Panoramic Photographs

About This Collection

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The Panoramic Photograph Collection contains approximately four thousand images featuring American cityscapes, landscapes, and group portraits. These panoramas offer an overview of the nation, its enterprises and its interests, with a focus on the start of the twentieth century when the panoramic format was at the height of its popularity. Subject strengths include: agricultural life; beauty contests; disasters; engineering works such as bridges, canals and dams; fairs and expositions; military and naval activities, especially during World War I; the oil industry; schools and college campuses; sports; and transportation. The images date from 1851 to 1991 and depict scenes in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. More than twenty foreign countries and a few U.S.territories are also represented. These panoramas average between twenty-eight inches and six feet in length, with an average width of ten inches.

A more detailed description of some collection subject strengths with examples is provided below.

The Library of Congress' large collection of panoramas was formed mainly during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when many photographers submitted copies of their works to the Library for copyright protection. Around 1900, panoramic photography was practiced primarily by commercial photographers. More than four hundred photographers are represented in the collection. Postcards and magazines reproduced panoramas as advertisements for real estate and the promotion of the tourist industry. Panoramic photographs were also popular as portrait souvenirs for people attending conventions, conferences, and company events. Shortly after a group was photographed or "panographed" (a term used by some panoramic photographers) the panorama would be displayed and orders would be taken for copies. Large group portraits almost certainly guaranteed many sales. See also Shooting a Panoramic Photograph and A Brief History of Panoramic Photography.

A few commercial photography studios still specialize in panoramic photography. Additionally, many photographers currently use the panoramic format as a means of artistic expression. See also Selected Photographers and the Creator Index.

Panoramic photographs typically have a length that is at least twice as long as the panorama's width. Most panoramas in this Web site measure more than twenty-eight inches in length, since these items are particularly difficult to handle. Panoramas can also be much shorter or longer. Josef Sudek's view of the Elbe River is only five and one-half inches long. John Dick's view of Penniman, Virginia, measures seventeen feet in length. There are also a few vertical panoramas in the collection such as, "Reflections, Santa Barbara Mission." Dimensions, rounded off to the nearest half-inch, are provided for the image area of the panoramas, exclusive of borders or mounts. (Due to research interest in Geo. R. Lawrence's work, all of the Library's Lawrence photographs have been included regardless of size) .

In order to faithfully reflect the wide variety of photographic processes represented in the collection, the images were copied for this electronic surrogate in color. Mounted panoramas were filmed to show the entire mount. Decades ago, the Library cut many of its panoramas in two or more sections and mounted them on linen in order to fold the images and store them in boxes. These vertical fold-lines can be seen in the digital reproductions.


Subject strengths and examples

A full Subject Index is also available.

Cityscapes and city life: Main Street activities in both small towns and large cities; popular tourist attractions, such as capitols and plazas; and documentation of how cities change over time. Some of these urban development images can be found in the special presentation on City Views.

Landscapes: Glaciers, lakes & ponds, mountains, rivers.

Group portraits: Students; picnics; celebrations; bathing beauties; conventions, such as the National Democratic Convention in Houston, Texas, 1928, the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the Anti-Saloon League of America and the National Association For the Advancement of Colored People; fire fighters shown with their equipment; religious groups.

Agricultural life: Traditional farms, an experimental farm in North Dakota, and an ostrich farm in Arizona, ranches, dairies, orchards, cotton plantations, and livestock parades.

Disasters: Earthquakes; Fires; Floods; aeronautical accidents, railroad accidents, and shipwrecks; cyclones, hurricanes, storms, and tornadoes.

Education: Colleges and schools, including those that provide education for groups such as children, the deaf, Indians, and women. Also those with a military or a religious affiliation.

Engineering works: extensive documentation on the construction of the Panama canal; bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge and a dedication ceremony for a concrete bridge in Red Jacket, Minnesota; tunnels; and dams.

Fairs and expositions: County and state fairs and world's fairs, especially the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1914.

Industrial scenes: the oil industry, including Goose Creek Oil Field in Texas; mining scenes, including the Mohawk Mine, Goldfield, Nevada; the steel industry, including Pennsylvania Steel Co.; and the lumber industry.

Military activities and facilities: views of training schools, such as West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy; a Liberty Loan parade in Norfolk, Virginia; and military camps, including a cavalry camp in Fort Riley, Kansas, and naval scenes including the United States fleet and battleships.

Performing arts: Bands and concerts, including a dress parade at Wenonah Academy; and theaters, including the cast of Kismet and Sarah Bernhardt.

Sports scenes: baseball, football, automobile racing, horse racing, golf, tennis, bowling, boxing, and rowing.

Transportation: Airplanes, Biplanes, seaplanes, and airships; automobiles and motorcycles; horses; railroad scenes; and many ships and boats, including canoes, rowboats, and steamboats with stern and side wheelers.