George Grantham Bain
A New York photographer, he founded the first news photograph service, Bain News in 1898. Born in Chicago, Illinois on January 7, 1865 to George Bain and Clara Mather, the family soon moved to St. Louis, Missouri where George grew up. While attending the St. Louis University and studying chemistry, he learned the basics of photography, including developing prints on a windowsill with direct sunlight. He graduated with a law degree in 1883 and joined the staff of St. Louis’ Globe-Democrat as a reporter and moved over to the Post-Dispatch a year later. The Post-Dispatchsoon sent him to Washington, D.C., as its bureau correspondent. Bain later went to work for the United Press and in 1898 founded the first news photography service in the United States – Bain News Service. A visionary who saw the potential of coupling photographs with words in newspapers and magazines, his news photo service focused on both people and events, from politics to sports, from disasters to celebrations. The Bain News Service accumulated photographs of worldwide coverage which were distributed to various newspapers and was enhanced by receiving local pictures from its subscribers as part of their reimbursement.
By 1905 he had reputedly amassed one million photographs. The building that he operated in was swept by fire in 1908, destroying all the photos he had accumulated, but he started over, and, by pooling photographs produced by a variety of sources, he created another centralized repository of images.
Bain died in Manhattan, New York on April 20, 1944. Today, the vast majority of his photographic collection survives at the Library of Congress including some 40,000 glass plate negatives and 50,000 photographic prints. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1910s to the mid-1920′s, but scattered images can be found as early as the 1890′s and as late as the 1930′s. The range of subjects includes: celebrities, parades, sports events, immigration, political events, aviation, World War I, and the Mexican Revolution.
About the George Grantham Bain Collection
The George Grantham Bain Collection represents the photographic files of one of America’s earliest news picture agencies. The collection richly documents sports events, theater, celebrities, crime, strikes, disasters, political activities including the woman suffrage campaign, conventions and public celebrations. The photographs Bain produced and gathered for distribution through his news service were worldwide in their coverage, but there was a special emphasis on life in New York City. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1900s to the mid-1920s, but scattered images can be found as early as the 1860s and as late as the 1930s.
Available online are 39,744 glass negatives and a selection of about 1,600 photographic prints for which copy negatives exist. This represents all of the glass plate negatives the Library holds and a small proportion of the 50,000 photographic prints in the collection. The Library purchased the collection in 1948 from D.J. Culver. (Bain also deposited photographs for copyright during his career; photographs clearly acquired by the Library of Congress through copyright deposit are generally considered outside the scope of the George Grantham Bain Collection.)
The Library of Congress is sharing a portion of the Bain Collection photographs on Flickr, where Flickr community members add comments, notes, and tags.