Digital Commonwealth

Milan P. Warner Photograph Collection

Holyoke Public Library

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Milan Park Warner (1848-1903) was born in Granby, Massachusetts, the youngest of eight children born to Park Warner (1803-1871) and Joanna Adams Warner (1805-1887). Milan Warner first appears in area directories in the 1870s, when he lived in Springfield, Massachusetts. By 1882, he had established a photography business in nearby Holyoke.
 
In listings and advertisements, Warner described himself as a landscape photographer, probably to distinguish his work from that of portrait photographers, who made photographs in their studios. Warner’s photographs, in contrast, were all taken in situ. Warner made photographs on commission and on speculation; his advertising offered for sale views of the Pioneer Valley, the Hudson River Valley, and the American West. What remains of his work in Holyoke provides especially rich photographic documentation of Holyoke's industrial infrastructure. Warner was active during Holyoke’s late nineteenth-century building boom and also produced photographs of many of the city’s grand homes and commercial buildings. In addition, the collection includes a number of landscapes, group portraits, and interior views.
 
This collection of Milan P. Warner glass plate negatives was given to the Library in the 1950s. Aside from the information that these were made by Warner and depict Holyoke subjects, nothing remains to identify the specific subject of each photograph or its date. In the 1980s, an effort was made to inventory the entire collection, positively identify the subjects or locations of the images, and create a full set of silver gelatin contact prints from these unusually large (10 x 12 inch) negatives. The digitized prints in this collection were made from these contact prints. Many subjects remain unidentified. Warner appears to have adopted the use of factory-made dry-plate negatives in the 1880s, not long after they became widely available. In 1887, Warner patented a dry-plate negative holder.
 
According to the “Holyoke Transcript,” Warner suffered intermittently from what was deemed to be a mental illness. He died in 1903 at the age of 55 in the Northampton Insane Asylum.
 

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