Turn-Of-The-Century Apostle Islands Photos Discovered At Estate Sale

Glass Plate Negatives Are Of Images Taken By Lighthouse Keeper


A discovery of century-old photos by an Apostle Islands lighthouse keeper is being called one of the most significant historical finds in that region’s history.

The pictures, recently discovered at an estate sale, were taken between 1900 and 1906, and range in subject matter. One shows an unknown woman standing in Victorian dress on a rock ledge next to Lake Superior, waving, while another shows stern-looking mustachioed men mending fishing nets in Bayfield.

The Apostle Islands History Conservancy’s Bob Mackreth says the 220 glass plate negatives are of images taken by Emmanuel Luick, a lighthouse keeper on Sand Island for 28 years who was also a professional photographer.

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“There’s others where he kind of let his artistic side come out,” said Mackreth. “There’s a picture he took, it’s probably in Iron River, of a little girl on a swing in front of a house – and it really has an Andrew Wyeth feeling to it, the way it’s composed.”

Luick and his wife kept meticulous logs, and the negatives all have specific dates. One seemingly mundane shot of two men pushing wheelbarrows full of clothing turned out to actually show the aftermath of the 1905 sinking of the steamship Sevona, in which seven men perished.

“So you put the picture with the lighthouse records and say, “Holy smokes, that’s what he’s doing there,” said Mackreth. “He’s not pushing laundry; he’s got the stuff that washed ashore from the ship.”

Mackreth says they’re raising money to develop the negatives and display them at the Bayfield Heritage Association.

“I wish I could talk to Mr. Luick and say “Hey, we got your stuff back out in public for you,’” he said. “I kind of feel like the ghost of Emmanuel Luick is looking over my shoulder.”

Check out a slideshow of the images here.

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