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Harry P. Symes pictorials and advertising collection

Identifier: Collection 202

Scope and Contents

The images depict scenes from the Grand Rapids area during the first two decades of the 20th century. The postcards give views of such locations as John Ball Park, Monroe Avenue, North Park, hospitals and the post office. The glass negatives detail John Ball Park, street scenes, corner stores, the aftermath of the Powers and Walker Casket Co. fire, boats on Lake Michigan, as well as a family, fashions, house interiors, and home exercise equipment. The 32 oversized items appear to highlight the products of several different Grand Rapids furniture companies. They are all color, except [no. 27]. The Symes Advertising Agency address is given as 3501 Lake Eastbrook Blvd., Grand Rapids, Mi. 49506. Also given is the address of the firm evidently developing the negatives: Meisel Photochrome Corporation, P.O. Box 226067, Dallas, Tx. 75281.


  • 1900-1920, circa 1974-1980


Biographical / Historical

Harry P. Symes (1918-Oct. 30, 1997)* graduated in 1936 from Creston High School, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He began working in the advertising department of a local drug store. During World War II he served in the 10th Armor Division Surgeon’s office and took correspondence courses from the American Technical University of Chicago, as well as the University of Wisconsin, in advertising. Later he worked for several local advertising firms until opening his own company in 1949. In addition to numerous Grand Rapids area clients, Symes also published the Grand Rapids Visitor (begun in 1939), from 1957 to 1986.

In 1949 Symes married Marcelline Lynch. They had two daughters: Nancy, married to James Walters, and Linda Symes Wiser, deceased.

*Obituary in GR Press Nov. 2, 1997.


6.1 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials



Harry P. Symes (1918-1997) was the owner of an advertising firm and publisher of the Grand Rapids Visitor. This collection includes images that Symes appears to have collected, as well as images relating to his advertising work. The 88 glass negatives depict scenes of Grand Rapids, Michigan during the first two decades of the 20th century. Additionally, 21 postcards give views of such locations as John Ball Park, Monroe Avenue, North Park, hospitals and the post office. Also, 32 oversized photo negatives exemplify Symes Advertising Agencies work for various Grand Rapids furniture companies, including Widdicomb, Irwin, Stow Davis, Superior, Hekman, Baker and Sligh.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Harry P. Symes, accession numbers 1994.024, 00.[140].1-32 and 1989.025

Related Materials

See also the periodical title “Grand Rapids Visitor” or “ Visitor” produced by Symes on the Local History Periodical Shelves. A couple of additional issues of the Grand Rapids Visitor are included in the GRPL Periodical Collection 285.

Boxes 8-10 accompanying this collection are for accession 1989.025 and are still unprocessed materials given by Symes. Included are photos, flyers, publications, etc. See the Archivist for access to this material.

Finding aid for the Harry P. Symes pictorials and advertising collection
James Winslow
March 1997
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA