I feature the occasional wire photo on eBay Watch (scroll down, see the Willis Ward photo below, the Tom Harmon in class, earlier, Yost’s funeral etc).  Does anyone know how that process worked back in the day?  For an pic taken by the Associated Press, did they take the photo, attached a caption and mail that off to certain papers that requested it?  Were many copies made and distributed?  Is there such thing as the “original” wire photo?


  1. rdlwolverine

    There would be many originals, one at each newspaper that subscribed to the AP wire photo service. Although, my experience is from working at the Daily in the 1970s, I don’t think the technology varied that much in the thirties. We had several wire service machines, most were the tickertype variety that spit out the wire service news articles on a rolling scroll of paper. One machine, though, was the photo machine, which was basically like an analog fax machine. The paper that it was printed on was a glossier type than those that contained the print articles. As I recall, but I am a little fuzzy, there was sort of a stylus that inked the foto as the paper scrolled through.

  2. There’s a book in Google Book Search


    The American Wire Services: A Study of Their Development as a Social Institution
    By Richard Allen Schwarzlose
    Edition: illustrated
    Published by Ayer Publishing, 1979
    ISBN 0405117744, 9780405117749
    453 pages

    which looks like it tells more than you might ever want to know, starting with a history that goes back quite far.

    A simpler guide is this


    “Especially in the early years there were many news services, large and small, including countless local newspapers. On an old photograph you will occasionally find a stamp for a photo service or other company that you have never heard of before and that went out of business many decades ago. “

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