In 1885, a version of this photograph of the Boston & Albany passenger train appeared in the gallery of Allen & Rowell, the noted Boston photograph company, and instantly sparked requests for copies. The photograph was taken Francis Blake, a noted inventor and experimental high-speed photographer from Weston, Mass. From 1884 through the late 1890s, Blake's revolutionary high-speed photographs of trains, birds, tennis players, and horseback riders earned him critical acclaim from scientists and artists alike.
This photograph was taken from the garden at Keewaydin, Francis Blake's estate in Weston, Mass. It is now the intersection of Route 128 and the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Boston & Albany Railroad line passed just below the terraces at Keewaydin. In part because the railroad was headed by his cousin, D. Waldo Lincoln, Francis Blake had a standing arrangement with the train's baggage master to have bread and newspapers thrown off the early train from Boston every morning. Occasionally, he also arranged for it to make a stop at the estate just for him. The workers in the foreground of the photograph are building the massive stone terraces that Blake had constructed during 1884 and 1885 along the hillside below Keewaydin.
A New Biography
The Massachusetts Historical Society is pleased to announce the publication of Francis Blake: An Inventor's Life, 1850-1913, Elton W. Hall's biography of the inventor, scientist, and photographer. The biography is based on the extensive collections of Francis Blake papers and photographs at the Society. This photograph of the Boston & Albany train is part of the Francis Blake Photographs, a collection that contains over 2,000 photographs, lantern slides, and glass plate negatives and positives of Blake's work.
Sources for Further Reading
Francis Blake Photographs, ca. 1860-1964: Guide to the Photograph Collection. Massachusetts Historical Society.
Keith F. Davis. "The High-Speed Photographs of Francis Blake." The Massachusetts Historical Review, 2 (2000): 1-26.
Keith F. Davis. An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital, The Hallmark Photographic Collection. 2nd edition, revised. Kansas City, Mo.: Hallmark Cards, 1999.
Thomas Weston Fels. O Say Can You See: American Photographs, 1839-1939. One Hundred Years of American Photographs from the George R. Rinhart Collection. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989.