Burton Holmes' Business Enterprises

When it began, it was just Burton Holmes and his camera. A fascination with photography did not make for a successful career as a camera salesman. But he traveled to Europe and took a large number of excellent photographs. Almost on a whim, he planned a lecture (the proceeds to go to charity) and sent advertisements to family and friends in Chicago's upper crust. The turnout exceeded his highest expectations, and he knew he had found what he wanted to do professionally: Take pictures and talk about them.

Holmes' business started small, but grew to be a major force in thinking about travel. He started companies to manage his lecture tours, to sell his writings and publish his books, and to produce and distribute his films. By the early years of the 20th century he was a well-known figure, and his fame continued to grow; his businesses grew in similar fashion.

Mt. Fuji in Winter, 1892; from Holmes' first photo expedition

Mt. Fuji in Winter, 1892; from Holmes' first photo expedition. © BHHC; all rights reserved.

We've constructed a detailed timeline of Holmes and his businesses. We'll continue to add more information, and develop and crosslink it with stories and memoirs and quotes.

Besides the Travelogues business, Holmes grew his film work into an important film production and distribution company. While everyone knew about this in the 1930's, it's hard to find information about it today. We'll see what we can find for you; visit our pages on Holmes' films for more about this subject.

By the late 1970's, Holmes was long gone, and the surviving company (now called Burton Holmes Incorporated and/or Burton Holmes International) had changed radically. They weren't doing any travelogues any more; it had become, implausibly, a high-tech development startup in the new field of commercialized holography. When the company imploded in the mid-1980's, there were no official elegies, and few noticed it had disappeared. But there are people still living who remember the final years of BHI, and we are happy to be able to present their reminiscences.

Update history: This page created 19 April 2004. Revised 27 November 2006.