The H.W. Immke Collection
Henry W. Immke was born in Hessen, Germany on March 9, 1839. He was the son of John and Christina (Apel) Immke. Young Henry came to the states in 1855 and settled near Peru, Illinois. He was engaged in farming for about eight years. In 1863 he went to Chicago to study photography with the noted photographer, S.M. Fassett. Fassett had one of the largest and best equipped galleries in the United States during the Civil War era. Mr. Immke opened his first Princeton studio in 1866 and was in partnership with William Masters in the south end of town. Five months later, Mr. Immke established his own gallery at the north end of Princeton.
He married Miss Mary R. Steinbrook, a native of Ohio. They had four children: William, Minnetta, Pansy, and Leroy, and their childhoods were well documented in photographs!
Mr. Immke practiced photography in Princeton from 1866 to 1923 and was a very successful photographer and artist. He died in South Dakota in 1928. Mr. Immke, his wife, and three of his four children are buried in Oakland Cemetery, Princeton, Illinois.
In 1957 the museum became custodian of the remaining glass plate negatives, photographs, and photography equipment of Henry W. Immke.
His negatives and photographs are an important addition to the museum’s archives. Though predominantly portraits, these photos also include local and area scenes. The plates are identified by names and dates, making them invaluable tools for research.
The glass plate collection numbers approximately 20,000. It includes the entire archive of Mr. Immke’s studio portrait work, as well as his field work and other personal family images. The images contained in this collection have proven to be important cultural documents of Illinois and surrounding states during the second half of the 19th century. Mr. Immke’s single most important work was the well known and much acclaimed composite picture of over 400 of Bureau County’s early settlers. The picture hangs in the meeting room of the Bryant House museum building.
On display at the Bryant House is a selection of Mr. Immke’s photographic equipment, including studio cameras and field cameras. These artifacts had been miraculously well preserved over the years of storage. There are many other pieces of equipment on display such as stereo cameras (used to make negatives for the very popular stereographs) and a “Magic Lantern” oil burning projector, which projected glass plate positives called “Lantern Slides” for slide shows.
Among the other photos in the collection are scenes from:
If you would like to find out if your ancestors are among the Immke Collection, click on the Request Form for Photo Search on this drop down menu. The cost is $2.00 for each surname, and we will mail you a print out of all the negatives available under the names submitted.