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Elmer and Bert Underwood

Photograph of Elmer and Bert UnderwoodStereoscopic photographs and marketing of photographs

Two brothers, Elmer and Bert Underwood founded Underwood and Underwood in 1880 in Ottawa. The youths started with door to door sales of stereoscopic photographs. Persistency and improvements in business methods brought the Underwoods an increasing measure of success, and they soon became the exclusive agency for three prominent stereographic publishers. As the organization grew, branch offices were established in other cities in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain. The company relocated its headquarters to New York City in 1891.

After the move to New York, Underwood and Underwood began making its own stereoscopic photographs and in 1896 commenced selling news photos to newspapers and magazines. The first group of photographs showed the Graeco-Turkish war and were taken by Bert Underwood while at the front with the Greeks. By 1901, production of stereoscopic photographs at Underwood and Underwood reached 25,000 a day while annual sales of stereoscopes attained a level of 300,000.

An army of freelance news photographers was fielded and newspaper and magazine publishers seeking to break away from traditional line drawings and wood cut illustrations clamored for Underwood and Underwood prolific output. Around 1904 they set up a sales agency that would virtually dominate the news photo field for the next 30 years.

Entry: Underwood, Elmer and Bert

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: June 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.