At the turn of this century, the halftone process of reproducing photographs in such printed matter as newspapers came into widespread use. Previously, newspapers used artists and engravers to illustrate their issues. In 1904, great dailies such as The New York Times did not have their own staffs of photographers; instead, they turned to Brown Brothers for daily news assignments.
Brown Brothers was then in New York, founded by brothers Arthur and Charles Brown, themselves New Yorkers. Brown Brothers eventually had a staff of twelve photographers covering all subjects. For example, when one of New York's earliest skyscrapers was going up, Brown Brothers' photographers were too, climbing out on the highest perch possible of the Woolworth Building. No one else did that.
Former President Theodore Roosevelt announced in 1912 that he would again run for president. Brown Brothers received the assignment to take new pictures of Teddy Roosevelt, and Arthur Brown sent his ace photographer, Charles Duprez, to Roosevelt's home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Spontaneously, Duprez photographed Teddy Roosevelt's smile, the first photograph from which a political caricature was created. This shot became the most famous ever taken of a U.S. president, and is considered by many experts the most valuable photograph ever.
The great fire engine picture was taken almost by accident. On June 23, 1910, Brown Brothers intern Barney Roos was sent on assignment to New Haven, Connecticut. Roos was to photograph Robert Taft, the then son of the President. The fire bell rang while Roos was heading back to the train station. He set up quickly to use the only unexposed glass plate negative remaining in his case. Years went by before he learned that he had taken the greatest fire engine photograph of all time and one of the greatest news photographs ever made. Barney Roos later surprised an interviewer in the 1950s when he commented that this photograph was the accomplishment he was most proud of, despite his putting down the camera that year to finish his engineering studies. In the 1930s he invented the Jeep while chief engineer at Willys.
A lot has happened to Brown Brothers since 1904. We moved from lower Manhattan to midtown and eventually to the Poconos in 1972 --just two hours by car from New York--to reduce overhead and keep low prices for our customers. That move was documented in a half-page story in a Sunday edition of The New York Times. Yes, we are rare. We have photographs no one else has because we had photographers no one else had. We at Brown Brothers still take many of our own photographs. Of the hundreds of thousands of photographs in Brown Brothers, many have original negatives filed alongside them. And no one--absolutely no one else in the world--has these photographs.