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Robert L. Browning Photographs

Identifier: MSS 1220

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of aerial photos of the Houston and Gulf Coast area taken between 1946 and 1950. Many focus on downtown Houston, the area around the San Jacinto Monument, the Ship Channel, and other industrial sites. Images also document other parts of Texas--especially industrial areas around Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Baytown--as well as a few photos of Cuba and New Orleans. The collection includes primarily 4x5" negatives There are also a handful of original contact prints ("proofs") created by Browning. In addition, HMRC staff produced contact sheets reproducing the images from many of the negatives. There are approximately 1100 total images.


  • 1946-1950


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research. When possible, contact sheets or digital files will be made available to researchers to support preservation of the original negatives.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from MSS 1220 Robert L. Browning Photographs must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.


Robert L. Browning was born in 1918 and lived until 2009. From 1946-1950 he worked as a freelance industrial photographer, and many concerntrated on aerial photography. Robert L. Browning Photographic Services maintained a mailing address in Texas City, TX.


5.5 Linear Feet (16 boxes) : negatives and contact prints

Language of Materials



The identification number for each photograph consists of two parts numbers--an assignment number followed by an individual image number. Each assignment number appears to correspond to a particular flight in which he took aerial photographs. There are 60 distinct assignments in the collection, which are ordered by date. The number of images associated with an assignment varies; the largest assignment contains 50 images.

Upon completing the photographs needed for a commercial contract, it appears Browning may have sometimes finished a roll of film by shooting additional aerials. Consequently, the overall description for an assignment may not necessarily reflect every image within it.

Other Finding Aids

HMRC's Photographic Archives Database ( contains an inventory of photographs in this collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by R.L. Browning on June 21, 1996.

Digitized Materials

Select images from this collection have been digitized and are available on the Houston Public Library Digital Archives at

Physical Description

Much of Browning's work was shot on film packs, and many of these negatives are now in a deteriorated state.


Robert L. Browning Photographs
Matt Richardson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002