Lansing through the lens of R.C. Leavenworth

1934 Oldsmobile F-Series Six, photo by R. C. Leavenworth (courtesy Archives of Michigan)

The Archives of Michigan’s Image of the Month for May 2008 was taken by Lansing commercial photographer R.C. Leavenworth, whose Leavenworth Photography of Lansing created one of the largest collections of Oldsmobile photographs. Oldsmobile was founded in Lansing in 1897, and this year is the 100th anniversary of General Motors.

The photo is from a rare Agfacolor glass screen plate in the Leavenworth historical photograph collection. The Afgacolor process was similar to Autochrome process in which the glass plate overlays a mosaic of red, green and blue dyed resin grains. They relate that their scanner is unable to justly reproduce the color tone of these plates and they invite you to attend the upcoming exhibit: “The Picture Man: Lansing through the Lens of R. C. Leavenworth” to see the plates illuminated in person.

…Leavenworth started out photographing lumbering and mining camps in northern Michigan, using a horse-drawn darkroom. He relocated to Lansing in 1919 to document Lansing’s transformation into a major industrial city and automotive capital. For over a century, Leavenworth Photography has shot hundreds of thousands of images that tell the story of industry, business and social life in Michigan’s capital city. With subjects as diverse as street scenes, car parts, workers’ strikes, vaudeville troupes and football games, Leavenworth lived up to the slogan plastered on the door of his company car: “Anything photographed, anywhere, anytime.”

“The Picture Man” runs May 30 to September 30 in the temporary exhibit area on the first floor of the Michigan Historical Center. Admission is free. R. S. V. P. at (517) 373-1408 for the opening reception on May 29, 5pm-7pm.

You can also read Leavenworth Maintains Commercial Niche from the Greater Lansing Business Monthly (July 2003).

One thought on “Lansing through the lens of R.C. Leavenworth

  1. Correction:

    This was not taken by R. C. Leavenworth. Oldsmobile’s advertising department gave the plate to Leavenworth Photography from which to make copies.

    Lisa Sparks
    Leavenworth Project Intern
    Archives of Michigan


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