Louis McCallister Transcript

Christopher Burns, library assistant professor and manuscript curator

Louis McAllister was a Burlington photographer really active in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. He was a commercial photographer although his photographs are of a pretty high quality: well-composed and really good contrast and excellent printing of the photographs.

It really is the most frequently used manuscript or photograph collection that we have. It serves as almost like a stock photography collection for a variety of uses from the very academic work of folks here at UVM, studying specific sites or specific topics — be they building or urban planning or landscape analysis to somebody who is looking for a photograph of their grandparent's graduating class from a high school. There's great World War II homefront materials in there of the various victory movements that were going on: scrap-metal drives, victory gardens, you name it.

His clients were really varied. He did a lot of work with schools, with camps. He also did a lot of work with folks like the Burlington Street Department, and actually one of the ways the collections has been used the most is looking at the street photographs that he took for them, which are organized street by street by street. And they both document the buildings, but they also document the infrastructure of Burlington really well: street paving, tearing up of trolley tracks. There's an extensive — probably more than most folks would ever care to look at — collection of sewer construction photographs. A really wide, wide range of clients he worked with, including folks at the Champlain Valley Fair, who were part of the sideshows, a lot of animal photos, boat photos, airplane photos, landscape photography.

And then at some point he started getting into panoramic photography, which is what he really became known for, and is known for today — these long, several feet long photographs that he would take in City Hall Park, or in front of Billings or in front of a school that could capture the entire group that he was photographing — quite large groups — in a long, narrow photograph. And you'll see them all over Burlington in buildings. And of course the main story that you always hear whenever anybody brings up the panoramic photographs is because they were a really long exposure time and the camera would sort of pan from one side to the other there was always the joker in the crowd who would start on one side of the photograph and then run to the other so he or she could be in the image twice. And it was always the first thing McAllister looked for when he was printing the photographs.

The collection is so large, and it gets used in so many different ways, that almost every time you get something out for a researcher you find something new and exciting, and that becomes your new favorite.

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