PARKERSBURG -Paul Borrelli had no idea what he was getting when he was recently offered old photos, slides and negatives.
Borrelli is the longtime proprietor of Artcraft Studios, the go-to authority for old photos of the city, specifically the downtown. A few weeks ago Borrelli was contacted by a woman asking if he was interested in old negatives from former professional photographers Harry Schaffer and Harry Sewell.
A few days later Borrelli said the woman and her husband came in with a box of old photos.
Photo by Jody Murphy
Paul Borrelli holds several of the recently developed photos he produced from a large collection of negatives recenbtly given to him. Borrelli received thousands of old photographic negatives that were taken by Schaffer and Sewell, professional photographers who specialized in advertising and industrial photography.
"I'll be back," the man told Borrelli, heading back to his car. He returned with another box- of slides.
"I'll be back," the man said again.
The man and his wife returned a third, a fourth and a fifth time with a hand truck and several boxes containing envelopes of negatives. When they were done, Borrelli was staring at 15 cardboard boxes of photographic negatives- tens of thousands of negatives taken over the last 70 years by Schaffer and Sewell.
Artcraft Studio was opened in 1925 by Borrelli's father, Jimmy. The store has hundreds of photos on display and thousands of negatives, most are centered around Parkersburg, Marietta and Belpre.
The collection of negatives, many of which were taken by Borrelli or his late father, has been enhanced by donations from residents who sometimes bring in old boxes of photos or negatives.
Schaffer and Sewell were professional photographers who specialized for advertising agencies and industrial companies up until about 1980.
Schaffer and Sewell were excellent photographers, taking photos all around the country. Locally, they worked for DuPont, Kaiser Aluminum, Ames, Borg-Warner, West Virginia Glass, Fenton and Fahlgren Advertising.
The boxes are full of business photos, products for catalogs and sales magazines and advertising campaigns. Borrelli said he's looked through more than 2,000 of the estimated 5,000 envelopes.
"It's a conglomeration of stuff," he said. "My interest was to the downtown more than anything."
Borrelli also found many shots of Market Street and other Parkersburg businesses and landmarks, including photos of the city's 1950 snowstorm. There are copies of Civil War-era pictures, sketches and drawings.
"It's kind of a treasure," said Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society.
Borrelli will continue to sift through the work- a labor of love-looking for additional lost treasures. He should be done by March, he jokingly said.
"Only God knows," he said.