Luther Cody Negative Collection

“The Picnic”. The Cody brothers and friends. Richard, Robert and Luther.

The Luther Cody Collection consists of roughly 650 images on large glass plate negatives, created at the beginning of the twentieth century. The majority of the pictures are of local scenes, portraits of people and families, houses and animals, and they give modern viewers a unique view into Canterbury, New Hampshire at the dawn of a new century. 

Luther Morrill Cody was born at Lincoln, Nebraska in 1871, the third son of Aldus Cody, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and Eliza Ann Patrick. His maternal grandparents, Joseph and Apphia (Morrill) Patrick, were from Canterbury, New Hampshire and they went west as early pioneers of Solon, Ohio. Aldus and Eliza were married in 1866 in Solon, and following the birth of their eldest two sons, moved the young family still further west, and settled in Nebraska where they died in 1879 and 1880 respectively, orphaning sons Alpheus Sherwin (11), Luther Morrill (9), Richard Aldus (8) and Robert Stanley (6).

Their grandmother, Apphia Patrick Smith, who had also moved to Lincoln with the family, chose to relocate the four boys and their aunt, Mary Patrick, back east to Canterbury where they lived in a small house at the junction of Old Tilton and Lamprey Roads, called the Rose Cottage. It was at this house that the boys were primarily raised, and where Apphia Smith died in 1887, leaving the care of the boys to their Aunt Mary Patrick.

Ginger Laplante writes in her 1999 History of the Collection that “as young adults all four Cody boys moved out into the world. Alpheus graduated from Amherst College and became an author and an authority on business English and letter writing. Richard married a Canterbury girl and became a salesman, while Robert and Luther set up bachelor rooms in Newton, Massachusetts. Some time after they left Canterbury it became impossible for Mary Patrick to continue to live alone, and Luther Cody returned to live with her until her death in 1908. It was during this period that the majority of these images were made. As the majority of the pictures are portraits of people, families and houses or scenic views, it appears that Mr. Cody was in business in Canterbury as a commercial photographer catering to both the local people and the summer boarders staying at local farms. The former having him take their pictures and the latter providing a market for the many postcards of local scenery which carry his name as photographer.”

During the Canterbury years, while he was traveling to earn a living as a photographer, making postcards to sell, and caring for his aunt, he also spent time getting to know his ancestral town better. He took photos of local families, farmers and their prized livestock, the Shakers and their buildings, and the old houses and rural scenes that were still very much as they were when his grandmother had left Canterbury in the 1830’s. In 1912, when the History of Canterbury, N.H. was published, they used dozens of Luther’s pictures to illustrate it, and he contributed heavily to the genealogies volume, adding research for the Cody and the Morrill families. It was also during the Canterbury years that Luther was introduced to his distant cousin, Josephine Belle Morrill, the daughter of George and Abbie (Emery) Morrill who lived on Morrill Road by Morrill Mill Pond. Luther appears in several of his casual photos, but one is a Morrill Family Portrait, depicting three generations of family members at the Morrill Farm (55 Morrill Road). Josie stands in the middle beside her brother Charles, while Luther is inserted on the left beside Uncle Milo Morrill. The couple was married in 1913 at Stoneham, Massachusetts, and their marriage record lists Luther, 42, as having the occupation of a picture framer, and Josie, then 26, as being a school teacher. 

Though they would still visit Canterbury for many years after, by the time of his marriage, Luther’s career as a photographer had ended. Production of his postcards, under the name Cody Brothers (Luther and Robert) or Luther M. Cody Photographer, had stopped, and the hundreds of glass plate negatives were stored at his brother-in-law’s house, Louis D. Morrill. Luther and Josephine had two sons, born at the Chandler Street Hospital, Somerville, Massachusetts; the eldest, Aldus Morrill Cody, named for his grandfathers, was born in 1915, and Robert Sherwin Cody, named for Luther’s brothers, was born in 1920. Both boys’ birth records list their father as being a conductor on the B & M Railroad. By 1930, the family had moved to Frostproof, Florida where the family would settle and Luther worked as a house carpenter until his death at the age of 75 in 1947. He was buried in Newton Cemetery, Newton, Massachusetts where Josie would join him in 1995, after her death at the age of 108 years.  

Relatives recall Uncle Luther and Aunt Josie sending home cases of oranges to Canterbury for Christmas each year, and finding cases of glass plate negatives while exploring Morrill barns as children, and being told the story of Luther Cody and his photography. The 1940 Canterbury Annual Town Report was the first to display a Cody image (negative 195) of the Worsted Church on its cover, citing the picture as part of the Elkins Library collection. Other negatives have been added to the collection over the years, and today they are all held at the Canterbury Historical Society, where they have been duplicated as prints, calendars, and in numerous town reports and publications over the past century. The negatives and the images contained within are treasured by the Canterbury community because a collection of this breadth and scope, using high quality equipment and new methods for the era, is rare and it brings an important perspective to see Canterbury as Luther Cody did in 1900. They tell the story of our community’s life a hundred years ago, and how Luther Cody captured it.

The 1940 Canterbury Annual Town Report was the first to display a Cody image (negative 195) of the Worsted Church on its cover, citing the picture as part of the Elkins Library collection. Other negatives have been added to the collection over the years, and today they are all held at the Canterbury Historical Society, where they have been duplicated as prints, calendars, and in numerous town reports and publications over the past century. The negatives and the images contained within are treasured by the Canterbury community because a collection of this breadth and scope, using high quality equipment and new methods for the era, is rare and it brings an important perspective to see Canterbury as Luther Cody did in 1900. They tell the story of our community’s life a hundred years ago, and how Luther Cody captured it.

During the 21st century, an effort was undertaken by the Canterbury Historical Society to digitize the collection, and Gerry Durrett of Manchester carefully scanned and preserved many of the images from the collection for future generations to enjoy. Today, many images from the collection are being added to the CHS website in the hope of sharing Luther Cody’s legacy beyond the walls of the Historical Society, so everyone can enjoy the study of Canterbury at the turn of the twentieth century as captured in this collection. 

Canterbury Town Center

CLICK HERE to see Buildings – individual houses

This project was made possible through grants from the New Hampshire Conservation and Heritage License Plate Program. You can find out more about this program at http://www.mooseplate.com.

mooseplate.com