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The Piehowicz Collection

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    Posted: 09 May 2013 at 10:30am

Last week Sansome and I flew over to Ohio to Visit Bandit, it was an adventure, we took a road trip and traveled thru 3 states searching for historical items to support our research on workwear. Bandit found some awesome old photographs and we found a super rare book on Chinese labor in San Fran. in 1876 and some awesome old catalogs with overalls and jeans in them from the turn of the century. We were then invited to view Bandits extensive workwear photo collection. I felt it would be fun to let others peek into a privately held collection that has enormous research potential.


 

The Piehowicz Workwear Photography Collection


This huge privately held collection which is comprised of thousands of 19th and 20th century one-of-a-kind silver gelatin prints of loggers, miners, hunters, farmers, and railroad workers, and has been the passion of Cory Piehowicz for over 10 years. Cory has spent the last decade collecting antique workwear imagery from all over the world and traveling across the country to hunt for and collect images of 1800's and 1900's clothing photographs. The collection does not consist of widely used prints or copies of images but rather prints that are probably the only one made. The gelatin silver process is a suspension of silver salts in gelatin and coated onto a support such as glass, or baryta paper, it was most popular during the 1880’s up into the 1960’s. The Collodion wet-plate process was dominant from the 1850’s to the 1880’s.

Cory has had an affinity for rare and hard to get photographic images ever since he studied photography in college. He first started collecting mugshots and crime scene imagery. Both are extremely rare and hard to find, and he has a respectable collection of both.

 12 or so years ago he started becoming interested in denim and workwear and turned his attention to American workwear images. The thread that seems to tie the themes in his collection together is the raw grittiness of the photos. They all lack the societal norms and graces of perfectly posed families with fancy clothing. I couldn't find one image of polished people in ruffles, which was refreshing. It was fake anyways, sometimes people who seemed rich or in good moral standing in photographs were often times just the opposite in real life. Over a hundred years ago taking a simple picture like we do now was quite an undertaking… most families or individuals would plan extensively for a photo and dress in the best clothes they owned. That may have been the only image taken of them in their lifetime.

Seeing how rare photography was in the 1800's, even rarer is the image of a laborer wearing dirty, torn work clothing like overalls. 

Cory spends some weekends traveling to New York, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, pouring over antique photos for hours, and even then he is not guaranteed to find an image suitable for his collection.




Cory can you explain the various types of photos you collect? (Tin type, dag, post card) 

Whether they are tin types, glass plate negatives or just plain prints I collect all of these types. I always focus on certain things in the photos like the sharpness, rarity, and atmosphere of the images. I know it may sound cheesy but I can sit there and look at some of these images forever and put myself in the photos

 

What photo has been your most difficult to find, and what do you think is the most expensive you have purchased?

 The most difficult to find photo in my collection was a photo of a Native American in the late 1800's wearing Levi's, I had been searching for a long time for a photo like that and I was lucky enough to be able to recently acquire it. Another one is of miners wearing dartstitch pants (nonriveted pants) in which you can see the dartstitching really well, that one I think can be helpful for research purposes. One of the miners is wearing two pairs of jeans with one leg cut off at the short line and the underlying pair is beautifully patched. I think it is better than the one Levi's has been using in their campaigns.  Hmmm… The most expensive photo I have bought, well I am not going to mention how much but I normally pay really high prices if there is something in the photo that I really like. I am a sucker for photo of guys with candlesticks.  

 

Michael and I have rubbed elbows with a few photo collectors and researched them at various libraries… but none that has focused on clothing design and none (I suspect) that has amassed such a large quantity (4-5 thousand) of high quality, one of a kind, photographic images of American workers and workwear. The Piehowicz Collection is quite possibly the most formidable in the U.S. and probably the world.  We knew he had a large collection but we had not realized the full enormity of the size and quality till we spent a day pouring over one after another of one of a kind photos of stifle shirts, check jackets, stifle striped overalls, levi waist overalls, jackets, boots, etc. It was breathtaking…

Every individual photo had unique aspects, like the composition, the beautiful tones and hues of sepia and greys, and in each a different group of men and sometimes children in different states of mood and exhaustion. Some of them are so close to the subjects that details of the clothing design can be made out, like the rivets on the pants, pocket designs, and cinch straps………



a photo i took of a detail on one of his silver gelatin prints....

