For decades, Hale Photography was one of Oklahoma City’s leading commercial studios. Founded by George Cassel Hale in 1913, the downtown studio photographed everything from weddings to proms to civic clubs to commercial buildings.
The studio passed from one generation to another when it was taken over by Hale’s son, George T. Hale. He operated the business until his death in 1983, at which time the studio was then passed on to George T. Hale’s widow, Dolores.
The studio moved from location to location as downtown was rebuilt during the Urban Renewal era. Its last home was at 622 N Broadway, which was extensively damaged by the 1995 bombing of the nearby Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Disaster relief allowed for the building to repaired and the shop to reopen, but the studio was closed a few years later.
For several years the studio remained locked up, but otherwise undisturbed as it was left when Dolores Hale last opened its doors. Hundreds if not thousands of negatives and photos were left inside the building as the family struggled with deciding what to do with the property.
Digitizing and displaying the Hale Photography collection was an early ambition for Retro Metro OKC. When the roof caved in and water flooded the building, the group worked with Hugh Hale and the building’s new owner, Jonathan Russell, to retrieve the images, salvage them and save them for future generations.
Once the water damaged photos were retrieved, they were far more damaged than first realized. Many of the materials were covered with mold spores. An initial investigation indicated a salvage effort, if even possible, might require spending thousands of dollars.
A string of 115-degree days, however, combined with a dehumidifier provided by Retro Metro OKC treasurer Marc Weinmeister, was the key to salvaging the collection. The heat and lack of humidity killed the mold spores, dried up the photos, and created a large batch of salvageable materials that could be separated, straightened and scanned.
Retro Metro OKC members then worked for hours sorting through and scanning the images. This first display involves 464 of the images, with more to follow.
Retro Metro OKC sincerely thanks both Hugh Hale and Jonathan Russell for providing us the opportunity to share this wonderful collection, which spans just about every facet of life in Oklahoma City during the early and mid-20th century.
These images came with no identification or information, so visitors are welcome to leave comments providing any insight they might have.
The Hale Photography collection is owned by the Hale family. Images in the Hale Photography Collection can not be reproduced or published in any way without the permission of Hugh Hale or the designated representative of the Hale family.