A Wellcome customer…

– Wellcome Photographic Exposure Diary, F. K. Butters, 1911, from box 83 of the collection of the Department of Botany.

The most dainty, compact and useful pocketbook for photographers. Handsomely bound and beautifully illustrated.

Wellcome_01.jpgSo reads an advertisement for Wellcome’s Photographic and Exposure Diary for 1900. Sold by the firm of Burroughs Wellcome & Co. of London, the notebook was a handy aid to photographers of the age. Not only did it include detailed exposure tables, but it also described common photographic processes, and served as a “how-to” manual by providing instruction on the use of the “Tabloid” photographic chemicals — sold by Burroughs Wellcome & Co.of course — to make and develop photographs. A “diary” space was provided to record exposures and write notes. Another key feature was the inclusion of an exposure calculator on the inside back cover, the utility of which the company explained in an advertisement, “By one movement of a circular disc the exposure for any plate and for the most commonly used stops is at once indicated without any mathematical computation on the part of the user.”

I came across several Wellcome Photographic Exposure Record and Diaries while processing a recent acquisition of materials obtained from the University’s Department of Plant Biology (formerly the Department of Botany) to add to the Department of Botany records. Eight photographic diaries kept by Frederic King Butters, instructor of Botany, are present within the collection, and are dated from 1910 to 1925. One of the diaries contained an actual photograph:


Based on other photographs of F.K. Butters contained within the Archives Information Files, I am fairly certain that Butters is pictured at center. Butters, a U graduate, taught in the Department of Botany from 1901 until his death in 1945. Over the course of his career, he spent many summers traveling to various regions of Minnesota to document plant life. No doubt that these photographic notebooks record Butters’ attempts to capture images of his many field investigations. The presence of multiple books suggests that Butters was a satisfied Wellcome customer, and that he too found the product to be “the most dainty, compact and useful pocketbook.”

*These photo record books were sold by the Burroughs & Wellcome pharmaceutical company of London, co-founded by Henry Wellcome (originally from Almond, Wisconsin) and Silas Burroughs in 1880. After Burroughs’ death in 1895, Wellcome retained control of the corporation, added research laboratories, and developed the company into a leader in the pharmaceutical industry. For an interesting side tale on the journey of a budding pharmacist from a small town in Wisconsin who became a titan of business, and philanthropist, visit the Wellcome Trust. The Wellcome Library preserves Wellcome’s personal and company papers and is a major repository for materials related to medical history.