PALMYRA TOWNSHIP—The Wayne County Historical Society (WCHS) held its seventh annual Canal Festival over the weekend, transforming Lock 31 D&H Canal Park into a series of snapshots from early American life and the heyday of the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal.

“We're so pleased with the response from the community to this event,” said Carol Dunn, WCHS Executive Director.

The 16-acre park bustled with activity from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday as visitors, some from states away, learned about myriad traditional experiences, including beekeeping, wood carving, hunting and trapping, textile production, blacksmithing, canal life and others.

“We're happy to be able to bring different kinds of presenters,” said Dunn. “Everything here reflects life at some time during the active part of this canal, 1828-1898.”

Attendees were able to engage in historic reclamation alongside archaeologists from the Frances Dorrance Chapter of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, as well as participate in living history with Civil War reenactors and educational Native American dance performances by Frank LittleBear.

New to the experiences this year, tintype photographer R. J. Gibson set up a portable photography station comprised of a camera from the late 1800s and a darkroom built into the sidecar of his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Tintype photography, “was done from the late 1850s all the way up into the 1930s,” Gibson explained, noting it was the second form of photography to emerge following daguerrotype.

Known as “the wet-plate process,” to take a tintype photo, Gibson explained, “Basically, you're making a photographic plate on the premises. You're making a plate light sensitive. You're then rushing it to your camera, making your exposure, and rushing it back to development before it dries.”

The whole process to set up the shot, prep the materials and take the exposure and develop the plate to where it is visible can be done in around ten minutes, he noted.

“From that you can do a number of different things. You can pour it on metal that was black and that was a tintype. You could pour it on glass and make a glass plate negative. You could pour it on glass, put something black behind it and make a glass plate positive, known as an ambrotype.”

An artist from Gettysburg, Gibson noted he got into tintype photography “...because I couldn't build a time machine. Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved history and I've had this obsession with detail to make things period correct.”

Gibson has worked on numerous historical movies and TV shows, generating period-accurate still photographs.

He opened a wet plate photography studio in 1999, the only one of its kind at the time.

At present, Gibson travels cross-country to various events with his portable station capturing modern events with a historical flair.

“We do everything from weddings to historical events to demonstrations. I do a lot of demos for everything from camera clubs and boy scouts to the White House press corps.”

More information about Gibson and his work is available on Facebook at RJ Gibson Tintype Artist, on Instagram @Tintype_Artist, or his own website tintypeartist.com.

He is available by phone at 717-337-9393.

Capturing images of a different sort, Lisa Ohliger, a WCHS volunteer and local historian, led demonstrations in tin punching.

Ohliger noted she was focused primarily on tin punching utilized by the North American settlers.

“It was used mainly for lanterns to keep the flame running,” she explained, noting the art survives today in decorations such as pie tins and lamp shades.

The Pennsylvania Dutch in particular are known for tin punched décor, Ohliger stated.

At Ohliger's table, visitors were given a small blank circle of metal and a template of various designs from stars to gingerbread men.

Using a mallet and solid metal punch, crafters hammered the pattern onto the blank, creating a pendant for a necklace.

Festivals to come

Noting the turnout was exceptional in spite of the brief rain near the festival's start, Canal Park Committee Chair Tom Colbert said he was “surprised at the steadiness of the crowd.”

Mindful of Canal Fests to come, Colbert noted “Next year we hope to have the pavilion built,” offering a new stage of sorts on which the history can unfold.

Funding for the project is currently sitting at $157,000, slightly short of its $200,000 goal.

Those looking to aid the project can donate to the Main Museum (Wayne County Historical Society, P.O. Box 446, 810 Main Street Honesdale, PA 18431) with a memo directing the donation to “Lock 31 Boat Pavilion.”

Part of the Canal Store is hopeful to have a new interior for next year's Canal Fest as well.

Earlier this year, the WCHS received $12,500 from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission toward the project, with another $12,500 expected to be raised by the society itself.

The work is expected to be underway in the spring.