Shelton W. Dudley Collection
About the Photographer
Shelton W. Dudley, Sr. (1895-1982) was born in downtown Guilford, the son of Frederick T. Dudley and Lillian Shelton. His passion for Guilford history appears to have been influenced from the fact that both his father and Grandfather Dudley were farmers and caretakers of the old Stone House Farm before it was acquired for a state museum in 1899. His Grandmother Dudley became the first curator of the Whitfield Historical Museum.
The story of Shelton’s childhood reads like the tales of Tom Swift, the boy wizard. In school, he excelled in the sciences and his hobbies branched in that direction. He mastered Morse Code on his own and experimented with the first wireless radio receivers. Ten years before the first commercial radio broadcasts, he built a transmitter using photograph plates and tin foil for a condenser. Operating on low power and improvised equipment, the boy Shelton was able to communicate with a Leete’s Island chum and also effectively blink every street lamp on Boston Street! While still in high school, he designed a magnetic machine using a conveyor belt that separated iron particles from beach sand. Shelton graduated from the Guilford Institute in 1915 and received his higher education in electrical engineering. He was first employed at Norton’s Garage, where he was an expert in automotive electrical work. In 1940, he accepted a position in the Test Instrument Repair Department of Echlin Manufacturing Company and soon assumed charge of the department. Although Jack Echlin made Echlin a modern global corporation, it was Shelton Dudley who set the design for their early patents after research and testing.
With Shelton Dudley’s retirement in 1970, he devoted nearly full-time study to Guilford history. The volunteer fire department became an early focus of his study. He was proud of his long time membership in the Eagle Hose Fire Company and was honored with a 55-year gold pin in 1975. When he worked at Norton’s Garage, the garage became the virtual fire headquarters for the town. Fire calls were received in the garage office. The fire whistle sounded from the garage top. Shelton drove the Borough of Guilford’s fire apparatus to the majority of Guilford’s fire calls, both daytime and nighttime, and helped build from scratch four of the chemical fire trucks, as well as the Pope-Hartford pumper, which was the town’s first motor driven fire engine.
Photography was one of Shelton Dudley’s lifelong hobbies. He created a photo dark room in the basement of his home and began to document events in Guilford history that he considered important, right up until the final years of his life. At 14 years of age, for example, he made a photo documentation with a Brownie camera of work gangs laying rails for the new trolley line in front of his house. He copied old photographs for preserving a record in negative form. And then, as previously reviewed, he catalogued a massive collection of negatives taken by some of Guilford’s earliest commercial photographers.