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I'm processing boxes of old family slides. My father put an annotation on some of them (but I believe quite some time later, since in the same tray there are pictures from different years, but all with the same pen/writing). This annotation often contains a date, but on the Kodachrome slides there is an embossed date label on the slide as well, and if the embossed marking is a processing time, it is not always coherent with the added label.

image of transparency in slide mount, with additional annotations

The 13 at top left could be a picture number in the roll, because I have two other slides with the very same markings (JAN 69 and D01 47) but with the numbers 10 and 12.

  • I have a hard time believing that the embossed date is not the time of processing (what else could it be? When the frame was manufactured? What would be the point? And there are pictures where the embossed date and the annotation are coherent).
  • But I have an equally hard time believing that my father got it wrong several times with different series of pictures.
  • And I don't think my father transplanted the film between mounts (this happens a bit too often)

So assuming the picture has been taken in October (but that must have been a very warm October in Paris that year, given that people are somewhat lightly clothed in this series), the question is whether it was 1968 or 1969.

Of course I have not found yet a picture on which I can put a date accurate enough using other clues (specific trip/location/event) to tell if my father is right or wrong.

Last, as far as I remember, with Kodachrome slides the processing was pre-paid so you sent the film roll to Kodak for processing.

So, am I missing something? Are the embossed markings not reliable? Should I trust my father's annotations?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If deviating, are the embossed markings always before your father's date? I am by no means sure, but if it is not the date of processing, it might (at least in your example) be the date of film manufacture. \$\endgroup\$
    – jarnbjo
    Commented Apr 4 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have some pictures with the very same month/year embossed and annotated. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Commented Apr 4 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jarnbjo There may be a date code on the film, but from what I have seen online for Kodak, it only specifies the year, and I've only seen this for Cinefilm. But I doubt the mounting machinery of the day could read the codes and interpret them as dates - that's sophisticated image processing. Alan's answer of manually setting the code makes more sense given the timeframe of processing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Apr 4 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ And just one more thing to look out for in the images themselves... maybe you can identify the season based on trees/plants in the photos. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Apr 4 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @osullic Done. And in the pictures there is someone reading outdoors without anything warmer than a T-shirt, which is quite surprising for the month of October in Paris. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Commented Apr 4 at 20:35

2 Answers 2

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By 1969 Kodachrome film was being developed by Kodak and also by many other photo labs. This slide was not processed at Kodak. I can tell that by the printing on the slide mount. This slide could be Ektachrome or one of its knockoffs. Photofinishers worldwide could develop this film.

In any case, the film was processed and then sent to a mounting machine. This machine printed and embossed the slide mount. The machine operator was responsible to manually set the words and numbers to be imprinted. The correctness of date printed depends on the lab doing due diligence.

I was Quality Control at a small photofinisher in Atlanta. Most such photofinishers got their film from camera shops and drugstores. The labs worked all night to get the film back next day. Sometimes the machine operators, who were sleepy and assigned tasks like setting the date on these machines, dropped the ball.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Certainly possible. Setting the date wrong on the machine would make an entire roll of slides wrong. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ The other side of the mound has the usual Kodachrome decor, with "Traité en France par Kodak", so probably not a knock-off. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Commented Apr 4 at 16:00
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The date stamp on the slide mount is the date of processing. It is possible to cut a paper slide mount open and reuse it, but rather unlikely.

I would guess that the date on the slide mount influenced what your father annotated at a later time.

If there are a number of slides like this with the same date on the mount it's possible the date on the mount was set wrong for a batch of film. But if it's much more random I think that's less likely.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "possible to cut a paper slide mount open and reuse it, but rather unlikely", yes that's my third option. If my father had any logic (and I think he had) he would not have dated the picture to after the processing, and in my example. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Commented Apr 4 at 15:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xenoid Maybe your father saw that the embossed date was wrong (for whatever reason) and wrote the true date on the slides? \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Apr 4 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterM but I think the question is... why was the embossed date wrong? And where did it even come from? As in, where you have written "for whatever reason"... well, I think that's exactly what the OP is interested in. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Apr 4 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @osullic My take is that the OP is working through boxes of slides from their father and is trying to reconcile the embossed vs written date. In which case the "why" of the embossed becomes irrelevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Apr 4 at 18:57

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