Tag Archive | "Southampton Historical Museum"

A Photographic Record of the Southampton Summer Colony

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 A young Jacqueline Bouvier leads her pony at the horse show.    Bert Morgan

By Stephen J. Kotz

When members of Southampton’s summer colony made an appearance at the horse show, the beach club or an elegant cocktail party, chances are the photographer Bert Morgan was there to catch a flattering portrayal of their arrival.

And starting this Saturday, a collection of about 30 of those photographs, featuring the a young Jacqueline Bouvier, Gary Cooper, and Henry Ford II, will be on display through October 18 at the Southampton Historical Museum’s Rogers Mansion on Meeting House Lane in Southampton Village.

“Southampton Blue Book, 1930 to 1960: Photographs by Bert Morgan” is being shown in cooperation with Patrick Montgomery, who acquired an archival trove of some 1.5 million negatives after Mr. Morgan’s death, in 1986.

The images in the show will be combined with like number of others to be published in a book of the same name.

“He was the society photographer,” said Mary Cummings, the show’s curator. “He followed them to all their favorite spots,” whether it be in New York City, Southampton, Palm Beach, or Bermuda.”

The show will include images of a young Jacqueline Bouvier at the long vanished Southampton Riding & Hunt Club. “That is going to be a highlight,” said Ms. Cummings. “There are some very cute photos of her in her equestrian outfit.”

Others who posed for Mr. Morgan, and whose photos are among those hanging in the show, are Diana Vreeland, the influential editor of Vogue, Clark Gable, Mr. Cooper and his family, one-time New York governor and presidential candidate Al Smith, and Tony Duke, who died just last week, and his brother, Angier Biddle Duke.

Mr. Morgan was able to penetrate the inner circles of high society and win his subjects’ trust with his professionalism and discretion, according to Ms. Cummings. Because he presented his subjects in a flattering way, they were all too happy to oblige him if he asked them to pose for a photo as they entered places like the Southampton Bathing Corporation.

“What is interesting is he really got to know them all. He wasn’t paparazzi, he wasn’t crashing these events, he was invited,” she continued. “He attributed his success to getting to know these people everywhere they went.”

“He wasn’t one of them, but they liked him,” Mr. Montgomery said of Mr. Morgan’s relationship with his subjects.

“Bert’s business was basically selling pictures to his subjects,” he continued. “As people came into an event, he would ask them pose. He would then send them a contact sheet and you could order prints. If you stopped ordering prints he stopped taking your photo.”

Mr. Morgan also sold prints of his high society celebrity photos to magazines such as Town & Country, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Mr. Morgan was in demand as a wedding photographer as well as being the official photographer of the New York Racing Association, which gave him still more opportunities to photograph the rich and famous with their thoroughbreds at the track.

Mr. Morgan, who was born in 1904, immigrated to the United States from England with his parents. As a young man, he bought his first camera for $7 in a pawnshop and got his start taking photographs for Chicago newspapers.

After moving to New York, he soon became a society photographer, whose career would span three distinct periods, the 400, Café Society, and the Jet Set, according to Ms. Cummings.

As the formal balls given by members of the 400 gave way to the more public, and more inclusive, entertaining of the Café Society, who gathered in fashionable hot spots like the Stork Club and extended invitations to movie stars and other performers, Mr. Morgan was there.

Early on, he used a 4-by-5-inch format camera and would cram as many glass plates as he could fit into his pockets for a shoot. When he ran out of plates, he called it a day. He later moved to standard film, but still used large format Speed Graphic cameras for some time before making the switch to smaller format film.

“People were more respectful of cameras back then,” said Mr. Montgomery of Mr. Morgan’s early years and the ease with which he was able to get people to pose for him. “As you move forward, the photos become more candid. It goes from a very formal, respectful approach to more the kind of paparazzi stuff we are used to seeing today.”

Mr. Montgomery is a documentary filmmaker who began buying the archives of photographers and filmmakers in the late 1980s. “I was a customer,” he said. “I thought it would be more fun to be on the other hand of the equation.”

After Mr. Morgan died, his son, who had joined him in the business, kept it going, but eventually decided that he wanted out. When Mr. Montgomery learned the archive was for sale, he made a deal “and drove down to Palm Beach with a truck and picked it up.”

The more than a million images were well organized “with a massive card catalog like you’d find at a public library,” he said.

“He went out and shot every day for 50 years,” Mr. Montgomery said. “He shot the rich and the famous but also the rich and not famous.”

Admission to “Southampton Blue Book, 1930 to 1960: Photographs by Bert Morgan” is free to members of the Southampton Historical Museum and $4 for adults. Young people 17 and under are admitted for free.  The Rogers Mansion at 17 Meetinghouse Lane is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Ticket holders to the society’s “Insiders View of Southampton Homes” will be guests at a special preview of the Morgan exhibit on May 31 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. A public opening reception will be held at the museum on June 7 from 4 to 6 p.m. For more information, call (631) 283-2494 or visit www.southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org.

Hunting and Fishing Through the Ages

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web 10K hunting fishing

by Emily J. Weitz

When you look out across the water and see a bayman scraping the sandy floor with a long rake, there is something about it that feels timeless, even primal. Maybe that’s because some of these methods of fishing and hunting have been around for thousands of years, and are still used in roughly the same ways, for the same purpose: to feed and clothe our families. It may not always be so direct – the diet of a bayman might not be all what he catches, and a hunter may not be walking around clothed only in fur. But still, the bounty of this place continues to serve those who hunt and fish, just as it did thousands of years ago. That’s the subject of the current exhibit at The Southampton Historical Museum at Rogers Mansion, which will be on display from this Friday through October 29.

Obviously, a great deal has changed since the earliest humans were hunting and fishing in the area. But David Bunn Martine, curator of this exhibit and director/curator of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, argues that much has also remained the same.

“Through the lifestyle of baymen and their families, especially in East Hampton,” he said in a recent interview, “it’s stayed the same a great deal. They use a lot of Native American techniques.”

Some of the techniques that remain common practices for local fishermen today were learned from Native Americans.

“Fishing with pound nets, fishing from the shoreline, and fishing with traps are ancient techniques indigenous to this area,” explains Bunn Martine.

Through looking at the development of the artifacts, you can also see how these practices changed over time, and how Native American practices influenced the hunting and fishing practiced across the East End today.

“Five thousand years ago, eel spears and eel rakes were used that were very similar to the ones the English settlers used,” says Bunn Martine. “Modern ones are made out of metal or iron, but they look similar.”

Replicas of many of the tools that were (and in some form still are) used for fishing and hunting will be on display at the exhibit.

“We have a dug-out canoe we made out of pine at the Shinnecock Museum,” says Bunn Martine. “Also we have reconstructed objects, like simulated fishing tools and hunting tools like spear throwers.”

There will also be stone arrowheads used for hunting deer and small game as well as other period artifacts like basket nets, basket traps used for fish and old fashioned netting featured in the exhibit. Paintings, like large pieces depicting the Paleolithic period on Long Island and others showing whaling ceremonies from the relatively recent 1700s, will also be on display.

Evidence of hunting on Long Island dates back at least 10,000 years, and there have been fifteen finds of Paleo points (arrowheads or spear points), to prove it. However, archaeologist Jo-Ann McLean of Jo-Ann McLean Archaeological Consultants, points out that “These Paleo points were found all over Long Island. They were never associated with a site where there was an encampment. This leads us to believe these were travelers passing through hunting.”

So the most ancient of hunting practices were likely nomadic peoples roaming through the rich natural world of Long Island and hunting for deer and other game.

One significant aspect of preparing this show, said Bunn Martine, was in the recreating of some of these objects. Even though nets, lures and traps can be purchased in stores, there was a time when everything needed to be constructed at home. At the Shinnecock Museum, people are now learning to make these things again.

“We want to learn to make these things again by hand using traditional materials like plant fibers,” says Bunn Martine. “We are learning how they made nets and fishing tools by hand, how they made lures and hooks and cordage. It’s part of our tradition… We are getting back in touch with traditional material culture: basket making, net making, object making. These are things we’ve been researching for years but [this exhibit] is another manifestation.”

Hunting and fishing, and all the processes that go with them, are deeply embedded in the life and culture of the East End. Still integral to the survival of many local families, these practices are as ancient as human existence in this area. This exhibit is an opportunity to see just how far back Long Island people, and their traditions, can be traced.