Pohlman Studios Records, 1936-1997

Summary Information
Title: Pohlman Studios Records
Inclusive Dates: 1936-1997

  • Pohlman Studios
Call Number: UWM Manuscript Collection 258

  • 48.2 cubic ft. (122 boxes)
  • 247 nitrate negatives

Archival Location:
UW-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives / Milwaukee Area Research Ctr. (Map)

Pohlman Studios was one of Milwaukee's earliest commercial photographic studios. The collection consists primarily of negatives as well as some prints and lantern slides. Most of the images depict industrial and commercial activity in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin. Images show manufactured products as well as facilities, people, and processes involved in product creation. Many of the images were used in product catalogs. Taken in its entirety the collection provides a look at the industrial and commercial world of southeastern Wisconsin from the Great Depression into the 1990s.

Language: English

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Pohlman Studios was founded in Milwaukee by Arthur E. Pohlman in April 1919. It was one of Milwaukee's first commercial photography studios. The studio provided services to advertising agencies, ad and sales promotion departments within companies, public relations agencies, and many other commercial enterprises. The studio ceased operation in the 1990s.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains nitrate and safety film negatives, some prints, and a few lantern slides taken by Pohlman Studios, Milwaukee. The negatives range in size from 35mm to 8" x 10". The studio, founded in 1919, specialized in commercial photography. The bulk of the images were taken in the 1950s-1970s. Many images were used in company catalogs and depict products manufactured by industrial firms. They also include images of the facilities, people, and machinery used in the production of industrial goods.

The collection includes images from many prominent regional manufacturers, such as: Allis-Chalmers (agricultural implements and machinery), Amity Leather Co. (wallets, purses, etc.), Bear Automotive (automobile repair), Blackhawk Co. (hydraulic jacks), Chain Belt, Inc. (industrial chains), Evinrude Motors (outboard motors), Falk Corp. (industrial gears), Globe Union Co. (automobile batteries), J.I. Case (agricultural machinery), Johnson Service Co. (thermostats), Koehring Co. (cranes), Manpower, Inc. (temporary employment), Master Lock (padlocks), Milwaukee Electric Tool Co. (power tools), Murphy Diesel Co. (diesel engines), Oster Manufacturing Co. (small kitchen appliances), Waukesha Engine Co. (diesel engines), West Bend Co. (stainless steel cookware), and others.

The Blackhawk Manufacturing Company is especially well represented in the collection. Images of this company range from the 1930s through the 1970s. There are especially fine images taken during World War II (1941-1945). These photographs document a wide range of company activities unique to that period: blood drives, bond drives, Red Cross rallies, special advertising, and labor management committees. They also depict more common activities such as bowling leagues, holiday parties, sales conventions, and product images.

The collection contains images Pohlman took for advertising agencies (work for hire). These images show products as they appeared in print ads. The studio worked with many agencies including Al Herr, Ads Inc., Andrews-Mautner, Bader-Rutter, E.F. Schmidt Co., Eisenberg Studios, Geer-Murray Co., Hartwig Display, Hoffman, York, Ken Schmidt, and Ray Klug Studios, among others.

Pohlman Studios was founded in 1919 and existed until the late 1990s. The collection is also valuable because it documents the company's existence. It includes images of buildings that housed the business, studios and sets within those buildings, staff, equipment, and advertising.

Arrangement of the Materials

Boxes 1-120 contain safety film negatives and prints, arranged by serial numbers assigned by Pohlman Studios. They are stored in their original paper sleeves. Box 121 contains lantern slides arranged by serial number order.

Box 122 consists primarily of printed material, i.e. catalogs and recipe books, of companies that represent a few of Pohlman's clients. Folder two is a list of negatives taken for the Blackhawk Company between the late 1930s and 1950s. The list is arranged by type of product.

Other Finding Aids

Detailed description of photographs is provided in a database available in the Archives Department.

Database Fields

Field Name Field Content
Serial Number Original number (or range of numbers) assigned by Pohlman.
Date Date the photograph was taken or developed.
Company/Advertising Agency Name This information was taken directly from the photograph sleeve. One asterisk (*) sometimes follows an advertising agency's name, e.g. Bader-Rutter. It means that the photograph was viewed but the name of the manufacturer of the product was not evident. Two asterisks (**) follow a company name when that information did not appear on the sleeve, but was discernible when viewing the photograph.
Additional Information Information that either appeared on the photograph sleeve or was added by processing archivists.
Box Number Number of the box in which items are housed.
Form The form (physical media) of the photograph or photographs (e.g., safety film negatives, nitrate negatives, lantern slides, photographic prints).

Preferred Citation

Citation Guide for Primary Sources

Related Material in the UWM Libraries
Administrative/Restriction Information
Access Restrictions

Nitrate negatives are located in cold storage and must be acclimated before delivery to the reading room. Handling of the lantern slides requires the assistance of an archivist. There are no other access restrictions on the materials, and the collection is open to all members of the public in accordance with state law.

Use Restrictions

The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of this collection (Wisconsin Statutes 19.21-19.39).

Acquisition Information

Ron Bates donated the collection to the Archives in 2003 and 2004 (accessions 2003-008, 2003-042, 2003-043, 2003-044, 2003-054, 2003-060, 2003-061).

Processing Information

Will Dodds, Ryan Claringbole, Dan Vinson, Jenny Juno, and Tim Cary processed the collection in the summer of 2007.

In June 2011, Bob Jaeger removed 339 nitrate negatives from the collection and placed them with other nitrate negatives.

Contents List
Series: Photographs
Arrangement of the Materials: Photographs are arranged by a numbering scheme assigned by Pohlman Studios.
Other Finding Aids: Detailed description of photographs is provided in a database available in the Archives Department.
Box   1-120
Photographs and Safety film negatives
Box   121
Lantern Slides
Access Restrictions: Request the assistance of an archivist to view the lantern slides.
4 x 5 Nitrate Box   6
Physical Description: 4" x 5" nitrate negatives 
Access Restrictions: Nitrate negatives are located in cold storage and must be acclimated before delivery to the reading room.
5 x 7 Nitrate Box   2
Physical Description: 5" x 7" nitrate negatives 
Access Restrictions: Nitrate negatives are located in cold storage and must be acclimated before delivery to the reading room.
8 x 10 Nitrate Box   1
Physical Description: 8" x 10" nitrate negatives 
Access Restrictions: Nitrate negatives are located in cold storage and must be acclimated before delivery to the reading room.
Series: Textual Documents
Box   122
Folder   1
American Dental Cabinet Catalog, 1951
Box   122
Folder   2
Blackhawk Manufacturing Company Negative Record, circa 1930s-1950s
Box   122
Folder   3
Kitchen Craft Company, Recipe Book, Informational Brochure, Product Lists, 1945-1947, undated
Box   122
Folder   4
Laurel Aluminum Ware, Recipe Book, undated
Box   122
Folder   5
Milwaukee Faucets, Inc. Catalog K-58, undated
Box   122
Folder   6
Schaefer Brewery Brush Catalog, 1939-1940
Box   122
Folder   7
Vollrath Company Catalogs, 1940, 1949
Box   122
Folder   8
West Bend Aluminum Catalogs, 1947, 1949