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Litterst-Dixon Photographs

Identifier: MSS 1248

Scope and Contents

This collection contains images from the Houston's Litterst Commercial Photo Company, which later became the Dixon Commercial Photo Company. The photographs range in date from approximately 1850 through 1967.

The photographs cover a wide range of subjects, with a focus largely on buildings and industry. The oil and shipping industries are frequent subjects. Many commercial buildings are featured, including both interior and exterior shots. Also included are some product photography, portraits, and views of the city.


  • Creation: 1850-1967


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research. However, to preserve the original photographs, access will be provided by digital surrogates when possible. Access to panoramas or fragile photographs requires an apppointment.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Litterst-Dixon Photographs must be obtained from the Houston History Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical Note

Joseph Litterst was born in the Parish of Ettenheim, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. He left Germany as a young boy and came to the US alone. He was naturalized as a US citizen in Kansas City, Missouri in 1890, and died in 1941.

Litterst married a woman from Missouri, and they moved to New York where they had two children, Frank and Joe. Around 1900 the family moved to their home at Highland and Watson Streets in Houston's Woodland Heights neighborhood.

Once the younger son, Joe, was old enough, he joined his father in the family business, the Litterst Commercial Photography Company. Ruby Litterst, Joe's wife, also worked in the studio until their daughter was born in 1930. From approximately 1923 to 1926, an artist named Clara Basely worked with the Littersts, helping with the re-touching and water-color pictures.

Joe Litterst (son) attended Taylor School in Houston. He was interested in sports, including basketball and track, and coached local basketball teams. He also played the piano, piano accordion, and Hawaiian steel guitar. He was involved in various civic and professional organizations, including the Salesman Club, Rotary Club, and First Christian Church at Main and Clay. He was President of Houston Commercial Photographers, and involved in the National Photographers Association, and Southwest Photographers Association. Litterst was also a close friend of the portrait photographer, Paul Gittings.

Joe married Ruby Litterst in 1924. The couple had a daughter in 1930 and were later divorced. He married his second wife, Joy, in 1944, and died in 1949.

Until 1926, the Litterst Studio was at 1013 ½ Texas Avenue in the Moore Burnett Building, Room 407. At that point, the Littersts established a studio in a house they purchased at 2007 Polk Avenue.

Robert D. Dixon joined the business in the late 1940s. Following the passing of Joe Litterst, Dixon eventually acquired the buisness from Joy Litterst. The business changed names several times in the ensuing years. It was still known as Litterst Commercial Photo Company as late as 1957. It then became known as the Dixon Commercial Photo Company from 1958-1960, followed by Milstead-Bissett Dixon Photography in 1961, and finally Milstead-Dixon Photography beginning in 1962.

Source: Photographic Collections in Texas: A Union Guide, p.184,

Houston City Directories


128 Linear Feet (108 boxes, 3 framed panoramas, 1 rolled item) : Approximately 9,794 photographs, both prints and negatives, and including numerous panoramas

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection was purchased by Schlumberger's Anchorage Foundation and donated to the Harris County Heritage Society. The Heritage Society later transferred the photographs to HMRC.

Acquisition Information

This collection was transferred to HHRC from the Heritage Society. Heritage Society Collection number was P977:72. Photo ID sheets are still labeled with this number.

Digitzed Materials

Many of the Litterst-Dixon Photographs have been digitized and are available on the Houston Public Library Digital Archives at

Related Materials

MSS 0089 Dixon Photographs (Litterst Photography Company)

Litterst-Dixon Photographs
Matt Richardson
May 14, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houston History Research Center Repository


African American History Research Center
Houston Public Library
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston History Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002