Recently we accessioned an interesting album of photographs of a company called Norristown Concrete. The photographs were taken by Henry K. Bussa, a local photographer who was active for over 50 years.
Bussa was born in Honesdale, Pa. in 1881, and his first photography job was in Wilkes-Barre, according to obituary in the Times-Herald from 1957. The article describes a little of what that job was like:
“All of the work of the photographer in those days had to be done in daylight as the facilities for making pictures by artificial light were not yet developed. The printing room was on the roof, with glass on all four sides. In the small room all the negatives were printed. In the Summertime [sic] the temperature reached 110 degrees or more.”
In 1905 he opened his studio in Norristown, where he was mainly a portrait photographer. He expanded into commercial photography in the 1920’s and later added framing.
We have many examples of his photographs, easily identified by his signature in the lower right hand corner. The majority of our photographs are of local civic groups and schools, usually graduating classes and sports teams. These are the first photographs of an industrial site I’ve seen by Bussa.
Even though they are photographs of an industrial plant, I think they show life at a slower pace. Norristown Concrete, according to the 1925 City Directory, was located at the foot of Barbadoes Street, right on the Schuylkill River. In this photo a rowboat sits lazily on the bank.
Here, there’s some laundry drying on a line next to piles of concrete blocks.
There are two interior photos in the book that show some of the equipment used in manufacturing concrete in the 1920’s as well as two of the plant’s employees.
Norristown concrete seems to have gone out of business in the mid-1930’s. Bussa died in 1957.