Found Photos: 1930s Minnesota

Found photos are a simple pleasure. I get a lot of enjoyment from looking at old postcards and photos, and trying to tease out the details from the clues in the photographs. I enjoy it so much that I actually spend real money on the occasions when I discover lots of photos and/or negatives in antique stores.

In this case, my wife found a box of treasure at a local Fargo store called Vintage Point and bought it for me as a Christmas present. I was entranced immediately by the fascinating photo negatives inside.

The box contained what seemed to be the hope chest, or a box of keepsakes, from Miss Verona Gerdes, later to become Mrs. Verona Johnson, wife of Phil Johnson. The photos and keepsakes in the box seem to indicate she lived most of her life in the small towns around the Windom, Minnesota area.

There were no actual photos in the box, just black and white negatives (transparencies), and I had zero experience with converting them to digital form. I do not own a lightbox or table, so I came up with my own technique to scan them using a tablet as a backlight (rudimentary at best–a lightbox is on my shopping list), and I was thrilled at some of the slice-of-life photos I discovered.


Is Verona in these photos? I suspect she might be, but she could be behind the camera too. School girls in, what… the late 1930s?



In the same collection of negatives: Leatherheads. A football game from the leather helmet era. Teams and location are unknown.



It’s especially intriguing to see the photographer had an artistic flair and an eye for subject matter–the cars of spectators at the football game.

Tea party

Another photo that captures the moment. Little girls having a “tea party,” their shoes and socks kicked-off with youthful glee, no doubt, and a can of Afterglow Coffee on their blanket to preserve the illusion of a grown-up affair.

take me to the river

This is my favorite photo in the whole collection. It appears to be school children taking a dip in the river on a hot summer day. Again, the photographer, location, and identities of the children are unknown.

Hopefully these photos, which were once cast aside, will live a bit longer now. Do you know more about Verona? Please leave a comment.

If you have old black and white negatives that you’d like to see brought back to life, you can send them to me at our mailing address. I’d love to publish them.

By Troy Larson

Publisher, photographer, producer, husband and father. Cat person. Dog lover.

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