This photo gets a "Wow" on several levels. The title, which was written on the back of the photograph, is "Miner's Still," but on closer inspection it appears that it's probably an improvised smelter, with the gravity-fed fuel in the barrel feeding the jet which is aimed into a crucible. This is how miners extract the precious metals from rock in which they are embedded, with extreme heat.
The story of how the photo was identified is almost as interesting as the picture itself, in another way. In my "tending" of our photo vaults, I came across a number of old albums that had been cataloged, but in only a cursory way, and that needed more work, especially in adding exact locations to make them easier to locate. One of the albums in this group had such minimal information in the catalog record, that I decided to look into it a little more deeply to see if I could add any details. Sure enough, on one of the pages, the words "Bohannon Creek" were written in pencil, in such a way that the words were only legible by angling the page in the light just so.
Some quick internet research revealed that "Bohannon Creek" was a well known hydraulic mining gold field in Idaho, and so now the catalog record for that album has a location and more accurate dates. This is typical of the many minor victories we experience here in Western History, when we can correctly identify something. But the fun doesn't stop there.
A few pages further into the album I came across today's Wow photograph. I had seen the photo in our database many times, and knew that its catalog record stated that the location and dates for the image were unknown. On the album page, under the photo, in pencil, was written: "F22807." Searching the database with that number brought me to today's photograph, and made the final "Aha" connection.
When there's an "F number" with a photograph, that means that in the "old days," before digitization, someone had a copy of that photograph made. That meant that the album was taken to Roach Photos, a longtime Denver photographer that did our copy work, and they made a negative of the photo. Then the photo was printed, and one print went to the customer, and another went into our collection. The negative was given an "F number," and filed with our negatives. Unfortunately, the connection to the original location of the photo, in the album, was lost, and so for many years, that negative and copy photo had no identification or connection to its original home.
Now, because our thorough cataloging, and our decision to put the F numbers in the photo records, and because of the wonder of digital searching and interconnection, the record for the photo in the database now gives the correct location and dates for the photo, and links to the entire album, and the record for the entire album, now properly located, mentions the digitized photograph and provides a link. Now, when you see an "F" number in one of our photo records, you'll know what it means, and how it can be used to connect dots that may have been unconnected for decades.
Here's a link to the Bohannon Bar Hydraulic Mining Album, and you can find more details on the photo by following the links. Enjoy our collections, and join our many users who have found and made amazing connections similar to this one between our wide variety of images.
"Wow Photo Wednesday" celebrates photographs in the Denver Public Library's Digital Collections that have "The Wow Factor" and that highlight the myriad delightful nuggets in our database.