C. D. Arnold, Photographer of the Pan-American Exposition
John M. Bewley
Residents of a later age, we have in Arnold's pictures the means to reconstruct the dreams of a previous era, one that is both alien and familiar to us. 1
Charles D. Arnold. "Official Photographer of the Pan-American Exposition". Photo credit: Gilbert, New York. Source: The [Buffalo] Illustrated Express, August 1899.
Charles Dudley Arnold was 56 years of age when he was selected to be the official photographer for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. By that time in his career Arnold had accumulated more than 20 years as a professional photographer specializing in images of architecture. He had published two books of architectural photographs and won the favorable attention and praise of architects who were coming to rely upon such work for their studies. Arnold also served as the official photographer for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, documenting the project from the initiation of its construction in 1891. The first exposure many people have to the sights of both the Columbian and Pan-American Expositions comes through the images of C. D. Arnold.
Arnold was born in Port Stanley, Ontario March 19, 1844 and moved to Buffalo, New York by the time he was twenty. He was first introduced to photography while working as a traveling salesman when a colleague demonstrated a new camera to him. By the 1880s Arnold had taken up photography professionally and had already chosen to specialize in architectural photography. He left for Europe where he traveled the countrysides of England and France with a dog and a cart, taking photographs of local structures. These images provided a unique source of study for architects in Europe and the United States. Arnold returned to Buffalo after his work abroad. He maintained a residence in the city until his death in 1927.
C. D. Arnold's first book of photographs, Studies in Architecture at Home and Abroad, was published in New York in 1888. His work was well received. During the years 1885-1891 Arnold worked in New York City where he was listed as a photographer in city directories. The success of his work resulted in a contract to become the official photographer for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He relocated to Chicago in 1891 and began work documenting the construction of the Exposition that same year.
Examples of this phase of Arnold's work can be seen in Peter B. Hales' insightful book, Constructing the Fair: Platinum Photographs by C. D. Arnold of the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, Ill.: Art Institute of Chicago, 1993.) Hales points out the significance that Arnold's images had, not only for documenting the Exposition's beginnings, but also, through the extraordinarily wide distribution of Arnold's images in many formats, in successfully propagating the ideals embodied by the Exposition. Acting as a documentary photographer, Arnold hid most traces of his own artistic persona from the images he shot. His documentary images become historical artifacts rather than a photographer's personal, artistic statement. Peter B. Hales writes of this aspect of Arnold's work, saying:
In reproduced form ... Arnold's name seemed less important than the fact that the pictures were official presentations of the official elite. In fact, the more successful the pictures were, the more they seemed to exist on their own, witnesses to grandeur, sublimity, and civility, rather than active creations of it. Their very success lay in Arnold's ability to make them seem mute, even transparent windows onto the real objects of culture: buildings, spaces, landscapes, utopias. 2
Due to conflict with the board of the Columbian Exposition, Arnold was replaced as official photographer before the concluding images of the Exposition were shot. William Henry Jackson, a successful landscape photographer, was hired to make the final photographs that would constitute the official visual history of the Exposition. Even without these final photographs, Daniel H. Burnham, Director of Works of the Exposition, reported that Arnold and his crew of assistants had made approximately 15,000 negatives of the Exposition
C. D. Arnold continued his work as architectural photographer through the remainder of the 1890s, producing another book of photographs in 1896, Country Architecture in France and England XV. And XVI. Centuries (from negatives by C. D. Arnold, H. D. Higinbotham and E. A. Stewardson. Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1896). Many of the images of French sites were later reproduced in 1924 in French Farm Houses, Small Chateaux and Country Churches in France (by Antonio Di Nardo, with a preface by Paul P. Crét, photographs by C. D. Arnold and A. Di Nardo. Cleveland, Ohio: J. H. Jansen, 1924).
The examples from this period demonstrate the quality of Arnold's work and the nature of his architectural photographs outside the realm of exposition documentation. They can still be said to be documentary in nature, but they also clearly impart more of Arnold's artistic personality than the Exposition photographs. This is especially notable in his use of local people in many of the images.
