James Stewart Construction

Gift of John B. Mannes

Donated in 1982

James Stewart & Company was one of North America’s most accomplished and longest-working contractors (1845–1953). In 1865, anticipating opportunities in the U.S. after the Civil War, James Stewart (1822–1902) relocated to St. Louis from the former Canadian capital of Kingston. His firm earned profits and acclaim building railroads west of the Mississippi River and, by the end of the 19th century, had grown impressively with the nation’s expanding industrial might. Beginning around 1900 and under the leadership of Stewart’s sons, the company added banks, department stores, hotels, and civic structures to its portfolio.

The James Stewart Construction Collection holds 108 leather-bound photo albums chronicling work undertaken by the firm between 1904 and 1949 for powerhouse clients such as the Pennsylvania Railroad, Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, General Electric, General Motors, Union Carbide, and Grumman. Each album contains between 30 and 80 prints and documents a project from excavation to completion. These albums not only feature the photography commissioned directly by the contractor, but also include images taken by photographers who were hired by the primary client, the architect, or the engineer. In this regard, the albums are truly a comprehensive record of each structure.

The James Stewart Construction collection is in storage and not on view. Please check current exhibitions for a list of what is publicly accessible.