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Robert Kniesche photograph collection

Identifier: PP 0079


This collection contains over 6,000 photographs taken by Robert Kniesche over the course of his career as a professional photographer, primarily with The Baltimore Sun newspaper. Maryland subjects include: aviation, trains, theaters and theatrical productions; sports events including horse racing, fox hunting, regattas, baseball, and football, portraits of sports celebrities and performing artists; maritime activities including oyster harvesting, ship building, and many images of specific vessels; Baltimore scenes including images of "The Block", Arabbers, painted screens, and marble steps; nature photography including zoo animals and domestic cats. There are also aerial views of Baltimore and vicinity. Other Maryland locations include the Chesapeake Bay, Ocean City, Easton, and Cumberland.


  • 1923-1976


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Note

Robert Francis Kniesche (1906-1976) was a photographer of international importance. Born in Baltimore, he attended Polytechnic Institute for a short period of time before deciding to leave his formal schooling in order to pursue a career as a professional photographer. He began work as a photographer for the Baltimore Sunpapers in the mid 1920s and briefly left for a job with the Chicago Tribune. He returned to the Sunpapers in 1931 and stayed until his retirement at the age of 64.

The outbreak of World War II found Kniesche operating his own flying school while continuing to work with the Sunpapers and assuming all of their aerographic work. He eventually joined the Navy and reached the rank of lieutenant commander as a pilot in the Pacific. When he returned to the staff of the Sunpapers after the war, Kniesche achieved the title of Chief of Photography and held this position for twenty years. In 1947 when WMAR-TV (Baltimore) began operating, Kniesche was instrumental in organizing the station's photographic department and took the first local films shown on the station.

Kniesche was a charter member of the National Press Photographers Association and won several top NPAA awards in nationwide competition. Several of his prints were shown under U.S. Information Agency auspices in Helsinki, the Hague, and Lisbon. Locally, his works were exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Peale Museum, Enoch Pratt Library, Maryland Institute College of Art, University of Maryland at College Park, Washington College, and the Calvert Savings and Loan Association.

While much of Kniesche's works were photo-journalistic, he also partook in artistic photography--including many contrast prints. In addition, he adored cats and among his works are several series of photographs of various cats, which focus on their expressions and activities. He retired from the Sunpapers in 1970 but still continued his photographic pursuits. He died six years later at the age of 70 at University Hospital on July 9, 1976.

--Professional data on Robert F. Kniesche compiled by Donna L. Brodsky, 1978


31.35 Linear Feet (37 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Robert Kniesche Photograph Collection is organized by format into seven series. All items are black and white images except where indicated. Some of the series are broken down into subseries by subject or topic. Many of the prints correspond to negatives in the collection.

Series I: Glass negatives

This series consists of 48, 4 x 5 glass negatives. The images date from the 1920s to the 1930s or are undated. Images include opera singer Lily Pons at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore, a fire at Baltimore’s Crown Cork and Seal factory, and Babe Ruth at the Old Oriole Stadium in 1931.

Series II: Film negatives, 4 x 5, 2 ¼, 35 mm

This series consist of 24 subseries:

Subseries 1: Art

Subseries 2: Aviation

Subseries 3: Aerial Views of Baltimore

Subseries 4: Baltimore Churches and Synagogues

Subseries 5: Baltimore Harbor

Subseries 6: Photographs of Baltimore Harbor found in "Baltimore Harbor: A Picture History" by Robert Keith

Subseries 7: Baltimore Industry

Subseries 8: Baltimore Scenes

Subseries 9: Maritime

Subseries 10: Maryland Places

Subseries 11: Miscellaneous

Subseries 12: Animals

Subseries 13: Plants

Subseries 14: Non-Maryland

Subseries 15: Portraits

Subseries 16: Sports

Subseries 17: Art (continued)

Subseries 18: Aviation

Subseries 19: Baltimore

Subseries 20: Maritime (continued)

Subseries 21: Maryland Places (continued)

Subseries 22: Miscellaneous (continued)

Subseries 23: Nature

Subseries 24: Non-Maryland (continued)

Subseries 25: Portraits (continued)

Series III: Film negatives, 35mm

This series consists of more than 400 images. Topics include aviation, maritime, an operating room at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and unidentified people and places. There are also photographs of H.L. Mencken and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus.

Series IV: Prints, 8 x 10 and smaller

This series consists of three subseries:

Subseries 1: Animals

Subseries 2: Robert Kniesche

Subseries 3: Miscellaneous

Series V: Prints, 16 x 20 matted

This series consists of prints matted on 16 x 20 boards used by Robert Kniesche in various exhibitions of his work. A variety of subjects are represented, including aviation, architecture, art, sports, Baltimore, maritime, and more.

Series VI: Prints, 16 x 20 and larger

This series consists of 16 x 20 or larger prints, mostly un-matted, with a variety of subjects represented, including aviation, architecture, art, sports, Baltimore, maritime, and more.

Series VII: Prints, 11 x 14

This series consists of 9 subseries:

Subseries 1: Aerial Views

Subseries 2: Animals

Subseries 3: Architecture

Subseries 4: Aviation

Subseries 5: Maritime

Subseries 6: Miscellaneous

Subseries 7: Nature

Subseries 8: People

Subseries 9: Robert Kniesche

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Kniesche, 1977.

Related Materials

MS 3129, Robert Kniesche manuscript collection, 1933-1974

Materials Specific Details

Boxes 1-4 contain the negatives for Series I. These materials are restricted to the public and only available via copy print.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 37 boxes of more than 6,000 photographic prints and negatives. All photographs were shot by Robert Kniesche, unless otherwise noted in the container list.

As a photojournalist, Kniesche captured a wide variety of subject matter in Maryland and particularly in Baltimore. The collection feature quintessential Baltimore scenes, including images of the "The Block", Arabbers, painted screens, and marble steps. There are photos of public buildings, churches, and residences; maritime scenes, including the Baltimore harbor, oyster harvesting, ship building, and log canoes; sports, including horse racing, fox hunting, regattas and football. Football photos include Colts games and players such as Gino Marchetti and Alan Ameche.

Kniesche was particularly fond of animals and there are a large number of photographs of zoo animals and domestic cats. Aviation was also a popular subject and the collection includes images of airplanes and specific aircraft, including a dirigible, airmail plane, and an aerial dogfight. There are also aerial views of Baltimore and other locales in Maryland, and Washington D.C.

Celebrities captured by Kniesche’s camera include Veronica Lake, Betty Hutton, H.L. Mencken, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Wrong-way Corrigan, Rosa Ponselle, Lily Pons, Rin Tin Tin, Fritz Maisel and Babe Ruth.

This collection was previously known as B27, therefore some items may be labeled with this designation.

Guide to the Robert Kniesche photograph collection
Under Revision
Katherine Cowan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-01-24: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.
  • 2014-06: Processing completed by Damon Talbot.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States