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Allan S. Thompson photographs

Identifier: UA-10.3.424

Scope and Contents

The Thompson collection consists of 1,866 glass plate negatives and three lantern slides. There are also 573 contact prints in the collection of which 494 are from the plates. Some of the prints are 8x10 inches and others are 3 ½ inch squares. The prints of the 3 ½ inch images are noted in the finding aid with the notation “(print available) 3 ½.” A list of the 8x10 inch prints can be found at the end of the finding aid. Safety film negatives (4x5) have been made of all the negatives through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The collection is comprised of images of people, places and events in the greater Lansing, Michigan area, 1898-1913. Included in the collection are hundreds of plates of the companies where Thompson worked and their products. One of the outstanding parts of the collection consists of the 375 plates which record the operation of the Lansing Wheelbarrow Company. There are excellent views of the buildings and grounds, the arrival of raw materials via the railroad, and the various processes (metal casting, machining, woodworking, painting) necessary to produce the wheelbarrows, carts, trucks, and hardware. In addition, there are fine portraits of men working in the wheelbarrow company.

Thompson photographed a variety of other subjects including local buildings, homes, churches, water towers, and firefighting equipment. There are also a group of plates made at the Severance Tank Works (1907), manufacturers of water tanks and hydraulic apparatus, as well as interior scenes of the Oldsmobile Motor Car Co. (1907). There are hundreds of plates of local parades and carnivals for Labor Day, Decoration Day, the 4th of July, Presidents Day and parades and carnivals sponsored by local merchants and organizations. Included are plates of a woman palmist, a monkey circus, a phantoscope tent, and Johnson’s Commercial Band. There are several plates of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show, which in addition to the standard western scenes, features re-enactments of the Boer-English War and the Cuban and Philippine conflicts. There are also plates of the Thompson family and the public mourning for US President McKinley’s death on the Michigan Capitol lawn. Some of these plates were published in the Lansing State Journal Centennial issue (May 24, 1959). One of the published plates is of Admiral Dewey when he came to Lansing in 1900 for a celebration and parade. The collection also contains an excellent multi-plate panoramic view of Lansing (circa 1900).

The plates were received in their original boxes and appeared to be maintained in some type of chronological order. The collection has been slightly rearranged so that the plates are grouped by subject, place, event, or individual which they document. An item inventory of the collection have been prepared and follow this description. The copy negative rather than the original glass plate will be made available for examination except in those instances where the plate might be able to provide information not discernible from the copy negative. When a print of a negative is available that will be provided unless the negative is specifically requested. The number range preceding the negative description is the negative number range.


  • Creation: 1898 - 1913


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Due to the fragility of the glass plate negatives, the photographic prints or safety film negatives should be used by researchers whenever possible.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

Allan Sutton Thompson was born on May 26, 1866 to Charles H. and Elizabeth G. Thompson who had moved to Lansing, Michigan from New York. Charles was employed as the city assessor as well as a clerk in the State Office. A daughter, Ada B., was born to the Thompsons three years after the birth of Allan.

Allan Thompson attended Lansing public schools and Michigan State Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) in 1886 as a special student. On May 16, 1888, he married Katie Hatchel (December 7, 1865 – May 25, 1922). Together they had one daughter, Ellen, and two sons, LeRoy H. and Max G.

In 1889, he started work as a machinist at the Lansing Wheelbarrow Company and over the years, he advanced to foreman and then bookkeeper. In 1906, he left the wheelbarrow company to work as a shipping clerk for the Capitol Electrical Engineering Company. Two years later, he joined Oldsmobile, where he worked as a bookkeeper and later as a foreman until his retirement in 1922. In 1924, he established a business importing fancy baskets from the Philippines, from which he retired permanently in 1938. Thompson was a member of the Central Methodist Church in Lansing, where he served as treasurer of the Sunday school for 40 years. He died on September 25, 1953, and was buried in the family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan.


10 Cubic Feet (1866 glass negatives, 3 lantern slides, 1869 copy negatives, 573 photographs )

Language of Materials


Related Materials

See also Thompson family genealogy (c.00519).

Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Processing Information

Record group changed from 00186 to UA 10.3.424 to reflect Thompson's connection to Michigan State University. -M. Badgley-Malone, January 2023.

Allan S. Thompson Photographs
4 Published And Cataloged
F. Honhart and S. Alexander
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US