Arthur J. (Putt) Telfer, who got his nickname 50 years ago because of the "putt-putt" sound made by his motorboat on Cooperstown's Lake Otsego, began snapping pictures in 1878 and kept on snapping for 75 years. Putt started out with a homemade camera, used a wet plate made of window glass and developed his pictures in a portable horse-drawn dark room. Later he used dry plate but it was not until the 1930s that he reluctantly switched to film. He still says that glass beats film all hollow and will show anyone who argues the point pictures taken during Hayes's Administration to prove it. In 75 years Putt covered every phase of village life such as sports, weddings, parades, fires, group pictures and portraits. He accumulated nearly 100,000 glass negatives. Stored in a barn and forgotten for years, the negatives were rescued in 1950 by the N.Y. State Historical Association at Cooperstown where a collection of 200 prints are now on permanent exhibition. Examples of his work in recording village sports scenes are shown on these pages.
Gay nineties bathers strike a more or less self-conscious pose at Lake Otsego, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Visiting firemen from Unadilla, N.Y. charge up Coopers-town's Main Street at Firemen's Tournament August 22, 1913.
High wheelers, shown here in two models, spin along a road in 1885. Large front wheel was more popular.
October 11, 1954
Proud footballers of Cooperstown High line up before a screen for 1906 picture. Five players are still alive.
Single sculler at the turn of the century cleaves the waters of Lake Otsego, made famous by novelist James Fenimore Cooper as the Glimmerglass.
Croquet players of the late '70s pursue the game on a plot of land on Main Street, Cooperstown, now occupied by the First National Bank.
Baseball players were caught in motion by Putt Telfer in 1919 on the hallowed ground where Abner Doubleday supposedly invented the sport.
Mixed doubles reflects the decorous nature of tennis in early days.
Village tumblers, with a mustachioed Professor Martin as low man in the pyramid, strut their stuff on the sidewalk in 1900.