Brothers James E. (Jim) and Robin Thompson were professional photographers based in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the early twentieth century. The brothers began their careers working in the family photography business founded by their father in 1902. In 1920, Jim and Robin went into business together as Thompson Brothers Commercial Photographers.
Jim became particularly well-known for his images of the Great Smoky Mountains. A dedicated hiker and founding member of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, he traversed the many peaks of the Smokies, often in the company of fellow photographer Albert "Dutch" Roth. Jim's photographs appeared in many contemporary publications extolling the beauty of the Smokies, including reports to the federal government urging the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. By 1926, the brothers decided to divide the business into two individual companies. Around 1935, they reformed as Thompsons, Inc. Commercial Photographers. The company continues in the 21st century as Thompson Photo Products.
The photographs in this collection are not credited to a specific brother, but it is recognized that, as a passionate hiker, Jim took most of the photographs in the Smokies. Records show that Robin took the aerial photographs.
This digital collection represents only a fraction of the Thompson Brothers' photographic work. It is a collaborative effort between several institutions. The individual photographs are from the Thompson Photograph Collection at the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection at the Knox County Public Library, Knoxville, and the Albert "Dutch" Roth collection at the University of Tennessee Libraries Special Collections. The photo albums are from the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library and Archives at Harvard University, and the Charles E. Tutt Library at Colorado College.