The Frank Lauder Autochrome Collection

By Kansas City Public Library

"Elmhurst", House of Annie Ridenbaugh Bird, Lauder, Frank, September 16, 2933, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

The Frank Lauder Autochromes Collection consists of 1,402 rare color images of homes, gardens, and landmarks in the Kansas City metropolitan area, captured in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Woman with Hibiscus Flowers, Lauder, Frank, July 24, 1935, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

The glass plates were created using an early color photographic process called the autochrome. The process was introduced in 1907 by Auguste and Louis Lumière, brothers who were French filmmakers.

Church of Our Lady of Sorrows (October 3, 1933) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

The technique involved a layer of potato starch grains (dyed violet, green, and red-orange) that were spread on a glass plate with a light-sensitive silver bromide solution. Conveniently, the color autochrome plates could be used in place of standard black-and-white plates used in cameras of the era.

Fountain at Alameda Road and Broadway, Lauder, Frank, July 22, 1932, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

Clumping of individual starch grains gave autochromes their unique pastel appearance. Under proper conditions, the colors captured by autochromes can be vivid, and the technique remained popular for some 30 years. Shown here is a portion of Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza in 1932.

Frank Lauder with a Japanese Cherry Tree, Lauder, Frank, April 28, 1934, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

The Kansas City autochrome collection was created by an amateur photographer named Frank Lauder, who was an accountant and auditor by trade. He worked for the Long-Bell Lumber Company between World War I and the late 1920s. Lauder is depicted in this 1934 image.

Staircase and Grand Hall of R. A. Long by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

After losing his job at the lumber company, Lauder supported himself through photography and lecturing in the 1930s. He traveled around Kansas City and documented its notable residences and gardens with the color photography, and he used the images to illustrate his lectures to local garden clubs.

Nelson Gallery of Art (May 18, 1933) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

A portion of Lauder’s Autochromes document Kansas City’s notable buildings. Shown here is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Nelson Gallery of Art from the University of Kansas City (October 1933) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

Another autochrome of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, taken from the campus of the University of Kansas City.

Penn Valley Lake, Lauder, Frank, October 15, 1932, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

Penn Valley Park and the Kansas City skyline in the background, as seen from Scout Hill.

Scout Statue, Lauder, Frank, September 8, 1938, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

Scout Statue in Penn Valley Park, looking north toward the Kansas City skyline, September 8, 1938.

Children in Jacob L. Loose Memorial Park Wading Pool (June 26, 1935) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

Jacob L. Loose Memorial Park Wading Pool, June 26, 1935.

Kansas City Southern Bridge in Swope Park (October 24, 1933) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

Kansas City Southern Railroad bridge in Swope Park, October 24, 1933.

West Bottoms from Kersey Coates Drive (October 18, 1932) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad yards and Kansas City Live Stock Exchange Building, October 18, 1932.

The Palisades from Kersey Coates Drive, Lauder, Frank, September 25, 1933, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

The Palisades at West Terrace Park, as viewed from Kersey Coates Drive, September 25, 1933.

The Concourse Pergola (September 1933) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

The Colonnade in North Terrace Park (now Kessler Park), September 23, 1933.

Woman at Golf Tee at Unity Farm, Lauder, Frank, July 26, 1935, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

Golf course at Unity Village, July 26, 1935.

Liberty Memorial, Lauder, Frank, October 4, 1933, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

Liberty Memorial, a monument that now houses the National World War I Museum, October 4, 1933.

Library of R. A. Long, Lauder, Frank, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

The personal library in the residence of R. A. Long, who was co-founder of the Long-Bell Lumber Company.

House of Helen H. McDermand (June 22, 1933) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

Because autochromes were made using organic materials, they are sensitive to light and heat, can degrade, and the colors can deteriorate. Capturing high-resolution digital images of the Kansas City autochromes, without damaging the plates, required special techniques.

Road to Joseph F. Porter's House with Merle Smith, Lauder, Frank, November 1, 1933, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

During the most recent digitization process, staff of the Kansas City Public Library consulted published information about autochromes. A professional DSLR camera with a macro lens was selected and mounted overhead, with a high-CRI LED light bulb beneath for backlighting. The selected bulb allowed a color temperature that closely matched daylight, without producing excessive heat that would damage the autochrome slide.

Miss Jean Love at Swimming Pool, Lauder, Frank, August 1932, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

Relative to a scanner, use of a DSLR camera with LED backlighting improved the brightness, contrast, and color accuracy, allowing for exceptional digital reproductions of the original slides.

Children in the Garden of James Neal Foster and Sadie Ross Foster (June 24, 1932) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

After image capture, post-production of the images was conducted using Adobe Photoshop.

House and Tower of Leslie T. Martin (May 10, 1939) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

Edits included color, exposure, and lens corrections to accurately reproduce how the autochrome is perceived when viewed with the naked eye and a light source.

Bouquet of Yellow Water Lilies and Lake Quivira (July 1941) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

The autochrome process was eventually supplanted by the invention of Kodachrome film in 1935, by two concert musicians, Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes. While working for the Kodak Company, the two Leopolds successfully developed film that would separate color in one exposure and would produce dyes in the film during development.

Hawthorn Tree and Kansas City, Missouri Skyline, Lauder, Frank, April 29, 1941, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

The Kodachrome process was far less cumbersome than the autochrome, allowed shorter exposure times, produced a sharper image, and proved popular with professional and amateur photographers alike.

Myra M. Wilson with a Rose (September 14, 1941) by Lauder, FrankKansas City Public Library

Mission Hills Country Club Swimming Pool, Lauder, Frank, August 25, 1940, From the collection of: Kansas City Public Library
Show lessRead more

Frank Lauder’s Kansas City collection contains some 250 color slides that post-date autochrome technology.

Credits: Story

The Frank Lauder Autochrome Collection is housed in Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library. The collection was acquired circa 1952 and accessioned as collection no. P22.

The collection is available online in its entirety on the Pendergast Years website.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Kansas City: Smoke Rings and the Finer Things
From murals to the Monarchs, and from bebop to burnt ends
View theme
Google apps