Royal Hubert Carlock (1899-1970) was born in Paris Crossing, Indiana. One of six children he was born to Benjamin and Ellen Carlock. After graduating from Indiana University, Carlock married Ethel Wohrer in 1917. He entered the U.S. Army near the end of World War I where he specialized in aerial photography as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and after the War had ended, the couple moved to Washington DC in 1918 where their first daughter was born.
After his discharge from the Army, Carlock secured employment with a photography firm named C.O Buckingham who at the time was producing hand-painted photographs of the chief tourist attractions in Washington, DC. This explains the obvious similarity in style between Carlock and Buckingham hand-colored pictures.
Ethel Carlock died in 1920 during an influenza epidemic, leaving Carlock a widower with a 15 month-old baby.
Carlock was fascinated by the architecture and national treasures found in our nation’s capital. He focused his photographic and hand-coloring skills on subjects found in-and-around the Washington DC area. The only photographer in his company, his black & white photographs were hand-painted in oils and sold to the multitude of tourists visiting our nation’s capital during the post World War I era.
In 1922 Carlock married his 2nd wife, Emma Clarke. In that same year he also left the employment of the Buckingham Studios and opened his own photography studio at 406 13th Street NW in Washington, DC. Carlock’s “Snappy Snap Shop” specialized in quick development of tourist’s film along with the sale of his increasingly famous hand-colored photographs of the Washington DC landmarks and monuments, including the White House, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monuments, the U.S. Capital Building, and of course, Washington’s colorful cherry blossoms. Working together as a team, Carlock took the pictures and Emma, along with other colorists, hand-tinted them.
We have seen Carlock pictures identified in three distinct manners:
• Matted pictures signed “Carlock” on the lower right corner beneath the picture, with or without a title lower left.
• Un-matted, close-framed pictures with “Carlock” being embossed on the lower-left corner of the actual picture.
• No marking on the picture or matting, but simply a “Carlock” picture label on the backing.
Jane Crandall has reported that Royal Carlock was her uncle and that both of her parents worked for him at some point. She also reported that her mother, Julia Carlock, was one of Carlock’s colorists and would bring pictures home to color in the evening. Jane Crandall also reported that many of the signatures found on Carlock pictures were actually signed by her mother.
Royal Carlock kept his business running into the 1940’s. Collector Myke Ellis has reported that the 1943 Polk Washington D.C. Address Directory listed Royal Carlock as working at 913 Pennsylvania Avenue. Even during the Depression years when so many other photographers saw their businesses either decline or closed their doors, Carlock’s business flourished due primarily to the constant high level of tourism, and the large and growing number of people who were gainfully employed by the U.S. Government.
Although his photographs usually sold best at cherry blossom time, for several years Carlock also produced a Christmas Card which contained a hand-colored photo of Washington DC. These are considered quite rare with collectors today.
As with all other early 20th c. hand-colored photographers, the advent of color film led to the decline in Carlock’s hand-colored photography business. The primary emphasis of his business turned to photo refinishing until 1957 when he retired from the photography business to devote his life to conservation.
In 1962 his 40-year marriage to Emma dissolved and in 1964 he married Grace Diane Knapp.
Suffering from cardiac problems during the final years of his life, Royal Carlock died from a heart attack in 1970. His ashes were buried on a small isle in a lagoon at the National Isaac Walton League Conservation Park near Gaithersburg, MD.
Carlock pictures are still relatively inexpensive and quite affordable. Their low price, good quality, and interesting subject matter will probably continue to make them collectible. The only limitation is that there are only approximately 10 different Washington DC scenes to collect. The next time you see a Washington DC picture in a shop or show, take a closer look at it. It will probably be a Royal Carlock hand-colored photograph.
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