The negative and the resulting photo shown above were taken at a prison in Iowa. They're part of an excellent-sounding project recently brought to my attention by reader Matt Miller. I'll let him explain it in his own words:
My cousin's name is Mark Fullenkamp. He's an amateur photographer and also a technology geek who's interested in genealogy and history. He's from West Point, Iowa, not far from the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, which has been in use for 150 years. My aunt (Mark's mother) worked at the prison in the early 1960s and actually ordered the rope for the prison's last two hangings. A few of our cousins work there.
The penitentiary is preparing to move to a new facility. When Mark had heard about the move, he wanted to see if he could take some photos of the old prison while it still housed prisoners. In addition, he said he had heard rumors of old glass plate negatives still laying around from the prison's early days. These were old prisoner intake photos, taken as the person was committed to the prison. He eventually was able to get his hands on the negatives and has now completed scanning over 11,000 of them and inverting the colors.
He has also come across old prisoner records, at least some of which have prisoner numbers on them. Most of the photos have prisoner numbers on them as well [see above], and he's now in the process of matching up the photos and the paperwork. I know he plans to make the images and I believe the whole project available online and possibly in book form, but so far I've heard no details about those plans.
Faaaaaascinating. Fullenkamp calls this endeavor the Iowa State Prison Memory Project. You can learn more about it in this Des Moines Register article, and you can see Fullenkamp and his research assistant, Gemma Goodale-Sussen, discussing the project in this video, which is definitely worth watching:
I hope to be in touch with Fullenkamp soon to learn more about his project, and of course I'll share what I learn here on PermaRec. Stay tuned.