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The Photographers: Abram M. Brown


Photo of railroad workers including A. M. Brown.

Abram M. Brown (in center of photo with white cap) was born and raised in Sheridanville (now Sheridan), PA. In 1905 at age 17, he bought his first camera for all of $2. That same year, Abram Brown started working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Thus began a lifelong career that satisfied a double ambition.

Brown started out as an extra telephone operator and as a messenger with the responsibility of waking railroad crews to notify them of their work schedules. Known for his skills with a camera, he was appointed official photographer for the PRR engineering department in 1914. Brown was transferred to the legal department in 1927 and worked there as both claim agent and photographer until his retirement in 1956.

During his career, Brown captured many images of train wrecks and railroad equipment, including the various giant steam locomotives that have since passed into history. Brown's historic photographs capture an era of great industrial expansion and upheaval. "The monster engines and the men who were their masters were Brown's most frequent subjects, but his views of Pittsburgh when it was most dismal visually are unexcelled."

Abram Brown photographed aspects of Pittsburgh that particularly appealed to him, such as the city's streets, bridges, and skyline. He was an avid photograph collector as well and saved from destruction some of the historic images which his predecessors had made in railroad photography.

The Carnegie Library acquired Abram Brown's collection of glass plate negatives for the Pittsburgh Photographic Library in the 1960s. A sample of his work, in monochrome and color slides and prints, was exhibited in March 1969 at the 56th Pittsburgh International Salon of Photographic Art at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Source: "50 Years Before the Renaissance" in The Pittsburgh Press, March 2, 1969.

Photographs by Abram M. Brown

* Church of the Ascension
* Old Sixteenth Street Bridge
* Pennsylvania Railroad Train Shed, Pittsburgh
* Sixth and Penn in the Flood of 1907
* Smokestacks in The Strip District
* View of Strip District from Union Station