The Burgerts Brothers - Pioneer of Commercial Photographers
_-_The Burgerts were a family of photographers who came to Florida in the late nineteenth century and established a quite remarkable record in various phases of the photography business, primarily in the state. Three generations of Burgert photographers worked productively from around 1870's until 1960's. The Burgert brothers were six sons and one dauther-in-law of the original photographic progenitor of the family, Samuel Burgert. The brothers at various time took, sold or marketed supplies for hundreds of thousands of photographic images usually requested by commercial clients, and in the process coincidentally documented the Tampa Bay region's development from the little village to the urban city of today.
___The first Burgerts came to the United States in the second quarter of the nineteenth century from Alsace-Lorraine. Samuel Burgert was born in 1849 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He married Adelina Jane Barlow, and they had four sons (Willard - 1875, Harold - 1876, Walter - no date and Jean - 1882. The family was initially involved in farming, then Samuel learn the process of photography. He became a pioneer, itinerant photographer, traveling the countryside with a horse, wagon and folding tent. Sometimes for two or three weeks at a time. He would take a picture, develop it and print it on the spot, and attempt to sell it before moving on. Because photo supplies were hard to come by, Samuel then learned to make his own glass negatives.
__By 1880's Samuel moved his family to Florida and worked in Jacksonville as a photographer. Later by 1887 they moved to Tampa to open his photography studio. The business grew and by their photos the progress of the city was recorded. All Samuel sons learned the art of photography and eventually were part of the company. His son James (Harry) Burgert was one of the most promising of the pack. But his early death (1908) deprived the family of one of its most respected members. Alfred (AL) Burgert continue his brother steps and the company grew. From the start the company, gear to commercial photography, was successfull and in their line, they always hired the best photographers and dark room technicians in the area. One of their best example was Rosco Frey hired in 1919 & Al Stevenson in 1924. This duo for more than two decades took some of the most memorable photos for the studio. From regular daily activities in the streets, social events or like the hurricane destruction on October 25, 1921.
__By 1922 the Burgert Brothers Studio, was located at 407 Lafayette St. (now Kennedy Blvd.) where the photographers turned out their perfect images. Their reputation was excellent so as their record to keep track and description of their photos. All negatives were inscribed in the corner with the studio name as signature and a serial number. This was then recorded in a ledger usually with a description of locale, subject and date. The proof of their system help us today to understand some of the photos in their vast collection. The excellent of their earliest photographs was probably due more to Jean's skill than Al's; she was a master behind the camera and in the dark room.
__Some of the customers of the Burgerts Studios were; Tampa Electric, Co.; King Edward Cigar, Co.; Borden's Dairy, Co.; International Truck, Co.; Atlantic Coast Line Railroad; Cuesta Rey Cigar, Co.; Mass Bros. most of the cigar companies and thousands more.
__The Burgert Brothers apparently never thought of itself as engaging in either a historic or artistic enterprise, but the photographs they produced, and transmitted to posterity, demonstrated historic and artistic awareness. Some 6,500 prints made from the firm's negatives are now in the possession of the Tampa & Hillsborough County Public Library.
__Burgert Brothers Studios, was a commercial photography firm, and fortunately for the area a superb one. They help us enjoy today the images of the past, like may others photographers who help recorded their time in a photograph...
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Note: This is a synopsis extracted from "The Burgert Brothers of Tampa, Florida" by Dr. Jack B. Moore & Dr. Robert E. Snyder - Dept. of American Studies USF. Resercher: W. Reyes, Ph.D.
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