George R. Lawrence
The Panoramic Photograph Collection includes images taken by more than four hundred different photographers. The following biographies profile four photographers whose work demonstrates a few special aspects of the panoramic format. Among the photographers most heavily represented in the collection are: F.J. Bandholtz, Haines Photo Co., and West Coast Art Co. Some of the panorama creators are identified only as a "copyright claimant," because their name is associated with a copyright statement on the image. Some of the claimants might also have been the photographer, but that role is not clear from the image or copyright records.
Biography: George R. Lawrence (1869-1938)
After working briefly at a Chicago wagon factory in 1889, George Lawrence opened a studio for the production of crayon enlargements — large photographs, usually portraits, that have been enhanced by pastels or charcoal. Crayon enlargements were popular wall decorations in the late 1800s.
In 1893, Lawrence's studio partner left Chicago permanently. Lawrence inherited the equipment and learned to develop negatives from a local photographer's apprentice. He formed the Geo. R. Lawrence Company and quickly became an innovator in the field, using the slogan "The Hitherto Impossible in Photography is Our Specialty."
Lawrence designed his own large-format cameras and specialized in aerial views. He began by using ladders or high towers to photograph from above. In 1901 he shot aerial photographs from a flimsy cage attached to a captive balloon. Once, while flying more than 200 feet above Chicago, the cage tore from the balloon, hurling Lawrence and his camera to the ground. Fortunately his fall was broken by telephone and telegraph wires; he landed unharmed. Lawrence continued to use balloons until he developed a method of taking aerial views with cameras suspended from unmanned kites.
In the 1910s, Lawrence left the field of photography and pursued a career in aviation design. The Geo. R. Lawrence Company was succeeded by Kaufmann & Fabry, whose work can also be found in this collection.
Taking Aerial Photographs Without a Plane
George Lawrence used aerial kites to photograph San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake. His photographs appeared in newspapers around the world and generated more than $15,000 for the photographer.
Taking Indoor Photographs Without Electricity
George Lawrence was renowned for developing a flash powder that permitted indoor banquet photography. His system required flash powder in many locations around a room, sometimes in as many as 350 spots. A single electric charge exploded all the powder, generating more light and less smoke than previous methods.