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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Lewis M. McCormick

Dates:  1863 - 1922, 8 January
Born:  US, NV
Died:  US, NC, Ashville

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Lewis M. McCormick
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

After being born in 1863 in Northern Virginia, Lewis M. McCormick attended high school in Washington, D.C. He graduated in science from Oberlin College (Ohio), and became associated with the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Zoological Association.
In 1894, he was hired as curator for the privately funded Glen Island Museum of Natural History, in New Rochelle, New York. This job took him on long, adventuresome trips to Africa, Asia, Puerto Rica, and the Philippines, from where he returned with, literally, tons of artifacts. In 1905, Professor McCormick moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where he became the city’s first bacteriologist for the health department. In this role, he proved that houseflies carried diseases and raised national consciousness of the fact with his "Swat that Fly" campaign.
L. M. McCormick, as he identified himself as a creative photographer, was a member of at least three photographic organizations around the turn of the century. He joined the Capital Camera Club in Washington, D.C., and by 1901 was an honorary member. He exhibited in the club’s annual shows regularly between 1893, when he secured awards for his portraits and landscapes, and 1909. He was a member of the Postal Photographic Club, which circulated albums of its members’ work and presented regular exhibitions, such as at the Capital Camera Club in 1898.
In 1897, McCormick joined the famed Camera Club of New York as a non-resident member. This club included his work in its annual members’ shows in 1898, 1901, and 1904. In 1899, he presented a screening of lantern slides of scenes from the Philippines. He contributed two short articles to the club’s journal, Camera Notes, on saving clouds in negatives and marking photographic plates, and in 1903 wrote three book reviews. Its last issue, of December 1903, featured a photogravure of a landscape by McCormick that was extremely painterly in its soft-focus effects. At this time, he served as the club’s librarian and on its print committee.
McCormick’s pictorial work was seen, to a limited extent, elsewhere. Reproductions of his photographs appeared in the American Annual of Photography in 1895, 1896, 1899, and 1900. The Photographic Times, likewise, ran his pictures, beginning in 1894, and featured photogravure frontispieces by him in December 1898 and May 1899.
McCormick’s work is known to have been included in a few exhibitions outside the camera-club circuit. One was the photographic Section of the American Institute’s 67th annual fair, presented at the National Academy of Design in New York. The second was the 1902 Esposizione Internationale d’Arte Decorative Moderna in Turin, Italy. The American photographs displayed there were selected by Alfred Stieglitz, who subsequently listed McCormick as a member of his elite Photo-Secession group but never included him in any of its exhibitions.
McCormick was well known and liked by the general public in Asheville, where he made friends with many children, encouraging them to start flower and vegetable gardens. He died of heart disease on January 8, 1922, and was widely mourned in the city, which a few years later named a new ballpark after him. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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