B. W. Kilburn

born Littleton, NH 1827-died Littleton, NH 1909
Also known as
  • Benjamin West Kilburn
Littleton, New Hampshire, United States
Littleton, New Hampshire, United States

The Kilburn brothers were seventh-generation New Englanders. Benjamin was an outdoorsman, fond of hunting and mountain climbing, and his choice of career—promoting the New England scenery through which he had tramped all his life—seems fitting. He and his younger brother Edward worked with their father in the family foundry and machine shop in Littleton, New Hampshire, until the early 1860s, when both took up photography.

In 1865 the brothers established a stereophotographic publishing company in their hometown, with Benjamin taking the pictures and Edward meticulously developing them. Edward left the firm in 1875. Its successor, B. W. Kilburn & Co., produced an average of three thousand stereographs per day, which were sold for $2.00 to $2.50 a dozen. In its forty-five year history, the company produced over 2,000 views of northern New Hampshire, pioneered the concept of door-to-door sales of pictures, and by 1890 was employing photographers to take views all over the world. Kilburn's popular pictures structured nature as a work of art, informing tourists how and from what vantage point they should look at particular sites in order to derive the greatest benefit.

William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)