The 1880s saw the birth of Compton’s Photography, which gave Brigham City a “picture album” of its history, chronicled in photographs by three generations of Comptons, from 1883 until its landmark brick building on the southwest corner of Main Street and First South was torn down in 1998 to make way for a bank.
It all began with Alma W. Compton, who, in October 1883, rented Jens Gasberg’s downtown photography gallery for six months. During this time, he purchased property on the west side of Main Street and contracted to build a studio, which he opened in June 1884.
The photography business soon outgrew the small quarters, plus Compton and his wife Jane had branched out into other items such as postcards, souvenirs, art and music supplies. He selected a prestigious corner location at First South and Main Street and contracted for a two-story brick studio with a north light window and skylight. Over 1,000 people gathered for the January 28, 1901, grand opening of the new business building, enjoying a party that included Christensen’s ten-piece orchestra hired to play for the occasion.
While most photographers were content with in-studio portraits, Compton also photographed buildings and community events, providing historians with early images of the tabernacle, courthouse, first power plant, Peach Days, and views of Main Street, sometimes with his wife or young son Matthew somewhere in the photos. That son, Matthew W. Compton, and then his son, Glenn Compton, continued to record the community’s events until the business closed in 1994. The Compton negatives were donated to Utah State University and a major collection of original photographs and cameras to the Brigham City Museum of Art & History.1Sarah Yates, “Early day photographers provided city with community photo album,” Box Elder News, (Brigham City: July 9, 1978), Sarah Yates, “Comptons gave community a ‘picture album’ of history,” Box Elder News Journal, (Brigham City: August 5, 1998), 13.