Reginald Sellman negatives, 1911-1935

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Sellman, Reginald Oliver, b. 1884
Collection consists of 898 nitrate negatives and two prints, all taken by amateur photographer Reginald Sellman from 1911 to 1935, chiefly in Baltimore, Maryland and environs. There is also a detailed handwritten index to over 100 images. Subjects include Susie Ford, possibly Sellman's fiancée; his wife Obedience (Bedie) Darden Sellman, and their son Bruce Darden Sellman. Places featured include Baltimore residences, streets, bridges, railway stations, monuments, parks, and hospitals and medical institutions such as Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Biedler and Sellman Sanatorium, founded by Reginald Sellman's father, William A. B. Sellman. There are many snapshots of family members, and photos taken during hikes, camping trips, and visits to parks. Maryland locations include Baltimore County historic sites and parks: the Owing's Mills area, Gwynn's Falls, Chatalonee, Loch Raven, Druid Lake, the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore, Elk River, and the Patapsco River. The Sellmans often visited relatives in North Carolina; thus, there are also many images taken in early 20th century Beaufort, Goldsboro, La Grange, Kinston, and Raleigh, including the Raleigh Methodist Orphanage. Some photographs feature commercial fishing scenes and cotton transport.
1.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes)
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection consists of 898 nitrate negatives and two small prints, all taken by amateur photographer and Baltimore resident Reginald Sellman from 1911 to 1935. They were originally stored in four black cases, one of which has been retained for the collection. The collection also includes Sellman's meticulous hndwritten index cards. The images are arranged in original chronological order and listed by the photographer's original identification number has been retained; the titles were also taken from the original index cards.

The snapshots were chiefly taken in Baltimore, Maryland and Baltimore County, and depict buildings, streets, bridges, railway stations, parks, rivers, and monuments, and many family members, especially Reginald's friend (possibly fianceé) Susie Ford, and later, his wife Obedience, and their son Bruce. There are quite a few photographs taken on day trips to historic sites and parks in Baltimore County such as St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Chattalonee, Gwynn Falls, Owings Mills, Massey, and Lake Roland. Sellman clearly enjoyed being outside; there are many images of activities such as camping, hiking, and visiting parks and Eastern Shore recreation areas.

Reginald's father, William A. B. Sellman, was the founder of a Baltimore sanatorium, thus there are views of hospitals, including many marked "B.S.S.," almost certainly the Biedler Sellman Sanatorium on Charles Street, where Reginald Sellman was listed as a physician; a few interior shots of the "B.S.S." include an operating room. There are also exterior views of medical teaching institutions such as Johns Hopkins Hospital. In one of the two positive prints in the collection, Susie Ford is shown wearing a nurse's uniform.

There are images of apartment buildings and houses where Reginald and other family members lived, and some interior shots of rooms. There are many casual snapshots of family members. Later images depict Sellman's young son, Bruce, as a baby and young boy, along with his mother, Obedience (Bedie) Darden Sellman (O.D.S.). She first appears in the images as Obedience Cox Darden, at her own commencement at a nursing school in May 1914.

Reginald and Obedience Sellman often visited her Darden family relatives in North Carolina; thus, there are many vacation photographs from the 1920s taken in Raleigh, Beaufort, Goldsboro, La Grange, and Kinston, N.C. Depicted are train stations, relatives' houses, railroads, street scenes, and businesses, some owned by relatives. A long series features scenes from the Methodist Orphanage in Raleigh, possibly where relatives worked. Zylpha or Zylphia Darden, Obedience's cousin, often appears with baby Bruce. There are many scenes from Beaufort, N.C., with commercial fishing, streets, and the waterfront.

Other earlier vacation spots depicted that Reginald visited with Susie Ford include the Eastern Shore, with Tollchester Beach and its amusement part and piers; Harper's Ferry, West Virginia; and the Blue Ridge in Virginia. The last images from 1935 feature Susie Ford's grave and monument in Mount View Cemetery (undentified state); she probably died in spring 1914.

Also in the collection are four sets of handwritten index cards listing each negative's identification number, roll of film and frame, caption, and technical details such as camera settings, exposure, film number, and date when image was developed. The cards are filed at the beginning of each group of negatives represented by the set. One original black storage case has also been retained, as well as advertisement and leaflets featuring photographic supplies, and an envelope of paper corner mounts.

Apparently, Sellman also photographed with glass plates, but these are not present in the collection. There were also several places in the storage case where the film negatives were missing; in these cases, only the titles remain, taken from the index cards.

Biographical / historical:

Reginald Oliver Sellman (b. 1884 Dec. 12) was the only son of Baltimore physician and gynecologist William Alfred Belt Sellman and his wife Mary Oliver Sellman. Sellman attended Johns Hopkins University and received a B.A. in 1908, and an M.D in 1912. Shortly after, he was listed as a resident physician at the Biedler and Sellman Sanatorium, and later as a physician on Charles St. Susie Ford, who appears in many of the photos until 1914, is mentioned often as "my darling." Sellman took a next-to-last picture of her in 1914, and her gravesite, with no visible date, is also featured in a photo. As her monument initials are "S.F.S.," Susie may have been briefly married to Sellman and may have died in 1914. Sellman married Obedience "Bedie" Darden Cox Sellman, who first appears in nursing school commencement photos, sometime after 1914, and they had a son, Bruce Darden Sellman, born in 1919. In 1942, at the age of 57, Sellman enlisted in the U.S. Army. The date or place of his death is unknown, but in some family tree records it appears as circa 1950.

Acquisition information:
The Reginald Sellman negatives were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2009.
Processing information:

Processed by Joanne Fairhurst, Matthew Warren, March 2013.

Encoded by Joanne Fairhurst, Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Matthew Warren, March 2013.

Accession(s) represented in this collection guide: 2009-0184.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research. However, nitrate negatives are closed to general use. Digital surrogates are available in the collection guide.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Reginald Sellman negatives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.