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Collection Carpenter Collection

About this Collection

The more than 15,000 images in the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection represent the extensive photographic files assembled by Frank G. Carpenter and his daughter Frances to illustrate his popular writings on travel and geography.

Background and Scope

Frank Carpenter | Frances Carpenter | Scope of the Collection

Frank Carpenter

[Frank Carpenter (left) and American Consul General Gabriel Bie Ravndal, Bosporus, Turkey]. 1923.

Born in Mansfield, Ohio, Frank G. Carpenter (1855-1924) became a journalist, photographer, world traveler, and the author of books on geography. His wanderlust resulted in articles and books that informed American readers about life in other countries and enabled him to accumulate an impressive rangeof visual documentation.

Carpenter began his writing career as a journalist and his assignments fueled his compilation of images from around the world. After graduating from the University of Wooster (Ohio) in 1877, Carpenter began newspaper work as the Columbus, Ohio, correspondent for the Cleveland Leader newspaper. He got a taste of life abroad as a foreign correspondent for that paper in 1881. In 1882 his work for the Cleveland Leader took him to Washington, D.C., where he was the paper’s Washington correspondent until 1888, writing a regular column on life in "Carp’s Washington." He also did work for the American Press Association starting in 1885 and the New York World in 1887. Carpenter collected enough assignments with newspaper syndicates and Cosmopolitan Magazine to pay for a trip around the world in 1888-1889. He was charged with sending a "letter" each week to twelve periodicals, describing life in the countries to which he traveled. He continued to travel extensively, logging 25,000 miles in South America in 1898, and later doing letter-writing tours of Central America, South America, and Europe.

A Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, the National Press Club, and numerous scientific societies, Carpenter published widely on travel and authored the Carpenter’s Geographic Readers, standard texts used in American schools for forty years. His writings helped popularize culturalanthropology and geography.

Carpenter's globetrotting did not preclude his having a family and sinking roots in the Washington, D.C., area. He married Joanna Condict in 1883, and they had two children. His real estate holdings inWashington, D.C., made him a millionaire.

Frank Carpenter died in Nanking, China, in 1924 at age 69, on his third trip around the world.

Frances Carpenter

Frances Carpenter (1890-1972) began accompanying her father Frank on his travels as both secretary and photographer upon her graduation from Smith College in 1912. She co-authored a number of books with him including The Clothes We Wear (1926) and The Foods We Eat (1926). She later edited the articles her father had written in the 1880s about life in Washington, D.C., resulting in the publication, Carp’sWashington (1960).

Inheriting her father's interest in cultures outside the U.S., Frances Carpenter became an author and geographer in her own right. She wrote of foreign legends and peoples for a youthful audience in books such as Our Neighbors Near and Far (1933) and Tales of A Russian Grandmother (1933). Not only do the books reflect the knowledge Frances gained through her travels, but a few also include illustrations she chose from the Carpenter collection. Frances Carpenter was a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and Vice President of the International Societyof Women Geographers.

She married W. Chapin Huntington, the commercial attaché at the American Embassy in Paris. As Mrs. W. Chapin Huntington she presented the Carpenter collection to the Library of Congress in 1951 and continued to donatematerial until her death in 1972.

Scope of the Collection

The Carpenter collection consists of an estimated 5,400 photographic prints in albums and 10,400 photographic prints not in albums (an occasional non-photographic image is found among this material), as well as 7,000 glass and film negatives. The degree of overlap among images in these different formats has not been calculated. The images were taken between 1880 and 1934, with the majority dating from 1910 to 1925. Frank and Frances Carpenter took many of the photographs themselves, but they also collected images from commercialsources.

The images reflect the Carpenters'travels in:

  • Europe (including unusually full coverage of the Basque country)
  • the Near and Far East
  • Africa
  • North, Central, and South America and some areas of the Caribbean.

The images highlight many aspects of human geography, focusing on the daily lives of various peoples, with particular respect to:

Photographs taken in the United States emphasize natural resources, food and agriculture, industries, health, and welfare. There are some portraits of Native Americans, including the Siksika (Blackfoot) andPlateau Region Indians.

A large portion of the images of Alaska before it became a state appear as digital images both here in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog and as a "Meeting of Frontiers" presentation elsewhere on the Library of Congress web site [view Meeting of Frontiers presentation].

The Near Eastern and North African collections are rich in large gold-toned 19th-century albumen prints collected from various commercial firms such as Sebah, Cassa (Malta), Lehnert & Landrock (Tunis), C. Vincent, Bonfils, Dittrich, Garrigues, Lekegian, Arnoux, Albert (Tunis), and Abdullah Freres(Istanbul).

Prepared by: Marilyn Ibach, Reference Specialist. Last revised: June 2006.

Arrangement and Access

The Frank and Frances Carpenter collection consists of approximately:

  • 5,400 photographic prints in 29 albums
  • 10,400 photographic prints not in albums
  • 5,000 nitrate film negatives
  • 2,000 glass plate negatives

The degree of overlap between the prints in the albums to those not in the albums has not been analyzed. The albums contain many contact prints from negatives in the collection, but some album images have no corresponding original negative. The prints not in albums also include some images printed from original negatives.

Photographic Prints in Albums

Frank and Frances Carpenter compiled the albums, generally grouping images along regional lines. The Prints and Photographs Division staff assigned LOT (group) numbers to the albums and prepared a group-level description for each LOT. In the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, each LOT description includes a link to check for any individual images cataloged online, many of which are accompanied by digital images.

Within the albums, English captions accompany most images, but dates are not consistently indicated. The Carpenters may have taken many of the images, especially those made 1910-1924, but the albums also include images that they collected, and the origin of such images is not always noted.

Retrieve catalog records for albums

Photographic Prints Not in Albums

Prints and Photographs Division staff organized the loose prints into groups (LOTS) on the basis of their subject matter (generally by country or region represented). In the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, each LOT description includes a link to check for any individual images cataloged online, many of which are accompanied by digital images.

Retrieve catalog records for groups not in albums


Most of the images appearing online are ones for which copy photos have been produced, generally because P&P staff have not found a corresponding original negative in the collection that can be used to produce copies. Images with copy photos generally have reproduction numbers beginning, LC-USZ...

Preservation considerations prevent public users from directly handling the negatives, which are kept in cold storage. The original negatives have generally been matched to corresponding prints, primarily in the albums.

Format and size information for the original negatives can be helpful in planning photoduplication requests (see the Photoduplication Service's price list) and serves as an indication of the type of equipment used to make an image. If a photographic print in the collection bears a reproduction number beginning with one of the series codes below, there is an original negative in the format indicated in the righthand column.

Carpenter negative series code Format/size of negative
LC-C26- nitrate film, 4x5"
LC-C261- nitrate film, 4x5"
LC-C2611- nitrate film, 4x5"
LC-C2612- nitrate film, 4x5"
LC-C262- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2622- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C263- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2633- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C264- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2644- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C265- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2655- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C266- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2666- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C267- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2677- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C268- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2688- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2689- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C269- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2690- nitrate film, 4x5"
LC-C2698- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C2699- nitrate film, 5x7"
LC-C27- glass, 5x7"
LC-C271- glass, 5x7"
LC-C272- glass, 5x7"
LC-C273- glass, 5x7"
LC-C274- glass, 8x10"
LC-C275- glass, 8x10"
LC-C276- glass, 8x10"
LC-C277- nitrate film, 8x10"