Ever Seen Panoramas From The Turn Of The 20th Century? These Are Very Cool

By Dahlia Ambrose / December 15, 2016

Here Are Some Impressive Early 20th Century Photographs

Who doesn't like a panoramic view of a cityscape or a landscape or even…a portrait?

Probably no one right, it's our history and a reminder of where photography came from too.

Here then, are a late nineteenth and early twentieth-century collection of panoramas from commercial photographers of that age.

early 20th century photographs

Image by Philippe Mignot

Panoramic photo format gained popularity during the start of the twentieth century. These have now been carefully archived with the assistance of a few skilled people.

Assistant curator Carol Johnson worked tirelessly on this collection and the digitization of the collection was overseen by Philip J. Michel, a conversion specialist.

The collection is available at the Library of Congress and it has about 4,000 images that were submitted by photographers to the Library of Congress for copyright protection during the late 19th and early 20th century.

This collection holds works of more than four hundred commercial photographers. These photographs were used in magazines, postcards, real estate ads and to promote tourism in the tourist industry at that time.

The United States Of America – How It Was Then

Here you can view a collection of panoramas that give an overview of America’s late nineteenth and twentieth-century cityscapes, landscapes and portraits. The collection includes

  • Agricultural Life,
  • Beauty Contests,
  • Disasters,
  • Engineering Works,
  • Fairs,
  • Military and Naval Activities,
  • Transportation,
  • Industries,
  • Schools and colleges, and
  • Sports.

Most of the images are dated between 1851 and 1991 and have pictures from all the fifty states in America and the District of Columbia. There are some pictures from foreign countries too during this period.

The actual size of these images ranges from 28 inches x 6 feet while the average width is 10 inches.

The reason why you see fold lines in the digital reproductions is, because the panoramic photographs were cut into two or three sections so that they could be mounted on linen, folded and stored in boxes.

Signal Hill

Title: Signal Hill; Related Names: Aerograph Co. , photographer, Aerograph Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1923; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9.5 x 69 in.

Panorama of San Francisco disaster

Title: Panorama of San Francisco disaster; Related Names: Kilborn & Burn, copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1906; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 105 in.

Bathing Beauty Pageant, 1925, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Title: Bathing Beauty Pageant, 1925, Huntington Beach, Calif.; Contributor Names Weaver, M. F. (Miles F.), 1879-1932, copyright claimant; Created / Published 1925.; Notes – J279133 U.S. Copyright Office – Copyright deposit; M. F. Weaver; September 16, 1925. – Copyright claimant's address: L[os] A[ngeles]. – No. 4144-1.; Medium 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9.5 x 45 in.

Lake Tahoe, Cal., showing hotels and broad walk

Title: Lake Tahoe, Cal., showing hotels and broad walk; Related Names: Geo. R. Lawrence Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1908; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 15.5 x 49.5 in.

Hotel Potter, Santa Barbara

Title: Hotel Potter, Santa Barbara; Related Names: Haines Photo Co. (Conneaut, Ohio) , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1909; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 10 x 51.5 in.

Fresno from 1000 ft. elevation

Title: Fresno from 1000 ft. elevation; Related Names: R.J. Waters Aerial Photograph Co. , photographer; Date Created/Published: c1910; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 17.5 x 51.5 in.

Long Beach, California

Title: Long Beach, California; Related Names: Haines Photo Co. (Conneaut, Ohio) , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1908; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9.5 x 67.5 in.

Main & Mill Streets, Porterville, California

Title: Main & Mill Streets, Porterville, California; Related Names: Moore, A. R. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1914; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 54 in.

Hetch - Hetchy Valley, Sierra Nevada Mts., Calif.

Title: Hetch – Hetchy Valley, Sierra Nevada Mts., Calif; Related Names: Wolfskill, Matt Ashby , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1911; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 15.5 x 46.5 in.

Panorama of burned district from Jones & Bush Sts., S.F.

Title: Panorama of burned district from Jones & Bush Sts., S.F.; Related Names: Street, W. J. , copyright claimant Street, W. J. , photographer; Date Created/Published: c1906; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 6 x 32.5 in.

Arrowhead Hot Springs

Title: Arrowhead Hot Springs; Related Names: Pillsbury Picture Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1907; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9 x 35 in.

The Palace Fine Arts, San Francisco

Title: The Palace Fine Arts, San Francisco; Related Names: Givens, J. D. (James David), 1863- , photographer Givens, J. D. (James David), 1863- , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1919; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 31 in.

San Francisco, California

Title: San Francisco, California; Related Names: Swadley, W. Wesley , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1914; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 48 in.

Lake George (Mammoth), Mono County, Calif.

Title: Lake George (Mammoth), Mono County, Calif. (Film No. 3, 1911); Related Names: Wolfskill, Matt Ashby , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1911; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 15.5 x 34.5 in.

