Citizenship

Image Donation Program
Image Preservation
Bettmann Archive

Bettmann Archive

Presidential Camera Corps
BE027347 | © Bettmann/Corbis

Overview

The Bettmann Archive contains millions of images. But the value of the Archive doesn't lie in the quantity of its images, but in their quality. The stories they tell, the lessons they teach, and the feelings they inspire are timeless. Many of the negatives and prints in the Archive are over one hundred years old. Corbis continues to invest in preserving all of the priceless images in the Archive for future generations.

The Bettmann Archive offers a wide range of imagery within five basic categories:

World Events

From the tragedy of the Hindenberg explosion to the courage of Rosa Parks and from the daring of the Wright Brothers to the electricity of Marilyn Monroe, many of the most famous editorial shots in history are part of the Bettmann Archive. This includes shots by top photographers from United Press International, International News Photos, Acme Newspictures, Pacific and Atlantic, the New York Daily Mirror, and Underwood & Underwood. It also includes Pulitzer-Prize-winning photography, from the poignant to the inspiring.

Personalities

Candid photography, film stills, and studio portraits of sports figures, leaders of industry, and iconic celebrities from the silent film era through the 1980s.

Lifestyles

Depictions of everyday life through the decades, from family life and children to cars and the workplace.

Advertising Art

Illustrations and photographs-often humorous-created to sell a wide range of 20th century products and services.

Art and Illustrations

Engravings, illustrations, and art reproductions dating as far back as prehistoric cave paintings.

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Telling Stories

Dr. Bettmann's intention wasn't merely to compile images for his personal pleasure, but to create one of the first systems for sharing them with others. And from the very beginning, that's exactly what's happened. Professional communicators turn to the Bettmann Archive for images with the power to capture an audience's attention... and hold it. Which is why these images continue to be seen by millions of people worldwide-in newspapers, magazines, books, advertisements, and on TV and films.

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Otto Bettmann

Born on October 15, 1903 in Leipzig, Germany, Dr. Otto Bettmann began his professional career at the Prussian State Art Library in Berlin as a curator of rare books.

When his career path was foreshortened by the rise of Nazism, Dr. Bettmann packed his belongings, including two steamer trunks full of pictures, books, and films and moved to New York City in 1935.

His arrival in New York coincided with the dawning popularity of photojournalism. Movie newsreels and pictorial magazines had sparked what he called "the beginning of the visual age." Speaking of his good fortune, Dr. Bettmann said, "Everybody wanted pictures, and I had two trunks full."

Dr. Bettmann soon created an industry for himself, collecting and classifying images for publication. His first clients included Look Magazine, LIFE, and the Book-of-the-Month Club. And public demand for images grew, fueled first by World War II, then by television. But it wasn't just serendipity that marked his success. Dr. Bettmann selected his pictures with an amazing eye for historical relevance, artistic composition, drama, and humor.

By 1938, the Archive comprised 15,000 pictures, and today it contains more than 11 million, many of which are more than 100 years old.

His life's work secured, Dr. Bettmann lived his remaining years in Florida, USA, enjoying his family and writing books. He wrote nine in total, including The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible, and Our Literary History. He passed away in 1998 at the age of 94, having witnessed many of this century's most dramatic events and assured that generations to come would be able to do the same.

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