Fokker Glass Plate Negatives

Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker (1890 – 1939) was a Dutch aircraft designer known for producing some of the fastest and most stable aircraft in the world. Many of Germany’s World War I aces flew in his aircraft. He remained a prolific designer in the postwar years in Europe and the United States. Fokker was inducted into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame in 1970.

Negative (top) and positive image of one of the glass negatives, Fokker is on the left of the bottom image.  Contemporary software makes reversing the image quite easy.

These two glass negatives were donated to SDASM by the Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) in 2021. When donated, the paperwork associated with them indicated that both negatives were off Anthony Fokker.  By comparing known images of Fokker, we were able to confirm that one of the negatives showed Fokker. However, we noted that the other negative showed a man who appeared to be in his 70s.  Anthony Fokker died when he was 49, so we doubted it was him. We placed the image of the older gentleman on our  Flickr account to see if anyone could identify him.  Because our Flickr stream gets millions of views annually, we thought the public could help!  Almost immediately, someone said they believed that it was Anthony Fokker’s father and provided a link to that had an image of the elder Fokker,  so we could help verify their claim and it did appear to the dad.


Glass plated image that we belive to be a very rare image of Anthony Fokker's father.

 Negatives on glass were popular with photographers at the turn of the 20th century. Silver gelatin-coated dry plate negatives were produced by adhering a light sensitive silver halide and gelatin chemical compound to glass with chrome alum. The compound was usable when dry, unlike previous wet plate negatives, making the medium portable, durable, and popular.  These items are unique in our collection because of their large format, measuring approximately 8” x 10”. Many of the glass negatives in our Archive are smaller than 4” x 6”. These negative's large size reveals the depth and clarity achieved with this type of photographic process. 

Dry plate glass negatives are not without their drawbacks. By their nature they easily chip, crack, or break. Minor chips on the edges, surface abrasions, and flaking of the emulsion is evident on these. All types of photographic negatives are susceptible to accumulating grime, fingerprints, and dust. This format is no exception and evidence of this is visible on these two glass negatives. 

More examples of negatives on glass in the Museum’s collection can be seen on our Flickr page by searching “glass negative” or “glass plate negative”. 

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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