The exact date of this sleeve with 4×5 negatives in Jessica Fong’s collection of Dardis images is May 2, 1959.
The Delta King is well known in the Delta area, but I did have to check out the history from a time perspective to make sure the May 2, 1959 date on the sleeve is plausible.
There’s plenty of online history and stories on the Delta King and Queen till the end of WWII, but it is harder to find detailed timelines when it comes to presence in Stockton. I did attach a good read at the bottom for those interested in a more detailed Sacramento Delta King history, but even this document has little regarding Stockton in 1959.
Then I found this online tidbit below:
Now we know the Delta King arrived in Stockton on April 29, 1959. This confirms the May 2, 1959 date on the negative sleeve is probably correct. We know Joel’s love for boats and I’m sure he was there when the Delta King arrived.
Few of the negatives sustained damage during storage and handling, but there’s sufficient information to see that the Delta King was in very poor shape at the time.
Even from the fuzzy image above, one can observe all the windows and doors on the lower deck to be covered by plywood. The paddle wheel at the rear is clearly missing.
The last negative is in best shape and of sufficient quality for enlargement.
It became clear that these images were made from an original negative as crop and enlargement on the lager 4×5 format. By 1959, Joel was photographing in multiple formats. Press format (4.25″ x 3/25″, 4″ x 5″ format and 120 roll film format (2 1/2″ high). The question is still out, what format did Joel use for the original negative ?
Below a color postcard from the Delta King Website:
In the same sleeve were few more 4×5 negatives from another boat in need of TLC. The location is unclear. There are buildings on the horizon that are not identified yet.
The images are nevertheless hauntingly beautiful in their own way.
The last series of images, “Dilapidated boat in the harbor at sunset, circa 1959″, were all shot on 4″x5” format and subsequently printed. The tape marks are clearly visible on all negatives. Joel doubled up on the negatives to make sure he had at least one good one.