ca. 1920

Guide to the Photograph Collection

Restrictions on Access

Due to the fragile nature of the collection, researchers wishing to access these materials must contact the reading room staff in advance to schedule an appointment.

Collection Summary


This collection consists of glass lantern slides depicting the mahogany industry in Ghana.

Biographical Sketch

Ralph Dutton Sawyer (1884-1943) of Reading, Mass. was a mahogany buyer for the Boston firm of Parker & Palmer. He traveled to Africa on months-long buying expeditions and was often accompanied on his voyages by his wife Hazel L. (Wilcox) Sawyer (1889-1977), whom he married in 1917.

Collection Description

This collection consists of lantern slides depicting the mahogany industry in Ghana, possibly taken by Ralph D. Sawyer and/or his wife Hazel (Wilcox) Sawyer. The slides depict harvesting and loading of logs and other related activities, as well as workers and other people encountered on the trip. Some of the slides include a couple assumed to be Mr. & Mrs. Sawyer. Each slide has been numbered and captioned on the label in an unknown hand. Slides numbered 32, 77, and 78 are lacking. The slides were produced by A. D. Handy Stereopticons and Supplies of Boston.

Based on the inclusion of slide 68, "Carmanina crossing in November," the photographs can be dated to 1920, the year that the Sawyers returned to the United States aboard the ship Carmanina. Additional evidence of these slides being from 1920 is given by slides depicting the shooting of a leopard in a schoolroom and a "trek" to Seccondee, both of which are mentioned in a 1920 Boston Herald article on the Sawyers' travels. According to a 1925 article in the Boston Globe, Ralph D. Sawyer gave an illustrated lecture on "The logging and Shipping of African Mahogany to the United States" to a group in the couple's hometown of Reading, Mass., so it is likely these slides were used to illustrate the talk.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by purchase, July 2020.

Restrictions on Access

Due to the fragile nature of the collection, researchers wishing to access these materials must contact the reading room staff in advance to schedule an appointment.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Box 1#6.23.1
Where we first land at Axim, by the old Dutch fort built 1515.Cracked.
Box 1#6.23.2
Bungalow at Axim.
Box 1#6.23.3
Box 1#6.23.4
A little girl, one of our neighbors.
Box 1#6.23.5
Catholic mission school children.Cracked.
Box 1#6.23.6
Leopard killed in schoolroom.Cracked.
Box 1#6.23.7
Axim police sergeant.
Box 1#6.23.8
Carriers on trek.
Box 1#6.23.9
Passing through a native village.
Box 1#6.23.10
Carriers crossing a river.
Box 1#6.23.11
Box 1#6.23.12
Arrival at a timber camp.
Box 1#6.23.13
Mahogany stump.
Box 1#6.23.14
Hauling a log.
Box 1#6.23.15
Logs in creek bed.
Box 1#6.23.16
Logs stranded by sudden drop in the river.
Box 1#6.23.17
Rapids in the Ancobra [sic] River.
Box 1#6.23.18
Native in dug-out.
Box 1#6.23.19
Abandoned gold dredge.
Box 1#6.23.20
Boom in main river to catch logs.
Box 1#6.23.21
Inspecting a raft.
Box 1#6.23.22
Measuring logs.
Box 1#6.23.23
Painting and stamping logs.
Box 1#6.23.24
Hauling logs from river to protect from worms.
Box 1#6.23.25
Hauled and stored for shipment.
Box 1#6.23.26
Palm leaf roof to protect from sun.
Box 1#6.23.27
Palmer at wharf, Boston.
Box 1#6.23.28
Palmer at wharf in Ancobra.
Box 1#6.23.29
A tow starting to leave river.
Box 1#6.23.30
Raft of logs being towed from river.
Box 2#6.23.31
Launch towing raft; surf, boat behind.
Box 2#6.23.33
Log drifts ashore from raft lost on bar.
Box 2#6.23.34
Returning to river with logs saved.
Box 2#6.23.35
A tow safe across the bar.
Box 2#6.23.36
Raft from river being taken to beach.
Box 2#6.23.37
Logs in cove awaiting shipment.
Box 2#6.23.38
Wreck of a launch.
Box 2#6.23.39
Salving a drift log.
Box 2#6.23.40
Resting on dug-out canoe.
Box 2#6.23.41
Rolling logs into water.
Box 2#6.23.42
Into the water for the boat boys.
Box 2#6.23.43
Alongside the steamer.
Box 2#6.23.44
Hoisting aboard.
Box 2#6.23.45
Schooner discharging.
Box 2#6.23.46
Loading schooner.
Box 2#6.23.47
Homeward bound.
Box 2#6.23.48
Princess River.
Box 2#6.23.49
Preparing raft--Princess [River].
Box 2#6.23.50
Holding tow line away from beach.
Box 2#6.23.51
Raft clearing the beach.
Box 2#6.23.52
Raft in midst of the surf.
Box 2#6.23.53
Resting in front of church.
Box 2#6.23.54
Logs on Half Assinee lagoon.
Box 2#6.23.55
Floating a log onto a truck.
Box 2#6.23.56
Logs on truck--Half Assinee.
Box 2#6.23.57
Wood burning engine [locomotive].
Box 2#6.23.58
Logs on beach at Half Assinee.
Box 2#6.23.59
Starting home.
Box 2#6.23.60
A palm fringed beach.
Box 2#6.23.61
Box 3#6.23.62
Rest-house at Adjuah.
Box 3#6.23.63
Mono-rail ride through palm-oil plantation.
Box 3#6.23.64
Logs on Secondee sea-wall.
Box 3#6.23.65
Freight cars at Secondee.
Box 3#6.23.66
Box 3#6.23.67
Awaiting train at Dunkwa.
Box 3#6.23.68
Carmania crossing in November.
Box 3#6.23.69
Elswick Tower discharging [at] Boston.
Box 3#6.23.70
Deck load, Elswick Tower.
Box 3#6.23.71
Orleans discharging.
Box 3#6.23.72
Capt. [Rutland?].
Box 3#6.23.73
Water, front of plant [Boston].
Box 3#6.23.71
Orleans discharging.
Box 3#6.23.74
Jammed in the boom.
Box 3#6.23.75
Box 3#6.23.76
[Log] Six foot in diameter.
Box 3#6.23.79
Office and lumber shed.

Preferred Citation

Ralph D. and Hazel L. Sawyer mahogany trade lantern slides, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Sawyer, Hazel Louise Wilcox, 1889-1977, photographer.
Sawyer, Hazel Louise Wilcox, 1889-1977--Photographs.
Sawyer, Ralph Dutton, 1884-1943, photographer.
Sawyer, Ralph Dutton, 1884-1943--Photographs.


A. D. Handy (Boston, Mass.).
Parker & Palmer (Boston, Mass.)--Photographs.


Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--Ghana.
Lantern slides.
Mahogany industry--Ghana--Photographs.