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Camera Shop photo album

Identifier: Collection 073

Scope and Contents

The photographs in the collection provide a view of the Grand Rapids, Michigan economic sector in 1915. The images include wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers and a variety of service agencies. Among the views included are furniture factories, florists, dry good merchants, show merchants, laundries, news publishers, moving and storage firms, restaurants, hotels, grocers, business schools, flour mills, public buildings and public parks.

The album appears to have been made by the Camera Shop on a subscription basis for firms whose photos are included in the album. The photos also detail several substance abuse hospitals, business schools, or colleges that flourished during the Progressive Era in Grand Rapids, as well as public buildings in the city and public parks. Other Camera Shop photos are found throughout the Grand Rapids Public Library archival collections, as they were collected for use, and then passed on by their original owners. The original negatives from the Camera Shop are owned by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.


  • 1915


Biographical / Historical

The Camera Shop was formed in 1908 by Walter K. Schmidt (1865-1938) to provide photo supplies to the community. Schmidt, a Grand Rapids native, graduated from the University of Michigan as a registered pharmacist. He operated a drug store in Grand Rapids under his name and developed a reputation as a chemist and chemical analyst. An amateur photographer, Schmidt combined his chemical knowledge with his hobby to operate the Camera Shop, in addition to his drug store. He retained ownership of the Camera Shop until 1936. At the time of original processing a Camera Shop still existed in Grand Rapids, serving the downtown area, but all of the known photographs which carry the Camera Shop markings come from the era of Schmidt’s ownership.


2.25 Linear Feet (Two boxes)

Language of Materials



The Camera Shop was formed in 1908 by Walter K. Schmidt (1865-1938) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to provide photo supplies to the community. Schmidt, a pharmacist by training, used his knowledge of chemicals to run the Camera shop along side his drugstore until 1936. The photographs in this collection visually detail the commercial and industrial sector of the Grand Rapids economy in 1915. In addition, images of several substance abuse hospitals, business schools, colleges, public buildings and parks are included.


Images do not appear to be listed in numerical order because of the manner in which they were numbered on the oversized mounts. In most cases, two images are described together, with one image number on one side of the mount, and the other image number mounted on the reserve.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Library purchase, accession number 00.000

Related Materials

Collection 216, See pictorial “Grand Rapids, the World's Furniture Capital”, [1925?] with images from the Camera Shop.

Public Museum of Grand Rapids. Camera Shop Collection.

Processing Information

Original state

It is believed that the mounting of this collection is not original to the 1915 version. The source of the mounting is unknown. The photos have been mounted on brown paper, measuring 11” high and 19” wide. Two images or more were often mounted on each side of the paper, for a total of up to 4 images per sheet. Underneath each image is a caption, mounted separately, and measuring about 2” x 8.”

The large sheets were previously filed in folders that were not large enough to cover the piece, and not sturdy enough to support the piece. Due to the poor housing supports, and the constant handling of this popular collection, materials began tearing in the center, including the images in some cases.


When four items are on the sheet, two front and two back, the images have now been cut in the center, at the point where the paper was starting to tear anyway. Thus, two smaller sheets have been created from one. These sheets received additional trimming, to fit standard acid free folders.

Several oversized sheets could not be cut, without damaging the image, in the center of the mount. In this case, the items remain in the oversized state, but evidence of tearing at the center can be seen. Items should be handled with care.

All images have been placed in new acid free folders that cover the image. Also, oversized images have been placed in mylar plastic sleeves, to provide additional strength and protection during handling.

Finding aid for the Camera Shop photo album
May 1988
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

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