HARROW J. SPARROW COLLECTION

In 1967 Marlena and Larry Carr were cleaning out the attic of a Cape antique house located at 64 Locust Road, a recent real estate investment acquisition. A small open narrow box labeled “Mincemeat” was discovered with over two hundred 4 ½“ X 3 ½” glass plate negatives in individually identified envelopes. The box was transferred to their attic in Eastham where it remained until Thanksgiving 2005. While sharing a Thanksgiving meal with our daughter Julie and family, Marlena asked, “Do we like glass plate negatives?” Of course we did! Well, she announced she had some the Orleans Historical Society could have. What a magnificent surprise when later on Julie delivered two hundred thirteen glass plates!

The excitement of this fantastic acquisition led to many questions. Who was the photographer, in what time frame were they taken, and most of all, how could we ever fund the development and preservation of these wonderful images of the past? Detective work began immediately and is ongoing. 

Remembering a photographic exhibit during the Orleans Bicentennial in 1997 at the National Seashore, we began to believe the images were taken by the same person. The exhibit was produced by John Bosko, a photographer who had purchased in the 1990’s at a California flea market similar sized glass plate negatives, 4 ½” X 3 ½” . One picture was of the Orleans Cash Store in Orleans located at 4 Main Street at the corner of Locust Road. With the help of a friend Michael Whately of the National Seashore, identification of the photographer was made. 

He was Harry J. Sparrow, son of Joel and Minnie Sparrow who ran the Cash Store and lived in the adjacent home where Harry had grown up. Harry hung a sheet as a backdrop in the store and set up an improvised photography portrait studio. He also roamed the area photographing animals, vendor wagons, neighbors and landscape scenes. The 1897 Centennial booklet carried an advertisement of Harry J. Sparrow, photographer. 

The dating of the recently found images was made by Elinor Felt who identified the image # 81 as that of her infant twin brother and sister, William and Mildred born in 1910. Their father was Bill Higgins Sr. who ran a store and pool hall on Main Street. Both images are in this collection. 

The permanent preservation of these valuable images has been made possible by a Community Preservation Act grant for which we are very appreciative. Glass plate digital process by Bob Korn Imaging.

508-240-1329

P.O. Box 353, 3 River Rd, Orleans, MA  02653 

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