George Grantham Bain, who would become known as “the father of foreign photographic news,” was born to George and Clara Mather Bain in Chicago, Illinois, on January 7, 1865. The family soon moved to St. Louis, where the senior Bain opened a series of successful mills, among the most successful in the United States. Young George received the finest private school education at the Smith Academy, and subsequently earned degrees in chemistry and law at St. Louis University. His interest in photography began while studying chemistry, and soon the young man was developing his own prints on the windowsill of his dorm.
After graduating in 1883, Mr. Bain was hired as a reporter at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and the following year became the Washington, DC correspondent for Joseph Pulitzer’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Although Mr. Bain initially regarded himself solely as a journalist, he realized the power of photographs, and began taking pictures with his trusted 5x7” Press Graflex to accompany his articles. Because this bulky tool of the trade did not revolve, vertical shots proved to be quite challenging. During a brief stint with the United Press Association (UPA), Mr. Bain decided to open his own photographic syndicate, Bain News Service, at 15 Park Row in New York City. He personally trained his staff, and the young men armed with their cumbersome press cameras were soon prowling the nighttime streets of ‘the city that never sleeps.’ These dramatic images that were soon splashed upon worldwide front pages laid the foundation for the tabloid journalism industry. One of Mr. Bain’s most successful employees was early female photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, who took the famous photographs of Admiral George Dewey following his victory in the Spanish-American War.
New York City was a fertile news source, and soon Mr. Bain had amassed an archive that exceeded 1 million photographs of athletes, politicians, celebrities, natural disasters and other notable events. Newspapers would hire Bain News Service to supply them with eight photos per daily, paying anywhere from $30 to $60 monthly for them. A devastating fire in January 1908 destroyed his entire inventory, but Mr. Bain nevertheless returned to work the next day and eventually recouped his losses. For the next three-plus decades, he grew his business and trained his young photographers to work quickly to capture the timely news stories that had become his trademark.
Seventy-nine-year-old G. G. Bain died on April 20, 1944 at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital. Four years’ later, the Library of Congress purchased the massive photographic collection of the Bain News Service, which included some 40,000 glass plate negatives and 50,000 prints. The George Grantham Bain collection was digitalized in 2006, and many of Mr. Bain’s and his company’s photographs can now be accessed online.
2011 Bain's New York: The City in News Pictures 1900-1925 by Michael Carlebach (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.), p. ix
2017 Bliss from Bygone Days (URL: http://www.blissfrombygonedays.com/home/2017/10/23/the-george-grantham-bain-collection).
2009 Celebrated in Their Time edited by Amy Pastan (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.), p. vii.
2010 George Grantham Bain Collection (URL: https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/022.html).
2004 The National Pastime: A Review of Baseball History (Cleveland, OH: The Society for American Baseball Research, Inc.), pp. 33-34.
1996 Pictures of the Times: A Century of Photography from the New York Times edited by Peter Galassi and Susan Kismaric (New York: The Museum of Modern Art), pp. 25-26.
1972 Picturescope, Vol. XX (New York: The Division) , pp. 125-132.
2010 Photo Shows George Grantham Bain (1865-1944), Founder of the Bain News Service (URL: https://blog.overlandpartners.com/when-history-gets-personal/15074u).
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