San Juan Capistrano Mission after a painting by Chris Jorgensen

Title: San Juan Capistrano Mission after a painting by Chris Jorgensen; Related Names: Pillsbury Picture Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1908; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7 x 25.5 in.

Roney Plaza Hotel, Miami Beach

Title: Roney Plaza Hotel, Miami Beach, Fla., Jan. 1, 1930; Date Created/Published: 1930 January 1; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 27.5 in.

F.E.C. Hotel Co., Royal Palm, Miami, Fla.

Title: F.E.C. Hotel Co., Royal Palm, Miami, Fla.; Related Names: Harris Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1912.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 51 in.

Court, Fort Marion, 1565, St. Augustine, Fla.

Title: Court, Fort Marion, 1565, St. Augustine, Fla.; Related Names: Harris, W. J. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1910.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 51.5 in.

Independence, IA

Title: Independence, IA; Related Names: Bandholtz, F. J. (Frederick J.), 1877- , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1907.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9.5 x 47 in.

panoramic-photographs_0020

Title: Iowa State Hospital for Insane, Clarinda, IA; Related Names: Bandholtz, F. J. (Frederick J.), 1877- , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1908.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 10 x 48 in.

Albright Art Gallery

Title: Albright Art Gallery; Related Names: Markel, Irvin , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1916.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 10 x 29.5 in.

Panorama of South Clifton, Arizona

Title: Panorama of South Clifton, Arizona; Related Names: West Coast Art Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1909.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9.5 x 39 in.

Marble Falls, Texas

Title: Marble Falls, Texas; Related Names: Clogenson, H. (Henry) , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1908.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9.5 x 43.5 in.

McKinley Bridge

Title: McKinley Bridge; Related Names: Sanders, A. W. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1910; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 10 x 30 in.

Panoramic view of Omaha from Grain Exchange Bldg.

Title: [Panoramic view of Omaha from Grain Exchange Bldg.]; Related Names: Bee Publishing Co. , copyright claimant; Bee Publishing Co. , photographer; Date Created/Published: 1916 May 1.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 8.5 x 48 in.

Richmond College, Richmond, Va.

Title: Richmond College, Richmond, Va.; Related Names: Haines Photo Co. (Conneaut, Ohio) , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1909.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 10 x 39.5 in.

Birds eye view, Gary Works, Indiana Steel Co., April 18, 1908

Title: Birds eye view, Gary Works, Indiana Steel Co., April 18, 1908; Related Names: Geo. R. Lawrence Co. , photographer Geo. R. Lawrence Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1908 April 18.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 18 x 49 in.

Automobile show, Coliseum, Chicago, Dec. 3, 1907

Title: Automobile show, Coliseum, Chicago, Dec. 3, 1907; Related Names: Geo. R. Lawrence Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1907 December 3.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 18.5 x 24.5 in.

There are also portrait panoramic photographs of people attending conferences and other big events. Back then, these were given away as souvenirs to the attendees. A pretty neat gift?

Photographers who took the panoramas often used the term “panographed” rather than “photographed” and once a panorama was ready, it was displayed for viewing and was available to be ordered.

The most popular were large group portraits – these generally made a lot of sales.

American Library Association, New Monterey Hotel, Asbury Park, N.J., June 25, 1919

Title: American Library Association, New Monterey Hotel, Asbury Park, N.J., June 25, 1919; Related Names: Cole & Co. , photographer; Date Created/Published: 1919 June 25.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7 x 61.5 in.

Police Department, City of Bridgeport, Conn., Oct. 3, 1914

Title: Police Department, City of Bridgeport, Conn., Oct. 3, 1914; Related Names: Seeley, Henry J. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1914 October 3.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9 x 53.5 in.

20th Annual Convention, U.M.W. of A., Indianapolis, Jan. 1909

Title: 20th Annual Convention, U.M.W. of A., Indianapolis, Jan. 1909; Related Names: Bretzman, C. F. (Charles F.), 1866-1934 , copyright claimant Bretzman, C. F. (Charles F.), 1866-1934 , photographer; Date Created/Published: 1909 January.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 10 x 55.5 in.

Archbishop Moeller, Bishop Schrembs and members of the local and visiting clergy at Ursulin Convent banquet, Oct. 4, 1911, Toledo, Ohio

Title: Archbishop Moeller, Bishop Schrembs and members of the local and visiting clergy at Ursulin Convent banquet, Oct. 4, 1911, Toledo, Ohio; Related Names: Van DeVenter, A. R. , copyright claimant; Van DeVenter, A. R. , photographer; Date Created/Published: 1911 October 4.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 8 x 53.5 in.

Employees, Dueber Hampden Watch Works, Canton, Ohio, Sept. 20, 1913

Title: Employees, Dueber Hampden Watch Works, Canton, Ohio, Sept. 20, 1913; Related Names: Fuller, F. E. (Frank E.) , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1913 September 20.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 54 in.