Much of what Peter B. Hales writes about Arnold's work and its role in spreading the message of the Columbian Exposition applies equally well to Arnold's work in Buffalo. Arnold's work at the Pan-American Exposition, as it did at the Columbian Exposition, included having a concessionaire's license. He had a studio on the Exposition grounds from which he sold souvenir copies of his images.
The range of Arnold's work is impressive. He shot everything from the beginning to the end of the Exposition, including preparation of the grounds, construction, sculpture studios as work was being prepared, finished sculpture before and after it was installed, and interiors and exteriors of finished buildings. Of course, one of the most important elements of the Pan-American Exposition was its use of lighting to illuminate the grounds at night. These images must have presented Arnold with several technological challenges, but they are stunning for their clarity.
Several of the images Arnold shot of the Pan-American Exposition have become icons: the Electric Tower, the Temple of Music, the Ethnology Building. But there are other, less well-known shots, that are equally impressive and show slightly different sides of Arnold's talent.
Garden Scene in "Fair Japan". Photo credit: C.D. Arnold. Source: C. D. Arnold. The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated. Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1901. p.102.
Colonnade. Connecting the Machinery Building and the Temple of Music. Photo credit: C.D. Arnold. Source: C. D. Arnold. The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated. Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1901. p.31.
Many of Arnold's photographs of the Exposition contain such a high degree of detail that it is only possible to see all of it once the image has been enlarged. Scanning the images enables us to reveal much of this detail, sometimes with unexpected results. The following images demonstrate the rewards gained from examining enlargements of the images. Each image contains details that have been linked to a related enlargement; click on these "hot spots" (found by passing the cursor over the image until the cursor becomes a hand) to see the enlargements.
View larger version of entire image (271K)
Interior of the Horticulture Building. Photo credit: C.D. Arnold. Source: C. D. Arnold. The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated. Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1901. p.5.
Arnold's photograph of the interior of the Horticulture Building contains many details easily missed by the casual observer: the "Hands Off" sign on the fruit stand to the right, the security guard to the rear of the image, and the sculpture that is suspended high among the ferns are three that are notable.
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Interior of the Electricity Building. Photo credit: C.D. Arnold. Source: C. D. Arnold. The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated. Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1901. p.39.
The photograph of the interior of the Electricity Building also contains interesting details: the displays themselves, the man seated at the controls to the left, the signs of the exhibits, like that for a "Chloride Accumulator", and the "ghost" figures that appear due to the amount of time the lens had to be open to capture the image in the interior lighting.
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Construction of the Midway Entrances. Photo credit: C.D. Arnold. Source: Thomas E. Leary and Elizabeth C. Sholes. Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition. Charleston, SC : Arcadia Publishing, 1998. p.23. Image from the collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.
A third example can be seen in the photograph Arnold took during the construction of the Midway entrances. It is possible to see how the staff sheathing was being applied to the columns. More memorable is the figure at the left of the group of workers. Unless mistaken, he is thumbing his nose at the camera.
The entire contents of C. D. Arnold's book, The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated (Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1901) have been digitized and are available for online viewing. The individual images vary in size, but most have a file size around 150K.
- 1. Hales, Peter B. Constructing the Fair: Platinum Photographs by C. D. Arnold of the World's Columbian Exposition. Chicago, Ill.: Art Institute of Chicago, 1993. p. 48.
- 2. Ibid., p. 40.
A chronology and more details about the life of C. D. Arnold are available at the Web site, Charles Dudley Arnold, Photographer, 1844-1927: Official Photographer Chicago Columbian Exposition, Pan-American Expositon
© 2001 John M. Bewley
John M. Bewley is a music librarian and the music archivist at the University at Buffalo, The State Univeristy of New York. He is also the curator of the Music and Musicians at the Pan-American Exposition section of this online exhibit