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Antique Photo Gallery

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Dryden Mutual Insurance Company was founded in early 1860 as Dryden & Groton Mutual Fire Insurance Company by members of small rural communities on the eastern side of Tompkins County.   For the following century, the company kept to its original mission to insure the farms and homes of local residents.  Eventually, in the early 1970’s, it began to expand into other counties and other lines of business statewide. Today, as Dryden Mutual approaches its 150th anniversary, it ranks among the top 100 insurance organizations in New York State.

In order to celebrate this sesquicentennial in 2010, Dryden Mutual elected to purchase and publicize an extensive collection of glass plate negative photos taken by one of our own early insureds, a Mr. Verne Morton of Groton, NY.   He lived on a farm in Groton with his brother all his life, from 1868 to 1945.  He was a part-time farmer and a part-time school teacher in the neighboring community of Lansing, NY.   He acquired an intense interest in early photographic methods and became an expert in the glass plate photo process.   During his life he produced a collection of over 12,000 glass plate negatives which are now preserved permanently in the collections of The History Center in Tompkins County.   Some of the best examples of his work are displayed in miniature on this website and in dramatic enlarged digital reproductions on the walls of Dryden Mutual’s offices.   These marvelous photos are available in many sizes for public purchase directly from The History Center in Ithaca, NY.

Why is the work of Verne Morton important?   To paraphrase Louis C. Jones’ (Director Emeritus of the New York State Historical Association) forward to a book of on Verne Morton photos published by The DeWitt Historical Society in 1983:

“It was only in the 1930’s that we began to appreciate the painters and cravers who worked  outside the mainstream of the arts – those creative people we call our folk artists.   We are just now beginning to discover our folk photographers, little known beyond their own villages, blessed with a sympathetic eye that led them to create an index of their times.   Upstate New York’s Verne Morton of Groton (12 miles northeast of Ithaca), is one of these previously unsung  amateur craftsmen whose work proclaims its own excellent quality.

He comes through to us … as a quiet, reserved man lacking the robust physique of his rural contemporaries, a devoted and admired teacher with a strong interest in children and nature and an orderly curiosity about such processes as varied as pumpkin pie making, beekeeping and roof raising.  In a later time he might well have been involved in documentary films, for he nurtured the prototypes of that art form ...

Morton concentrated on subjects that he liked, staying within the rural world that he understood so well in the fields and small communities surrounding the villages of Dryden and Groton, New York.   One gets the strong feeling that he simply photographed what directly appealed to him and seemed to have done it purely as a diversion for himself.   He documented those striking changes that came over rural New York between 1897, when he began to photograph, and his death in 1945.   The horse goes, the car comes;  time and distance are compressed by the women he photographed at their switchboards and in their kitchens; tractors replace the plow; poles and wires come to deface village streets; and bicycles come in while goat carts go out.

These photographs appeal … on two different levels, some of them are fascinating documents, others are beautifully successful as works of art.   The documents are especially useful in evaluating work in the field and both inside and outside the house.   The recording of the new farm and road-making machinery conveys a sense of the excitement these inventions brought to farmers and villagers alike.  His sharp, accurate focus gives us a sense of immediacy and makes analysis of the century-old procedures remarkably easy.   The record of women’s indoor work is similarly insightful, but we also see women haying, cutting corn, harvesting potatoes, and picking strawberries - sometimes alone, other times with their children and men…”


Please feel free to join us in the exploration and enjoyment of the available examples of Verne Morton’s remarkable imagery from so long ago.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dryden Mutual Insurance Company l 12 Ellis Drive l Dryden, NY 13053
Phone: 800-724-0560
l Fax: 607-257-0312 l mail@drydenmutual.com                                                                                  NAIC Company Code: 13919