Harvard, 1901, 25th reunion, Wellesley, Mass., June 22, 1926

Title: Harvard, 1901, 25th reunion, Wellesley, Mass., June 22, 1926; Related Names: Central Studios , photographer; Date Created/Published: 1926 June 22.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 6.5 x 52 in.

Robbins & Myers Band, Springfield, O., May 5th, 1917

Title: Robbins & Myers Band, Springfield, O., May 5th, 1917; Related Names: Pixley-Messick Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1917 May 5.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7 x 38 in.

45th stated Meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C., Nov. 14-17, 1927

Title: 45th stated Meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C., Nov. 14-17, 1927; Related Names: Schutz Group Photographers (Washington, D.C.) , photographer; Date Created/Published: 1927 November.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9 x 31 in.

Soldier's Field

Title: Soldier's Field; Creator(s): Volkerding, Laura, 1939-, photographer; Date Created/Published: 1976.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; image 29.8 x 71.8 cm., on sheet 44.9 x 90.8 cm.

Banquet given by Order Sons of St. George, St. George Day, April 23, 1904, Auditorium, Chicago

Title: Banquet given by Order Sons of St. George, St. George Day, April 23, 1904, Auditorium, Chicago; Related Names: Geo. R. Lawrence Co. , photographer Laxton, G. H. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1904 April 23.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 15.5 x 23.5 in.

Purdue squad

Title: Purdue squad; Related Names: Foster, O. L. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: c1913.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 7.5 x 48 in.

Chicago Orchestra, founded by Theodore Thomas, Orchestra Hall, Chicago, Feb. 5, 1907

Title: Chicago Orchestra, founded by Theodore Thomas, Orchestra Hall, Chicago, Feb. 5, 1907; Related Names: Geo. R. Lawrence Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1907 February 5.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 20 x 25.5 in.

The Iroquois Club Banquet, tendered, Theodore Roosevelt, President, the United States, at Auditorium, Chicago, May 10, 1905

Title: The Iroquois Club Banquet, tendered, Theodore Roosevelt, President, the United States, at Auditorium, Chicago, May 10, 1905; Related Names: Geo. R. Lawrence Co. , copyright claimant; Date Created/Published: 1905 May 10.; Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 17.5 x 26 in.

For those interested, here is an overview of how panoramas were shot and how the collection was digitized.

Shooting A Panoramic Photograph (Especially Portraits):

A Cirkut panoramic camera is used to capture panoramic images and the camera used moves in a circular path, that is, in the form of an arc from left to right.

In order to compensate for this arc movement of the camera, the people who are to be photographed are arranged in a similar arc fashion so that the resulting photograph appears as though everyone is standing in a straight line.

The photographer focuses the frame, loads the film to the back of the camera and the gears are locked in such a way that the film and the camera move in perfect sync while taking a series of shots that expose the entire film.

The photographer also alerts the group of people to be photographed that it's not one shot but a series of exposures taken at intervals – so the people will need to stay still till the process is complete, which would of course otherwise create a blurred picture.

You can see how this is done in the video below! Quite interesting.

Digitizing The Collection

In the period between 1992 – 93, the panoramic collection was digitized by Stokes Imaging, Inc., by scanning 35 mm film at about 900 dpi.

Once scanned the resulting image has a resolution of around 50 to 100 dpi when reproduced to the same size as the original panorama.

The quality of the image depends on a few things – the size to which one wishes to reproduce the images, the scanning device and any enhancing software used.

While digitizing, the images are made on 35 mm film using a modified motion picture camera. A computerized control table moves the panorama under the camera, that captures a series of overlapping images of the original panorama.

The Panorama is then recreated using the process called “reassembly,” which match lines identified for each segment and the overlapping area is cropped off. The resulting segments are blended to form the panorama in a digitized format.

Later in 1996 JJT, Inc., of Texas rescanned the 35 mm film to a higher resolution this time, 1000 x 700 pixels as the base capture. The frames were then assembled to produce high-quality master images with minimal enhancements.

Much more information on this can be found here.


 Further Resources

Further Learning

Fundamental Editing is “A Complete Step By Step Guide To Photographic Editing From Best-Selling Photography Teacher, Kent DuFault.
Learn the fundamental editing steps required to completely change and improve your photography!


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About the author

Dahlia Ambrose

Dahlia is one of the staff writers at Light Stalking and besides writing, she also responds to customer queries, schedules social media posts and helps with product development. She has been around seven years since she took up photography seriously and her main interests are travel photography and photographing the night sky. Some of her works can be seen on 500px and Instagram. She has a postgraduate research degree in Physics, a certificate in teaching, and a diploma in business administration and customer service. Her work experiences are varied from lecturing in science and engineering at colleges in India to working in various roles for retailers  and the local authority in the UK. She is now pursuing her passion for travel and photography where she spends a couple of months on each country she visits.

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