Take a look at the new finding aid for the Norton & Peel Photograph Collection! Would you like to see an image of a chimpanzee in Longfellow Gardens, taken in 1915? Perhaps you’re renovating an historic building on University Avenue and looking for construction elements? Maybe you’re a collector of fire trucks and want to study vehicle details? Do you have an interest in 1950s department store window displays? The Norton & Peel Photograph Collection has it all: find it using the new finding aid. Descriptions of nearly 20,000 images, photo albums and card files are available in this searchable list.
Norton & Peel was a commercial photography studio operating in Minneapolis from 1886-1969. Photographers Walter Norton and Clifford Peel both worked for the studio’s predecessor, C. J. Hibbard, for a number of years before forming their own business and buying Hibbard’s studio in 1928. Their purchase included Hibbard’s 75,000 negatives and equipment. For a time, they referred to themselves as the Norton, Peel & Hibbard Studio, but eventually dropped the Hibbard name. Both firms were among the best in Minnesota and had a reputation for high quality images. During their time, Norton & Peel took over 300,000 photographs, mostly in the Twin Cities metro area.
C. J. Hibbard arrived in Minneapolis in 1885 and soon after pursued his interest in photography, first as a hobby and then as a profession. From 1899-1903 he was the botany photographer at the University of Minnesota; later he traveled to Cuba for business and to Harvard for assignment. His specialty, though, was commercial photography. Clifford Peel studied photography at school, took aerial photographs with the Army Signal Corps in WWI, and worked for a portrait photographer in Bemidji. He moved to Minneapolis in 1920 and was hired by Hibbard. Walter Norton had briefly worked for Hibbard before joining the service during WWI. After the war he continued his job at Hibbard’s Studio.
The Minnesota Historical Society acquired a portion of Norton & Peel, Inc. holdings in 1979. It includes negatives, photo albums, and client cards. A substantial portion of the negatives were printed by the Minnesota Historical Society.
The bulk of the Norton & Peel Photograph Collection is associated with Norton & Peel, but there are many taken by C. J. Hibbard, as well. Hibbard’s mark on the collection is his group of street scenes and building photos from Minneapolis. Norton and Peel’s studio continued Hibbard’s commercial focus and their views represent Twin Cities business exteriors, interiors, or products. To a lesser degree, views of landscapes, home exteriors, accident scenes (for insurance), and family events are included. A client card file created by Norton & Peel is included with the collection. The card file is keyed to the firm’s negative numbering system. The cards identify the negative, date, and for whom the image was made. A card file that serves as an index to addresses is also part of this collection, but it was created by the Minnesota Historical Society, not by Norton & Peel.
The new, online, searchable inventory, or finding aid, provides easy access to the collection’s deep, rich and expansive content. Take a look at whatever interests you! Perhaps a Dunwoody Institute shop in 1940? Sailing on Lake Calhoun? Toyland in Dayton’s Department Store? The possibilities are endless!
Diane Adams-Graf, Sound and Visual Collections Curator