September 9th, 1936

Austin Antique Mall

Rare is the time that an antique mall image has a date on the back, like this one of these two stylish ladies did. In addition, it was also printed with “Alton E Bowers Photo Service.” A little world wide web research shows that Mr. Bowers opened his first photo studio 101 years ago in Reading, Pennsylvania. He retired 40 years later in 1956. When Vince Bellman took over the business at Bowers’ retirement, he modernized the printing process and expanded.


Alton grew his business by picking up film orders to develop from drugstores and process in his studio. He served as a military photographer in World War I and would join Orville Wright in a crude biplane to snap photos high above Reading.

Lori [Bellman’s daughter] said that when Alton Bowers began his photography business 100 years ago, he had an amateur finishing service, which was not something that was readily available. Most of his business was portraiture and quick photofinishing.

Because of the weight and bulk of the camera equipment, portraits came from the studio, Lori said. She explained that the development of the compact and lightweight Brownie camera changed people’s ability to get photo prints, “and everything started being amateur and home-accessible.”

In 1977, Alton E Bowers Photography Studio was the first in the country to open a one hour photo lab. Who knew this one picture would lead to such historical information?



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