Samuel A. Musgrave: Industrial Photographer for Hire

Samuel Musgrave portrait, 1952
Samuel Musgrave portrait, 1952

Working behind the scenes for many of Pittsburgh’s leading companies, Samuel A. Musgrave captured an extensive visual record of Western Pennsylvania’s postwar economy.  As a freelance industrial photographer, Musgrave spent five decades taking promotional images in factories, showrooms, and storefronts across the region. His clients included household names like Alcoa, Gulf Oil, and US Steel, but also decidedly smaller enterprises such as Walleck’s Bookstore in downtown Pittsburgh and the Wiltshire Poultry Farm in McKeesport. 

Beginning his career in 1935, Musgrave initially worked in the firm of Pittsburgh-based industrial photographer Carl T. Johnston.  During the war, Musgrave struck out on his own, picking up work with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation.  He continued freelancing for the next five decades before retiring in 1990, by which point he had amassed approximately 50,000 photographic negatives.  Six years after retiring, Musgrave donated his extensive collection to the Heinz History Center’s Library & Archives. 

Included in the donation were two log books in which Musgrave meticulously recorded each of his jobs. These books reveal a varied and hectic work schedule, with Musgrave sometimes juggling several different clients and shooting locations in a given day.  A particularly busy week during March of 1953, for example, finds Musgrave racing around downtown Pittsburgh, taking images of Horne’s Department Store, Mellon Bank, and the newly completed Alcoa Building. 

Page from one of Samuel Musgrave’s logbooks, 1953.
Page from one of Samuel Musgrave’s logbooks, 1953.

Musgrave also traversed the Western Pennsylvania countryside, snapping photos of factories in Uniontown, Sharon, and Ambridge. In the summer of 1947, Musgrave traveled to Jeanette to visit the Pennsylvania Rubber Company, which, at that time, produced 70% of all tennis balls made in the country. Musgrave’s photographs depict employees carefully packaging, weighing and testing the bounce of the company’s signature product to make sure they met the United States Tennis Association’s specifications.   

Pennsylvania Rubber Company employee testing a tennis ball, 1947
Pennsylvania Rubber Company employee testing a tennis ball, 1947

Often working in the employ of advertising firms like the Madison Avenue outfit BBDO and the Pittsburgh-based Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove, Musgrave shot images of local products like Clark Bars and Fort Pitt Beer.  One notable client was the design firm of Peter Muller-Munk, a Pittsburgh-based industrial designer best known for his “Normandie” water pitcher produced for the Revere Copper and Brass Company.  Musgrave took photographs of products his firm designed for local companies, like a portable radio for Westinghouse and a hearing aid for Radioear.   

A photograph of a Radioear hearing aid, taken for the industrial designer Peter Muller-Munk, 1952.
A photograph of a Radioear hearing aid, taken for the industrial designer Peter Muller-Munk, 1952.

Through a grant received from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Heinz History Center’s Detre Library & Archives recently digitized a sampling of Musgrave’s images, which can be found on the Historic Pittsburgh website.  The Library & Archives has created an index to the images from the entries of Musgrave’s log books, which can be searched with assistance from staff. 

Group of men posing with chickens and eggs a the Wiltshire Poultry Farm, 1957.
Group of men posing with chickens and eggs a the Wiltshire Poultry Farm, 1957.
Manufacturing operations at the Elliot Company's Ridgway facility, 1947
Manufacturing operations at the Elliot Company’s Ridgway facility, 1947

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