The Jesse Lowe Smith Image Collection was created by Jesse Lowe Smith, who was principal of the Elm Place School and Superintendant of Schools in Highland Park, Illinois for 32 years until his death in 1934. Smith took the bulk of the photographs himself specifically for educational purposes . Smith had a life-long interest in nature, culture and the arts. Smith promoted an innovative and progressive educational style by including nature expeditions and theatrical productions as part of Elm Place School’s curriculum. The collection consists of 3”x4” glass slides and 5”x7” glass photographs and negative plates which either were taken by Jesse Lowe Smith himself, or which he purchased from a Highland Park photographer, E.E. Paratt or from the Nichol’s Slide Company (a provider of educational slides). Some of the slides are hand-colored by Charlotte Pinkerton, an artist who at the time worked in Chicago. The slides collection range from 1907 to 1933 with the bulk being from 1911 to 1914. The bulk of the images are botanical in nature, focusing on plant studies, trees, and flowers and include landscape scenes. There are also images of Elm Place School including classrooms and artwork exhibited in the school, some class photos of students and teachers, the outside of the school, and theatrical productions of a play and operetta. The collection includes travel photographs from trips Smith took to Montana, the Pacific Northwest, and abroad. There are also slides of song lyrics, flags and history lessons. Thus far, the following series are created: Botanical slides; Travel photographs from Smith’s travels abroad, notably India, but also Europe; and a third series for Lincolniana of photographs relating to Abraham Lincoln.
There is a second collection of botanical slides from Elm Place School currently in the possession of the Park District of Highland Park which exhibited them in 1995. There may be overlap between the two collections.