Collection 1996.5 - Jesse Lowe Smith Image Collection

Lincoln : Picture of Lincoln cabin before the memorial was erected. Lincoln : Eastman Johnson The Boy Lincoln Lincoln : Boulder and tablet on "site" of Lincoln home near Harristown Lincoln : Copy of photograph of Mrs. Lincoln Lincoln : Near Gentryville - a typical cabin Lincoln : The Bixby letter (11/21/1864) A Lincoln 1 of 2 Lincoln : The Bixby letter 11/21/1864 A Lincoln 2 of 2 Lincoln : Condition of light: Interior, Time of Day: 3:30 PM, Lens: 16, Exposure: 12 or 15 sec (?... Lincoln : Lincoln portrait from Perry Picture, M.P. Rice portrait Lincoln : Seward, et al in emancipation group, Tarbell's Lincoln, Vol 11
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Identity area

Reference code

US IlHpHS 1996.5


Jesse Lowe Smith Image Collection


  • Bulk, 1911-1914 (Creation)
  • Bulk, 1911-1914 1907-1933 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

33 linear feet : ca. 1033 slides [glass slides]

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Jesse Lowe Smith (1869-1934) was an educator and naturalist who served as Superintendent of Schools for District 107 and the principal of the Elm Place School in Highland Park, Illinois from 1902 until his death. A devoted, progressive pedagogue, Smith fostered a love and understanding of the natural world, the arts and culture in students during his tenure at Elm Place School. Smith served on the Highland Park Public Library board, as director of the North Shore Arts League, and as President of the Chicago chapter of the National Geographic Society. Additional civic activities included appointments on the Highland Park Tree and Parkway Commission, the Audubon Society of Chicago (Director) and Friends of Our Native Landscape (Director). He was an avid traveler in the United States and abroad.

Jesse Lowe Smith was born in Macon Illinois on November 23, 1869. From a young age, Smith expressed an avid interest in nature and learning. Smith attended DePauw University for one year in 1891 and received his teaching certificate in 1894 at the age of 25. After teaching at several different schools in Illinois including Lexington and Park Ridge, Smith became the principal of the Elm Place School in Highland Park Illinois in 1902 as well as the Superintendent of Schools for District 107. Smith held those posts for 32 years until his death on April 21, 1934 at the age of 65. Jesse Lowe Smith devoted his life to teaching and sharing his knowledge and love of nature with students. He was a proponent of progressive education including the use of the latest technology at the time, such as the lantern slides in this collection, and also by incorporating nature and the arts into the curriculum by including field trips into nature and to museums and cultural institutions. Jesse Lowe Smith was active on the Library board, and director of the North Shore Art League, and as well as president of the Chicago chapter of the National Geographic Society for which he led an expedition to Montana.

Archival history

The slides were re-discovered at Elm Place School by Donald Torgerson in 1994.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

North Shore School District 112 transferred custody to the Highland Park Historical Society in 1994.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The Jesse Lowe Smith Image Collection was created by Jesse Lowe Smith, who was principal of the Elm Place School and Superintendent 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.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

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Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

This is a partial collection of glass lantern slides, photographic plates and negatives (sizes 3” x 4” and 5” x 7”) from the Elm Place School in Highland Park, IL primarily taken by Jesse Lowe Smith, the Superintendant of Schools for use in the school curriculum. The subject matter includes botany and landscape (both local and in the Western part of the United States); Illinois and other historical sites in the United States, especially focusing on Lincoln; and images from overseas, with the bulk from India (focusing on architecture and landscape scenes), and several from Europe (focusing on historical monuments). There are a few miscellaneous plates which appear to be portraits and possibly family photographs. The slides were removed from metal boxes where they had been previously stored and were processed into Hollinger acid-free, metal edged boxes. The slides were examined for condition and subject matter and each slide was compared to the description on its paper sleeve that had been created upon accessioning by the Highland Park Historical Society archivist in 1996. The 5”x7” photographs are black and white, and the 3”x4” slides are both black and white and hand-colored. Many of the 3”x4” slides have hand-written descriptions or notations on the paper margins, presumably by Smith. Many of the 3”x4” botanical slide series were photographed by Smith, but some were by taken E.E. Parratt, a Highland Park photographer, and within these subsets some were hand colored by the artist Charlotte Pinkerton. There are also slides purchased from educational slide companies such as Nichols slides, Stereopticon slides, United Travel slides, Chicago Transparency Company. Several of the plates and slides, as noted in the container list, are broken, cracked or have film peeling from the glass. The broken or cracked images should be handled with extreme care. The damaged 3”x4” slides are item numbers: 0982, 0541, 0569, 0581, 0586, 0593 (badly cracked), 0626 (badly cracked), 0636 (badly cracked), 0656, 0683, 0935 (scratched). There is also one envelope of film negatives (item number 0960) in very poor condition which should not be examined and needs repair because the negatives have stuck together and started to disintegrate upon being touched. Of the 5”x7” glass plates and negatives, the following are broken: 0139, 1038, 0226, with several being broken in many pieces: 0829, 0830, 0831, 0832, 0833, 0834, 0835, 0836.

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Park District of Highland Park. Smith's diaries and other papers are located at the Highland Park Public Library :

Related descriptions

Publication note

Digitization of image funded by the Cultural Arts Commission of Highland Park with assistance of the Illinois Council on the Arts.

Notes area

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Description control area

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Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion




Archivist's note

Processed by Laura Schaeffer, 2010-2011.

Accession area

Related genres

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Physical storage

  • Box: 1-6, 30
  • Box: 7-12
  • Box: 13-16, 18
  • Box: 19-23
  • Box: 31-32
  • Box: 17, 24, 33
  • Box: 25
  • Box: 26-29
  • Box: 34