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Royal Photo Company Collection

About the Collection

The Royal Photo Company Collection contains 14,817 photographic negatives from the Royal Photo Company taken between 1937 and 1973 in and around Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the negatives are 8 x 10-inch safety negatives. Also included are approximately 180 photographic prints given to Aaron Chase by the Royal Photo Company. These prints are "before" and "after" images from the 1960s of buildings undergoing exterior renovations by the Louisville Perma Stone Company.

Louis Bramson established the Royal Photo View Company in Louisville in 1904, but many of the glass negatives were apparently sold when the company moved to a new second-floor location on West Jefferson Street in 1937. The Royal Photo Company focused on commercial photography and, unlike many other photographic businesses, did not operate a studio for portraits. Clients included Hillerich & Bradsby -- makers of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat -- and other businesses such as Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, and the Kaufman-Straus department store.

In 1908, the company was renamed the Royal Photo Company. Stern Bramson, the son of Louis Bramson, joined the studio in 1930 and eventually took over operations, running the company until 1973 when he sold the collection to William Blackwell of Blackwell Studios. The University of Louisville acquired the collection of photographic negatives in 1982.

For a more thorough history and discussion of the Royal Photo Company, see Bill Carner's article "Stern Bramson and the Royal Photo Company, Louisville, Kentucky" in The History of Photography 19:1 (1996): 50-54.

The negatives have been scanned in chronological order, and digital versions are available for all 11,593 unique original prints and negatives, excluding duplicates, copy negatives, and images of particularly poor quality.

About the Cataloging

Titles were created using the structure of the studio's original invoice books (held by the University of Louisville Photographic Archives) with the person or company who placed the order followed by a transcription of the brief original description of the image or images. Titles for the Aaron Chase collection were transcribed from the original folders or the back of prints, except where indicated in the Description.

Descriptions may include language that reflects the vocabulary of the period in which they were produced. For some images containing sensitive content, personally identifiable information was removed from the titles. The original invoice descriptions may include spelling errors or misidentified locations that were left as-is in the titles but corrected in the digital record's Description field. Titles that were supplied by the cataloger are indicated in the Description. Original dates were also supplied by the invoice books; additional original dates are based on information provided by Stern Bramson following the University of Louisville Photographic Archives' acquisition of the collection. These approximate dates are based on identifying numbers assigned to the negative, which are recorded in the Item Number of the digital image.

Conditions of Use

The University of Louisville welcomes fair use of this website and its contents. If you wish to publish, broadcast, or publicly display these materials, please notify Archives and Special Collections. In addition, it is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions, which may include paying fees for commercial use. For further information about permissions, use, and ordering reproductions, see Order Reproductions, or contact Archives and Special Collections, University of Louisville.

To cite an image from this collection, please use the format:

[Image Number], Royal Photo Company Collection, 1982.03, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

[Image Number], Aaron Chase Collection, 2005.021, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

To cite the digital version, add its Reference URL (found by following the link in the header above the digital file).


Images were scanned by Justin Clark, Alexandra Clifton, Amy Denhem, Jennifer Hambley, Alex Knipper, and Hao Nguyen in 2009-2011 as 600 dpi TIFFs in 8-bit grayscale on an Epson Expression 10000XL- Photo Scanner. Additional images were scanned earlier under the supervision of Bill Carner for orders made through University of Louisville's Photographic Archives. Some cropping and rotating was done using Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop CS4. The TIFFs were converted into JPEGs of "best quality" and resized to 600 pixels on the long side using Irfanview 4.23.

Emily Symonds Stenberg researched and created metadata for the Royal Studio Collection in accordance with the University of Louisville Digital Initiatives data dictionary (PDF).

The HTML pages were designed by Terri L. Holtze. Dwayne K. Buttler, J.D., provided copyright advice.

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