Current Museum Exhibit
Down Memory Lane:
Photographs from the Compton Collection
By Mary Alice Hobbs
Dec. 13, 2013 through Jan. 22, 2014
Time has not stolen Brigham City’s past because there were three generations of photographers in one family that visually documented street scenes and the spirited people that settled on the western edge of the Rocky Mountains.
Photographers Alma W. Compton, Sr., Alma W. Compton, Jr., Mathew Compton and Glenn Compton found a harmony of subject and art in images that will hang in the Brigham City Museum of Art and History Dec. 13 through Jan. 22. There are 50 black-and-white, sepia and hand-tinted photos taken between the 1880s and the 1960s in the exhibition which is titled “Down Memory Lane: Photographs from the Compton Collection.” Alison Fox, a former intern from Utah State University, and Kaia Landon, museum director, curated the exhibit.
The museum is located at 24 North 300 West. The entrance is on the west side. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 .m. and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For further information, please phone (435) 226-1439 or visit www.brighamcitymuseum.org.
The Compton camera was a witness to Lorenzo Snow’s funeral procession in 1901, the Whittier School basketball champions and their coach in 1911, adults and children visiting an ice cave in 1912, workmen with a horse-drawn wagon oiling Main Street in 1915, and an airplane ready for takeoff in the 1930s.
The photographers’ pride in their community is apparent in pictures of Knudson Bros. Fruit and Produce; Willard Winery; County Courthouse; City Hall; Box Elder High School, east location; Compton Art Gallery; the Fishburn store; and Peach Days’ window displays.
Celebrated in early photos are surgeons at work in the local hospital, policemen, firemen, druggist and the Box Elder High School Band.
Glenn Compton donated a lot of the photographs in the exhibit which is complemented by such artifacts as the 19th-century camera owned by Alma Compton, Sr. and a contact printer.
Visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras and have their pictures taken while they pose in period costumes in front of vintage props, both provided by the museum.
Alma Compton, Sr. was born in England in 1856. He moved to Ogden in 1868 with his siblings. They were joined by their parents a year later. Compton worked in a broom factory before becoming an apprentice to photographer J.W. Christensen. In 1883, Compton rented some photography equipment and traveled through Brigham City, Cache Valley, and around Malad, Idaho, taking photographs. He decided to settle in Brigham City and rented the studio of Jens C. Gasberg, the city’s first photographer. Compton’s visual sense and hard work enabled him to build his own studio in 1884 and a larger one in 1901, which became known as Compton’s Art & Music Company. He died in 1931. His sons carried on the business.
Born in 1889, Alma Compton, Jr., worked in the studio from an early age until he died of pneumonia at age 30. His brother Mathew was born in 1892 and served in the military during WWI. He ran the studio after the death of his father. Mathew’s son Glenn was born in 1923. He attended a photography school in California and served in the military during WWII. Glenn managed the studio from 1967 until he retired in 1994 when it was officially closed. In 1998, the Compton building was demolished.
There are photographs in the exhibit of Alma Compton, Sr., Mathew Compton, the Compton Art Studio and the Compton family home under construction. The home is on the National Register, which is an official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.
The Brigham City Museum is an art and history facility in Box Elder County that opened in 1970. Exhibitions include at least one national traveling show a year as well as a variety of temporary art and history exhibitions of four to eight weeks each. The museum’s dedicated history section includes activities for children. Guided group tours are available with two-weeks’ notice. The facility is a department of Brigham City Corporation.