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Underwood & Underwood (Biography)

Photographic entrepreneurs Elmer and Bert Underwood, the sons of Reverend E. Underwood, were born respectively in 1859 and 1862. Living first in Illinois, the family later settled in Ottawa, Kansas, and the boys did what they could to ease their constant financial burdens. After attending college, Elmer went to work at a local printing office while Bert found work at a grocery store. In 1859, young Elmer Underwood established his own printing business, which quickly became successful. Meanwhile, Bert continued to struggle, and went to Kansas City, where he was hired by the White Sewing Machine Company. When this proved not to his liking, he returned to Ottawa, where he became a traveling salesman, selling medical books door to door. As a book agent, he became acquainted with several neighboring territories, and on one of his business travels, he met a smalltime peddler of stereoscopic views. Although considered outdated by this time, the younger Underwood believed that there was a potentially lucrative market for stereoscopic views if the proper organization was in place. He then convinced his older brother to join this new venture, which began operating under the name Underwood & Underwood in 1881.

Shortly thereafter, the brothers had a team of agents representing their company in both Kansas and Missouri. Within a few years, the business had expanded further Midwest and into the West, with migration into the South, Rockies, Puget Sound completed by the spring of 1885. Although their main source of operations remained in Ottawa, the Underwoods opened a supply house in Baltimore that was subsequently moved to New York City. The domestic success led to further growth with houses opening in Ontario, Canada and Liverpool, England. By 1890, Underwood & Underwood was either shipping directly or through their agents to most of Europe, Scandinavia, Central America, Asia, and the south Pacific.

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2013-01-26 13:19:59
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