Dale Moorhouse of Elgin has hundreds of wedding pictures he'd like to identify. The only trouble is, he's not sure who to ask.
"My father, Ferris Moorhouse, took photos at many Elgin area weddings in the 1940s and '50s," said Moorhouse. After his father's death in 1998, Morehouse inherited the collection of negatives which included many weddings, horse shows, and pictures of the Elgin area from that era.
The wedding files were not labeled with names, which makes identifying the people shown next to impossible. With the use of a modern scanner, however, Moorhouse is now able to produce positive images, and these can even be printed using today's technology.
Moorhouse says his father Ferris Moorhouse was born in Prairie City, Ill., a small community northeast of Macomb, in 1915. A short time later the family moved to Udina -- an even smaller burg just west of Elgin. The elder Moorhouse worked as a candy and tobacco salesman for a while, and after World War II was employed at the Illinois Watch Case Company -- one of the biggest businesses in Elgin besides the Elgin National Watch Company.
After the war ended, he turned his interest to photography.
"Dad's passion was taking pictures," Moorhouse said. "He based himself in a small studio on the second floor at 163 E. Chicago St., above Wilson's Father & Son Shoe Store. His clients included insurance companies, advertising agencies, and ultimately candid wedding photography, which he particularly enjoyed."
Most of the files available were taken with a Speed Graphic Camera -- often called a "Press Camera" because it was the choice of newspaper photographers. The camera used four-by-five-inch wooden film frames that would be loaded with raw film in the "dark room" in advance of any scheduled photo job.
"To take a single picture required Dad to insert the wooden film holder into the rear of the camera, remove a plate to expose the raw film to the inside of the camera, and set the range and exposure elements for the picture," Moorhouse explained.
"Once the picture was taken the process was reversed. The wood film frame was removed, turned over, reinserted in the rear of the camera, and the procedure repeated. After the frame was exposed on both sides, it could not be used again until reloaded with raw film at a later date."
"All of this was done with a lot of cumbersome equipment, including heavy battery packs for the flash, wooden film frames, and light stands controlled by an electric eye," adds Moorhouse. "Through all of this, he had to keep track of the needs of the wedding party so not to miss pictures they requested."
"He had only one chance to make the picture a good one. There were no retakes of the newlyweds walking down the aisle as man and wife for the first time, feeding each other cake, or leaving in their car after the ceremony," he noted.
"We now have a greater appreciation of what Dad was doing to support our family," said Moorhouse. "He would be very pleased to know that his work was still being enjoyed by so many people of other generations."
Moorhouse has posted various images on the Internet at www.turn2dale.phanfare.com. He welcomes email inquiries at Turn2Dale@yahoo.com from anyone who might recognize the people in these pictures.
Additional postings will be added until the entire collection has been covered. Moorhouse says he is hopeful that this website will allow much of his father's collection to be identified.