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Helen S. Connery Collection   Glass plate negatives from Dr. Theodore Mead

The Helen S. Connery Collection is a collection of 115 glass plate negatives showing some of the work of Dr. Theodore L. Mead, 1852 - 1936. These negatives represent the dry-plate glass negative process of photography used by Dr. Mead. The negatives were pre-coated and pre-sensitized in a factory and were capable of maintaining their chemical sensitivity to light over long storage periods. The negatives were not as cumbersome and demanding as the wet collodion negatives. The dry plate negatives became popular in the 1880's and were used up until the 1920's. (Information from Collection, Use, and Care of Historical Photographs by Robert A. Weinstein and Larry Booth.)

Dr. Mead, a pioneer Florida horticulturist, spent 55 years in Central Florida. Most of that time was spent at his cottage "Wait-A-Bit" in Oviedo, Florida, experimenting and developing many new hybrids of orchids, amaryllis, caladiums, azaleas and other tropical plants.

John H. Connery (the husband of Helen S. Connery) was one of Mead's young nature enthusiasts. Shortly before Dr. Mead's death, John was presented with the entire collection of orchids, other rare plants and the glass negatives.  It was through the efforts of Mr. Connery, the City of Winter Park, and other civic-minded individuals that the 55-acre Mead Botanical Gardens (named in Dr. Mead's memory) opened to the public on January 14, 1940.  For the past 61 years Mead Gardens, located at S. Denning Drive in Winter Park, has been an urban oasis for everything from a quiet stroll to an outdoor concert.
 

 

Dr. Theodore L. Mead with John Lawton and Jack Varn.

 

 This a photo of Dr. Mead with two local Oviedo boys.  Dr. Theodore L. Mead, 1852 -
 1936, came to central Florida in the early 1880's, settling in the Oviedo area. The 
 focus of his life's work revolved around his research and hybridization of orchids, 
 amaryllis, caladiums and other plants.

 Dr. Mead's experiments, growing orchid seed in sterile cultures of agar in sealed
 flasks, opened a new era in the American orchid business.
 

Mrs. Theodore L. Mead at Wait-A-Bit.

 Mrs. Theodore L. Mead shown at their cottage, "Wait-A-Bit," on Lake Charm in 
 Oviedo, Florida.  Circa 1902.  

 Notice the vines growing on the cottage. Dr. Mead intentionally allowed the vines
 to grow and harbor all types of lizards and other living things in them. It was said
 that the vines were inseparable from the cottage; when a new roof was put on it, the
 vines never grew back.

Wait-A-Bit parlor.

 Photo taken with a "fisheye" lens showing the interior of "Wait-A-Bit" parlor.  Circa 
 1902.   "Wait-A-Bit" is the name of Dr. and Mrs. Mead's cottage.

Wait-A-Bit.

 Photograph showing "Wait-A-Bit" and the grounds of Dr. and Mrs. Theodore L.
 Mead in Oviedo, Florida.  Circa 1902. 

Dr. Henry Nehrling at his home in Gotha, Florida.

 Dr. Henry Nehrling, a Florida horticulturist and colleague of Dr. Mead, moved to
 central Florida in the 1890's. He is credited with introducing broad-leafed caladiums
 from Brazil to Florida. The caladium industry still flourishes in Florida today.

 His house, named "Palm Cottage," is pictured in this photograph and still stands in
 Gotha, Florida, but is in danger of being torn down. The land may then be used for
 a housing development. The current owner of the home, Barbara Bochiardy, and Dr.
 Nehrling's great-grandson, Richard are leading an effort get the home placed on the
 National Register of Historic Places.

 

Mead single orchid.

 An example of Dr. Mead's work. This single orchid may have been part of his
 experimentation and hybridization program. 

Mead potted orchids.

 Another example of Dr. Mead's research and experimentation with orchids. In this
 photo one can see the labels placed with the orchids noting the scientific name of 
 the plant and the number of pods each plant had at that time.

Mead multiple orchids.

 Another example of Dr. Mead's research and experimentation with orchids. In this
 photo multiple blooms may have been part of his hybridization project.

 

ARCHIVIST
Barbara White, MLIS
E-mail: bwhite@wppl.org
Phone: (407) 623-3300 ext. 106

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