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Featured Acquisition: Eight rare hand-colored platinum photographs of the interior of the White House

The lobby of the White House
The lobby of the White House, copyright 1904 by Detroit Photographic Company. Gift of Marjorie M. Fisher, 2006.

This set of large, platinum photographs were taken shortly after the the leading New York architectural firm, McKim, Mead, and White, completed an extensive renovation of the White House during President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. The redecoration of the principal public rooms in the newly fashionable beaux arts style transformed the White House interior from one of Victorian extravagance–much of it the result of an earlier redecoration by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated Artists—into one of neoclassical grandeur. As a result, both inside and out, the newly refurbished White House became a unified visual symbol of American republican culture. This transformation coincided with the United States’ rise to new prominence in international affairs, so that the President’s redecorated residence was also turned into a modern seat of power.

The Library owns a significant portion of the massive Detroit Publishing Company’s archive, the celebrated commercial photographic firm started in the late 1890s that retailed innumerable prints and postcard views of sites and scenery. The renowned photographer of the American West, William Henry Jackson, was its most prominent photographer. [View information about the Detroit Publishing Company Collection]

Included in the Library’s Detroit Publishing Company collection are the original 8 x 10" glass plate negatives for seven of these White House photographs, along with black and white contact prints made from the plates, and color postcards for several of them. But the Library has no full scale color images. The rare hand-colored platinum photographs thus fill a gap, provide an unusual contrast with the black and white photographic work for which the firm is best known, and document the newly redecorated White House interiors.

View the eight images and descriptions

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  Home >> Featured Acquisition
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  October 22, 2010
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