William H. Rau

Dates1855 - 1920
RolesPhotographer, Publisher
BornPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Having been interested in photography from a young age, William H. Rau received his greatest early career boost from his association with photographer William Bell. Rau married Bell's daughter Louise, also a photographer, and in 1874 Bell secured a position for his nineteen-year-old son-in-law. Rau became the photographer for a United States government expedition traveling around the world to observe the transit of the planet Venus as it passed in front of the sun.

Rau's next assignment was to conduct the first systematic photographic recording of the Rocky Mountains. Soon thereafter he traveled to Egypt, where he applied the techniques he had learned photographing the Western American landscape. Together with his brother George, he opened a photographic studio in Philadelphia in 1885 and flourished as a portrait photographer. In addition to proper studio shots, he photographed images of young ladies in their bloomers and corsets-risqué material during the Victorian era. Between 1890 and 1895, Rau served as the official photographer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Pennsylvania. Toward the end of his career, he was chosen to develop the photographs that documented Robert Peary's journey to the North Pole. His family continued to operate the studio after his death.