THE "UNSEEN" ADA JONES:
A Gallery from the Collection of Ryan Barna (c. 1919)
During the late 'teens the Bain News Service photographed several notable people of the day. Recording artists were among them, and Ada Jones, the "First Lady of the Phonograph," was no exception. She was photographed in various informal settings (probably at her home in Huntington Station, Long Island) so that her pictures could be used in company publications, including monthly record supplements (this way, consumers could see that these "names" on record labels, many of whom did not tour regularly, were real people after all). However, since Jones was releasing fewer records in 1919, it was unnecessary to use all of her photographs. Therefore, many of her pictures are not known to have been published.
While the Library of Congress scanned and digitized thousands of glass negatives from the Bain collection (many of them being brought to light for the first time), only six glass negatives of Jones survive. The print collection in the Library of Congress' Prints & Photographs Reading Room (not digitized) do not contain Jones' snapshots in the file cabinets. Thus, these images of Jones (scanned from the original prints) are probably being reproduced here for the first time, and may be the only place you will ever see them reprinted all together.
These prints were eventually acquired by Culver Pictures (they have both Bain and Culver stamped on the backs), but at some point Culver pulled them from their archives, and were auctioned off by a photograph dealer on eBay several years ago. Fortunately, I managed to win most of them (sixteen to be exact). A few others, sadly, have escaped me (I think about three or four). The good news is, most of them are here, in a safe environment, and available for your enjoyment.
If the photograph is known to have been published, the details are given below the image (if no publication is known, then I indicate "untraced"). However, if you know of other publications these pictures appeared in, or if you won any Ada Jones photographs from the same eBay dealer I just mentioned, and would like to share them (with full credit attributed), please email me.
With Cal Stewart at the recording horn in an unidentified studio. Stamped on the back "RECEIVED AUG. 1, 1919." This picture was published in Farm and Fireside for January 1921. Unnumbered.
Pumping water into her watering can. The glass negative survives for this picture at the Library of Congress. Set #4557, picture #3.
Raking. This picture was published in New Victor Records for October 1919, with the caption "Ada Jones is sometimes her own gardener." Unnumbered.
Waving goodbye. Unnumbered, untraced.
On the telephone. Unnumbered, untraced.
With unidentified dog. Unnumbered, untraced.
Window shopping. Unnumbered, untraced.
Gardening. Unnumbered, untraced.
This picture was first published in reverse form (mirrored) in Farm and Fireside for January 1921, and finally in New Victor Records for January 1922, with the caption "Ada Jones' Blue Monday." Set #4979, picture #4.
Trimming hedges. Set #4979, picture #5. Untraced.
With unidentified dog. Set #4979, picture #6. Untraced.
The glass negative survives for this picture at the Library of Congress. Although this print is not as sharp as the glass negative, it does not have the damage along the side of her dress. Set #4979, picture #2.
With unidentified girl, possibly Jones' daughter, Sheelah Flaherty, who would have been about thirteen years old when this was taken. Set #4979, picture #11. Untraced.
Mowing the lawn. Set #4979, picture #16. Untraced.
This picture was published in Edison Amberola Monthly for March 1921 (with the caption "Ada Jones Sending a Joke By Wireless"), and the glass negative survives at the Library of Congress. Set #4557, picture #7.
Compilation and site © 2015 by Ryan Barna
"History Through the Horn"