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Prints and Photographs Division



Graphic Journalism and Illustration
Photojournalism Collections
George Grantham Bain
Frances Benjamin Johnston
arrow graphicNational Photo Company
Toni Frissell
New York World-Telegram and Sun
Look Magazine
U. S. News & World Report
Documentary Surveys
Advertising and Propaganda
Pictures: Business and Art
Design Collections
Organizations' Records
Personal Papers



National Photo Company Collection
see caption below

Mrs. Orme Thornberry, balloon girl at the Near East Relief Benefit Garden Fete. Between 1920 and 1930. Prints and Photographs Division.
bibliographic record

During the administration of Presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, the National Photo Company supplied photographs of current news events in Washington, D.C., as a daily service to its subscribers. It also prepared sets of pictures on popular subjects and undertook advertising work and special photographic assignments for organizations, businesses, and government agencies in the Washington, D.C., area. The company's proprietor, Herbert E. French, encouraged his photographers to go after exclusives—subjects not covered by other news photographers. He also sometimes purchased photographs from other sources to supplement the coverage provided by his photographers.

The National Photo Company Collection (80,000 photographic prints and negatives, 1850-1945, bulk 1909-32) documents many aspects of Washington, D.C., life and, to a limited extent, events elsewhere in the United States and the world. It is one of the Prints and Photographs Division's best sources for coverage of the 1920s and pointedly conveys the impact of technology in the early part of the twentieth century, particularly the spread of automobiles and radio. Coverage that features women includes:

see caption below

Girl steel workers [in automobile] on picket duty on steel mill property. 1919. Prints and Photographs Division.
bibliographic record
  • portraits of members of socially and politically prominent families
  • the women's suffrage campaign
  • the social scene
  • sports and recreational activities
  • scenes of business, industries, occupations, and services

Searching the Collection

The photographic prints in the collection consist of:

  • photos mounted in albums, each with a chronological or subject focus, to which LOT numbers have been assigned; most of the photos are accompanied by original captions
  • loose photos that have been grouped into LOTs by subject matter

Most images for which copy photographs exist can be searched in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, where the collection has its own listing. Digitized images accompany most online records.

To look for images for which no online records exist, onsite researchers can:

  • consult the Divisional Catalog for images grouped by subject/chronological period into LOTs
  • consult the LOT record to determine whether an associated, unpublished finding aid is available; such finding aids give greater detail about the subject matter represented in the group
  • submit a call slip to have desired LOTs retrieved

Go to the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog

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