. These are incredible! I wonder how those photo booths worked back then because today you'd never have time to change poses and add people like that. These look almost professional! Great find.

    1. I was thinking that same thing, Amy - how did they manage so many poses in such a short period of time?

  4. What wonderful pictures! Looks like these brothers enjoyed each other. I had no idea they had photo booths back then! It makes me wonder why we don't see more of this type of photo though. I wonder if photo booths were pretty rare?

    1. I can't even be sure these ARE from a photo booth but they sure look like it, don't they?

  5. Debi,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!