Hayward Photographer George McElroy

by Eldon M. Marple

George McElroy’s subject were universal; each class in school aligned itself next to the concrete block foundation of the schoolhouse to be limned in history, the prom queen daintily wiped her yes from the sting of the acrid power exploded in his flash holder, and no confirmation could pass without his attention. He traveled to the camps and the mills to record the work and the men he found there. Every high school graduate dressed in the best of the day came to his dark studio with the skylight to the north to pose stiffly while he peered through his aged glass-plate camera with a black cloth over his head, then, after a warning not to move, to wait immobile with bated breath for an interminable moment while the mechanism clicked and growled.

The negatives of the photographs taken by Mr. McElroy were on glass plates and he kept them to use for the sale of duplicates. After his death in 1938 the studio passed to other hands and uses, and the thousands of stored plates of incalculable value to a historian were hauled to the dump and buried. When Tony Wise moved the building to Historyland a few years ago, we recovered a few plates from digging in the debris. Were these negatives available today, a continuous and inexhaustible source of information would be available for the study of the region in the early days.

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