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Margaret Bourke-White Photographs Of The Busch Family

Today is the birthday of Margaret Bourke-White (June 14, 1904-August 27, 1971). She “was an American photographer and documentary photographer. She is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry, the firsthand American female war photojournalist, and the first female photographer for Henry Luce’s Life magazine, where her photograph appeared on the first cover. She died of Parkinson’s disease about eighteen years after she developed her first symptoms.”

The International Photography Hall of Fame also has a good overview of her life, and so does the Encyclopedia Britannica. She was an amazing photographer, and many of her photos are iconic views of the 20th century. She was frequently featured in Life magazine, such as a series of photographs she took for the May 1955 issue, to accompany an article on “what the magazine called “the liveliest, lustiest family dynasty” in America: the Busch clan.” Here’s a portion of the text from that article:

In 1865 [LIFE wrote] a German immigrant named Adolphus Busch took over a small, failing brewery in St. Louis. In the decades since, the brewery has become the largest in the world, last year selling over 719 million foamy quarts of beer. In that same period period the Missouri family Busch has become just about the liveliest, lustiest family dynasty in the country.

Today the chief executive of Anheuser-Busch Inc., and in consequence the head of the sprawling family, is Adolphus’ grandson, a gregarious, impulsive, hoarse-voiced, 56-year-old extrovert name August Anheuser Busch jr., who is hardly ever called anything but Gussie. Gussie and the other present members of the family have lost little of the fierce, competitive genius with which their predecessors kept he world of hops hopping. And unlike the later generations of some robust business families, they have not noticeably slid into the sedentary or intellectual pleasures of wealth. They continue to love the outdoors, fine horses, huge houses full of hunting trophies, big families, roaring parties and beery choruses of “Im Wald and auf der Heide.”

The baronial splendor amid which Gussie lives with his handsome wife and their children prompts St. Louisans to say the Busches really live like German merchant princes of an earlier age. But their way of life adds a memorably exuberant and expansive segment to the American scene.

Here are a few of the photographs that Margaret Bourke-White took of the Busch family, along with the original captions from the 1955 Life article, if there was one. Some of the photographs taken by Bourke-White were not included in the article. If you want to see the rest of her photos from that session, by all means check out House of Suds: Portrait of the Busch Beer Dynasty at Play on Time’s archives.

Anheuser Busch heir August (Gussie) Busch Jr. and wife Trudy in the trophy-filled gun room of their mansion, Grant’s Farm, with their children Beatrice Alice and Adolphus Busch IV.

Out for the daily ride, Trudy astride Happy Landing and Gussie on Miss Budweiser amble across the lawn of the 34-room brick mansion Gussie’s father erected in 1911.

Singing at Schlachtfest, Gussie sits with guest, Mrs. Charles Thomas, wearing chef’s hat and apron which his male guests received.

There’s no caption for this one, but I’d sure like to know what the hell’s going on in this one. A Schlachtfest, according to Wikipedia, “is the German term for the ritual or ceremonial slaughter of an animal, which is often followed by feast. Today, it usually refers to the practice in many parts of Germany, such as the Palatinate, for a celebration or festival involving the ceremonial slaughter of a pig reared or bought by a private household or an inn for that purpose.”

Paul Victor von Gontard, general manager of San Fernando Valley brewery, sniffing hops.

Toast to their master and mistress is drunk in champagne at annual gathering of 20 Grant’s Farm workers, who just received envelopes containing their annual bonus. In dark jacket at left is zookeeper Frank Parko and alongside him are stablemen, grounds keepers. Butler and cook are at right.

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