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Edward A. Bromley Photographs

Identifier: M/A 0323
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Description of Contents

Nearly 1,400 photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century. The original format of the bulk of the collection is glass-plate negatives but prints and acetate negatives are also included. The photographs were collected by Bromley and include images primarily of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and rural Minnesota taken by Bromley, B. F. Upton, W. H. Illingworth, and other photographers from the time. Photographs include street scenes, houses and buildings, vehicles, people, events, and activities.

The collection also includes biographical information on Bromley and a copy of Bromley's published A Photographic History of the Early Days in St. Paul.


  • Creation: 1849 - 1917


Access Restrictions

The physical collection is available for use in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library during the department's open hours. Photographs from this collection are available in the Edward Bromley Collection in the Hennepin County Library Digital Collections.


An early Minneapolis photographer and photo collector, Edward A. Bromley was born in New Haven, Conn. September 24, 1848. He died in Minneapolis on June 21, 1925, at the age of 76.

Bromley arrived in Minnesota with his parents in 1867, first living in St. Paul and later Minneapolis. He worked as a news reporter and photographer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he gained interest in chronicling history, particularly American Indian history. He transferred to the Minneapolis edition of the Pioneer Press in 1877 and began working for the Minneapolis Journal in 1894.

After a failed attempt to collect coins, Bromley embarked on a life-long project to collect photographs and negatives of the pioneer days in Minnesota. His first purchase of negatives was from B. F. Upton of St. Anthony, from whom he purchased over 500 negatives in 1878 when Upton relocated to Florida. He also purchased 1,600 negatives from W. H. Illingworth’s gallery in St. Paul. During his first ten years of collecting, Bromley purchased the negatives and plates of 30 other photographers (including Pepper, Jacoby, Rugg, and Harvey) totaling about 7,000 negatives.

Bromley’s collection included photographs taken by himself as well. He had a particular interest in American Indians and would take one of his cameras and go out among the tribes, looking for feature stories. He also took photographs of prominent Minnesota men. In 1898, Bromley was sent with the Minnesota troops as a war correspondent in the Spanish-American war for the Minneapolis Times.

In 1900, Bromley published a book of his collected photographs, “Minneapolis Album: A Photographic History of the Early Days in Minneapolis, A Collection of Views Illustrative of the City's Growth from the Earliest Settlement Down to 1880, With Accompanying Descriptive Matter and Portraits of Pioneer Citizens, Forming A Complete Historical Picture.”


77 boxes (77 boxes)

Language of Materials


Donor Information

The collection was purchased from Edward A. Bromley by the Minneapolis Public Library in 1914. Edward Bromley sold a portion of his collection, consisting of approximately 200 lantern slides and 1,600-1,800 glass plate negatives, to the Minneapolis Public Library in 1914.

Processing Information

In the 1960s, photographer Harold E. Vanderwater reproduced over 325 of the Bromley plates for the Minneapolis History Collection by carefully selecting, patching, retouching, and reproducing the originals. Additional acetate negatives and reproduction prints were made in the 1980s. Preservation prints of the Illingworth images were done in collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society in 1991. From 2015 to 2017 the original glass plate negatives were cleaned, repaired, re-scanned, and placed in new preservation enclosures.

Edward A. Bromley Photographs
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Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.