The Carpenter Collection

In exploring the Library of Congress collection of images on the web I recently came across a very interesting and surprisingly deep archive of photographs taken by a father/daughter duo, Frank and Frances Carpenter. Frank was a writer and the photographs were taken to illustrate his articles and books. He wrote and lectured on geography topics as well as authoring his own collection of travel books titled Carpenter’s World Travels. Frances also was a writer, geographer and had a strong interest in other cultures.

The Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection consists of 1,000s of photographs produced and gathered by Frank G. Carpenter (1855-1924) and his daughter Frances (1890-1972) and donated upon the death of Frances in 1972. According to the Library of Congress Carpenter’s works helped popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the early years of the twentieth century.

From the Library of Congress description of the collection,

Born in Mansfield, Ohio, Frank G. Carpenter (1855-1924) became a journalist, photographer, world traveler, and the author of books on geography. His wanderlust resulted in articles and books that informed American readers about life in other countries and enabled him to accumulate an impressive range of visual documentation.

Carpenter began his writing career as a journalist and his assignments fueled his compilation of images from around the world. After graduating from the University of Wooster (Ohio) in 1877, Carpenter began newspaper work as the Columbus, Ohio, correspondent for the Cleveland Leader newspaper. He got a taste of life abroad as a foreign correspondent for that paper in 1881. In 1882 his work for the Cleveland Leader took him to Washington, D.C., where he was the paper’s Washington correspondent until 1888, writing a regular column on life in “Carp’s Washington.” He also did work for the American Press Association starting in 1885 and the New York World in 1887. Carpenter collected enough assignments with newspaper syndicates and Cosmopolitan Magazine to pay for a trip around the world in 1888-1889. He was charged with sending a “letter” each week to twelve periodicals, describing life in the countries to which he traveled. He continued to travel extensively, logging 25,000 miles in South America in 1898, and later doing letter-writing tours of Central America, South America, and Europe.

A Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, the National Press Club, and numerous scientific societies, Carpenter published widely on travel and authored the Carpenter’s Geographic Readers, standard texts used in American schools for forty years. His writings helped popularize cultural anthropology and geography.

Carpenter’s globetrotting did not preclude his having a family and sinking roots in the Washington, D.C., area. He married Joanna Condict in 1883, and they had two children. His real estate holdings in Washington, D.C., made him a millionaire.

Frank Carpenter died in Nanking, China, in 1924 at age 69, on his third trip around the world.

Frances Carpenter (1890-1972) began accompanying her father Frank on his travels as both secretary and photographer upon her graduation from Smith College in 1912. She co-authored a number of books with him including The Clothes We Wear (1926) and The Foods We Eat (1926). She later edited the articles her father had written in the 1880s about life in Washington, D.C., resulting in the publication, Carp’sWashington (1960).

Inheriting her father’s interest in cultures outside the U.S., Frances Carpenter became an author and geographer in her own right. She wrote of foreign legends and peoples for a youthful audience in books such as Our Neighbors Near and Far (1933) and Tales of A Russian Grandmother (1933). Not only do the books reflect the knowledge Frances gained through her travels, but a few also include illustrations she chose from the Carpenter collection. Frances Carpenter was a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and Vice President of the International Society of Women Geographers.

She married W. Chapin Huntington, the commercial attaché at the American Embassy in Paris. As Mrs. W. Chapin Huntington she presented the Carpenter collection to the Library of Congress in 1951 and continued to donate material until her death in 1972.

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