My wife and I enjoy visiting antique shops and one Saturday recently we found ourselves in a small shop in Vancouver. It was a tiny store with a limited selection of neatly placed items lining the shelves and tables. Among them, a small selection of camera and darkroom items immediately attracted my attention. I ended up purchasing a few small items. This led to very pleasant chat with the proprietor. When he learned that I do darkroom work and rescue old film, he gave me a couple exposed but undeveloped rolls that had found their way into the shop. One of the rolls was Kodak Verichrome in 130 format, which I had heard of but never actually seen. 
Returning home later that day, I did some research and discovered that Kodak Verichrome film was the predecessor to Veriehrome Pan. Information about Verichrome in 130 format is spotty at best. I was able to find a bit of information indicating that it was released in 1907. Verichrome 130 was used to contact print post cards, was discontinued in the early l930's. In other words this film may well be almost 100 years old.

The question remained, can I actually recover images from film that old? I've recovered photos from old lost films before, but nothing close to this age. To further complicate maters, my usual  sources of information for developers and times, showed nothing on this very old film. There were many references to Verichrome Pan but not on the older Verichrome and the films do have some significant differences. In other words … I was on my own. I made some decisions based on past experience with vintage film but my choice of developer and times was, a best guess. To further complicate maters was the fact that this unusually large roll film wouldn’t fit any of my more modern development tanks. This meant that the only way to develop the film was to unroll it, in total darkness, and then see-saw it back and forth through each of the chemicals for the required time. 

The time had come and there I was in the darkness, unrolling the delicate 1.5 meter long film. Going by feel, I managed to guide it to the developer tray and began the process of see-sawing the film back and forth in the developer.  I quickly discovered a consequence of film being rolled tightly into a spool for 100 years … it wants to twist and coil like a snake around my arms. I wrestled with the film trying to, by some miracle, ensure it actually gets into the chemicals. I thought to myself, “There is no way this will work!” Finally when it had been moved through Developer, then Stop Bath and finally Fixer, it was placed into a rinse bath where I was able to turn on the lights. 

As my eyes adjusted to the room light, my heart skipped a beat when I saw images! Not just faint, barely perceptible images! These were clear photos. Only the last 3 images were able to be recovered. The two images located on the outermost layers of the roll had degraded over the years and were completely gone. However the remaining three were in good condition. I anxiously hung the film to dry. I couldn't wait to see the final result! 
Following a couple hours of drying, I finally processed the prints. The three prints appear to be a family. There is an older gentleman, perhaps the grandfather, who is dressed in a way that makes me think he may be a farmer. There are two younger women and man, as well as a young girl roughly 2 years of age. The background in a couple shots shows the silhouette of an old truck and another shows a very old washing machine. Consulting with someone knowledgeable about historic farm and machinery equipment, these both appear to be 1920/30’s vintage. There is also a very old can of what appears to be MJB coffee with a logo that seems to date back to can design from the same period. We can't be certain of the dates, this is merely a guess on our part.
The big question remains, who are these people? That we don't know and likely never will. I have been contacted by a reporter from a local newspaper and magazine that specialize in British Columbia History. They have expressed a desire to continue the research and possibly determine more about the people in these images. What of the photographer that took these photos? Why were these photo’s never developed? Maybe the roll was miss-placed, or given that this may have been early or mid 30’s, perhaps the photographer was called into World War 2 and never came home. We can only guess. Regardless I feel privledged to be able to finish the work that this photographer started so many years ago.

Let me conclude by saying, never assume that an old roll of film is unrecoverable. You never know what mysteries or historic gems might be discovered. Film can remain viable for very long periods of time! I get excited every time I rescue a lost roll of film.

For those curious about the technical details. The film was developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 11 minutes and then 1 minute for Ilford Ilfostop and 8 minutes in Ilford Rapid Fix then a 20 minute rinse. Normal fixing time is 5 minutes but in this case I extrended to 8 minutes to ensure clearing this very old emulsion. The images are actually reversed. They curled so badly and it helped to keep them flat for digitization.
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