beebe and clegg

Beebe & Clegg: Their Enduring Photographic Legacy

February 22 - May 28, 2022

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Presented in collaboration with the Center for Railroad Photography & Art and generously sponsored by the Friends of the Morton Museum.

With dramatic images and sweeping promotional strategies, Lucius Beebe—joined in 1941 by his life partner Charles Clegg—introduced railroad photography and the world of railroading to wide popular audiences. Their pioneering efforts established a broad market and wide appreciation for rail photography, leading to its far-reaching appeal in print today.

Beebe and Clegg met for the first time in April 1941 at a brunch in Washington, D.C. The two instantly hit it off and began what would become a lifetime partnership in both their personal and professional lives. For the next quarter of a century, they compiled an impressive publishing record, while Beebe also provided a prolific outpouring of texts for newspaper columns and national magazines such as HolidayTown & CountryEsquireFord TimesGourmet, and This Week. In their professional lives, Beebe and Clegg began by showcasing their own heroic images of trains, moving creatively ahead with pictures and texts, reaching a peak in Mixed Train Daily. They went on to recognize other venues and photographers, giving increased attention to railroad imagery, culminating in Great Railroad Photographs U.S.A.

At a time when railroad books were almost unknown, it took a celebrity writer of the stature of Lucius Beebe to transform the seemingly prosaic subject of railroads into books that beguiled the public. Beebe and Clegg pioneered the genre of railroad books, brought their material to mass-market audiences, and established themselves as household names. Their work built the foundation for continuing interest in creative railroad photography and helped aggrandize short line and narrow-gauge railroading.

Beebe and Clegg were the right people at the right time to bring the heroism, charm, and history of railroading to the public. Their photography and their writing demonstrated the importance of railroading in community life and contributed to America’s historical legacy. Together Beebe and Clegg created more than thirty books on railroading and Western Americana. Their legacy has grown larger than the publications they produced, as they demonstrated that the railroad serves the nation as an icon of American experience.

Beebe clegg 2
Image Credits
(top) Lucius Beebe, Illinois Central Railroad, Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri, 13 x 19 x 2 inch, Collection of the California State Railroad Museum, BC2459
(bottom) Charles Clegg, Southern Pacific Railroad, Owens Valley, California, 13 x 19 x 2 inch, Collection of the California State Railroad Museum, BC3411