This is a greatly reduced copy of the 4 foot by 3 foot original that was professionally scanned into digital format thanks to a generous gift from the local developer Joe Panepinto. I added the sidebar to orient younger viewers and help them understand what they are seeing.
The original was created on newspaper stock by the “Ben Day Process” (black and white images in which the density of dots creates patterns that the eye sees as gray-scale images) and then hand-tinted with water colors the way old post cards and pre-kodachrome photos were created.
Internal evidence of the photo (the shiny Loews with construction materials still on the roof and the existence of the houses on the corner of Newark Ave, just behind the jail that is now the site of the ugly “new” court house , etc.) pretty much fixes the date to late 29 or early 30 but if anyone sees more specific clues in the form of changes, your input is welcome. CLICK image to ENLARGE
The original image is surprising sharp and detailed with no hint of the vibration that would have blurred it using the slow films, slow lenses and slow shutters of the day had this been shot from an airplane. There is a consensus among photographers who have examined the original that it was most probably shot using a large-image camera that was suspended from a balloon or kite. That was a not-uncommon method of getting aerial views that goes back to the Civil War. (click here)
Until the arrival of fast cameras, the balloon and kite methods were widely used in rural areas by real estate developers and local tax authorities to supplement maps. In this case, the camera was probably about 250/300 feet above a spot somewhere just north of Montgomery St and just west of Bergen Ave.
The nearly absolute centering of the Trust Company of New Jersey building raises the possibility that they might have been the sponsors of the photo.
The full-sized original image is sometimes exhibited at various public functions and such a showing can be arranged by using the Contact form on this web site.
The original needs repairs of the occasional insults it suffered in the form of scratches during the years it hung over the cigarette machine of a now-defunct bar on Sip Avenue. Now that its in digital form and full-sized, those repairs could be done in Photoshop and might cost between one and two thousand dollars. An “angel” would be welcome, along with a safe place for permanent display of the resulting restoration.