Fred W. Blakeslee
(Ashtabula Fireman & Photographer)
Fred Blakeslee was a member of the Ashtabula Fire Department and worked all night trying to help the survivors of the crash. He also owned a photography business in town and grabbed his camera the next morning to take the first iconic photographs of this disaster. Since photography was still a new technology when the disaster happened, photographers used what were called “wet plates.” They would coat glass with a light sensitive emulsion in the field and then expose the coated glass with light in the camera. Blakeslee climbed down the icy steps to the pump house being careful not to slip and smash his large and awkward camera. He then set up to start taking pictures. However, it was very cold and his wet-plates were freezing up during the preparation process. Blakeslee finally warmed his plates in a switchman’s shack to successfully capture his images. Thousands of copies of these photos were made and sold, “first come first served” by Fred Blakeslee, who owned his business from 1870 - 1897, before turning it over to his son. It should also be noted that Fred Blakeslee organized the protection hose company in 1850.