His collection plays a crucial role in recording the history of and furthering the research of workwear. Not only are most of the men found in these images dead but the clothing was probably discarded- making these images the only record of that moment in time, which I find fascinating. Cory is presently working on a book that will focus on historic American workwear images from his extensive collection. It will be the first time the public will be able to enjoy access to a sampling of his private collection.


Cory what do you think is the most challenging aspects of pulling your book together?

I think the most challenging part of putting my book together is the photo selection. I like them all and have a hard time deciding which images to pick. I do have my favorites though...











Cory has been generous enough to lend images to our publishing efforts and our new book American Overalls, it features quite a few of one of-a-kind images from the collection.

A future project we would like to collaborate with Cory on is a study that will focus on selecting only the dated images and recording and studying them chronologically to further our knowledge of the differences between 1800’s and 1900’s workwear designs. We are also looking to researching the subtle differences between west coast and east coast design aspects of workwear.  Russ (my dad) and I plan another trip out just to focus on this research and record these images in a workbook that we can refer to when dating actual workwear items that are found.

One thing that struck me about Cory was his unassuming nature about his collection. Most people don’t know that he has amassed such a beautiful and amazing group of workwear images, but I find the more serious collectors that I have run across tend to be fairly private about their research and collections. Although to date this has been funded entirely privately by Cory we hope (some time in the future) to secure a funding source to display hundreds of these images of workers and their workwear in a museum that is open to the public. Until then the Harris family will travel to Ohio to research the photos and hopefully glean insight into the transformation of workwear design over the years. So far we have not found a library that has such a large collection of images of workwear. Old photos yes, reprints yes, but not strictly workwear. We would like to thank Cory and his family for opening up their doors to us so that we may be able to study and work as a research team to further the understanding of historic Workwear of America.
















Edited by Nonriveted - 09 May 2013 at 10:57am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Sardine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 10:43am
Those would be interesting to see (and would love to see more), thanks for posting NR. Bandit: good job on your collection!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (5) Thanks(5)   Quote Nonriveted Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 10:54am
thanks Sardine!

yea it was amazing, cant wait for the book to come out..........we had a great time, but there is so much more to do there........gatta go back


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 11:02am
nicely done, NR! I hope to see that collection in the flesh some day too...

Cory's photo of the guy in the hickory stripe jacket and newsie is one of my favorites.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Nonriveted Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 11:11am
well thank you very Much Mr. Randal!!!!! yea the hickory stripe jacket is amazing.......some of the photos of groups of children wearing torn and dirty workwear has been something i have not been able to get out of my head, what a different time it was back then.........no air conditioning....probably very little medical care...what lives they must have lead, and most probably did not know how to read or write i am guessing??

btw did you see the interesting waistband detail on the third photo from the bottom, the guy on the far right?? crazy stuff
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote Bob Dale Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 11:25am
Excellent, Excellent photos!

Thanks so much for sharing Cory, and for compiling this post Charla!

I'll just echo all the adoration for that shot of the gent in the Sinclair oils striped coat, it's beautiful.  Love the non-chalance of the guys expression.  'Here I am, this is me' and it doesn't look fake, posed, it truly is a moment in this mans life.  It kind of makes your heart swell as odd as that may sound.
 
THANK YOU, for sharing guys.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote hollows Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 11:28am
Incredible.  So ready to fork over cash for this book.
I make things out of leather.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote flatpattern Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 11:55am
wow!!! lovely.....thanks for sharing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote swallowtail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 12:14pm
great post Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Jelthead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 1:22pm
Thanks for posting a small sample of an amazing collection. Reminds me of the first time I set eyes on an original Lewis Hine print or saw the Mike Disfarmer exhibition in New York. Look forward to the book or possible exhibition? I would travel for that!

Grant
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