Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum

Samuel Chamberlain Photograph Negatives Collection, 1928-1971, undated

Old Newbury
Detail from: Old Newbury
Samuel Chamberlain was born in Iowa in 1895 and raised in Washington State. In 1915, he enrolled in the architectural program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). World War I interrupted his education, when he joined the American Field Service as a volunteer ambulance driver in France. In 1919, Chamberlain returned to the United States to finish his degree, and to work for various architectural firms and as a commercial artist. In 1922, he returned to France for a few months. On the return voyage aboard the Roussillon, he met his future wife, Narcissa Gellatly (1899-1988). They wed in 1923 and had two daughters, Narcisse (1924-2008) and Stephanie (1931-1993). In the mid-1930s, they settled in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Chamberlain began to refocus his artistic talents from etching to photography. He taught graphic arts at MIT from 1934 until World War II, when he was assigned to a photo-reconnaissance unit.

The Samuel V. Chamberlain Collection of Photographic Negatives includes approximately 70,000 film negatives. Photographs largely center on architecture, landscapes, and interiors, primarily taken in New England, France, England, and Italy. Chamberlain published nearly 100 books via a collaboration with Hastings House. The collection includes a modest number of images of his family and friends. During his career, Chamberlain worked for a number of publications such as Pencil Points, and published widely on subjects he encountered during his travels. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Chamberlain collaborated with his wife on cookbooks, including Clémentine in the Kitchen. The Chamberlains' love for Europe would lead to the publication of travel books on France, Italy, and England. He invented the week-by-week photographic engagement calendar in 1940.

During his lifetime, Chamberlain was widely respected for his work as a printmaker, artist, photographer, and writer. He was a member of the National Academy of Design, the American Institute of Architects, and other prestigious societies in America and Europe. He received many awards and was a founding member of the Marblehead Arts Association. He died in Marblehead in 1975.

The Phillips Library holds the papers of Samuel Chamberlain and some of his family. The finding aid for the papers can be viewed here.

Locations in this Collection: