Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Steven Walton

Committee Member 1

Sarah Scarlett

Committee Member 2

Beth Zinsli


This thesis, Lenses of Industry, examines how industrial companies and engineers adapted photography to their needs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Innovations in camera and plate technologies marketed to a broad range of people contributed to a steep rise in the number of photographers in the United States. Recognizing the potential that photography held for industrial companies and engineers, a handful of experts advocated the idea that photography had the potential to make many aspects of business faster, and easier, as well as to make visual records more truthful and accurate. Likewise, innovations in halftone printing technology allowed trade journals like Engineering and Mining Journal to print photographic illustrations, which engineers perceived as being more objective representations of machines and heavy equipment than handmade engravings. The photo collections of three Lake Superior mining companies show that approaches to industrial photography varied according to company and industry. Lake Superior mines did not use photography as regularly or as systematically as large national corporations because mines did not have large public interfaces that sold consumer goods to the public.