Royal Hubert Carlock (1899-1970) was born in Paris Crossing, Indiana. He was born to Benjamin and Ellen Carlock, one of six children. After graduating from Indiana University, Carlock married Ethel Wohrer in 1917. Towards the end of World War I he enlisted in the US Army where he specialized in aerial photography as part of the US Army Corps of Engineers and after the end of the war the couple moved to Washington DC around 1918 where their first daughter was born.
After his discharge from the army, Carlock secured employment at a photography company called CO Buckingham who was producing hand-painted photographs of major tourist attractions in Washington, DC at the time. This explains the apparent stylistic similarity between the hand-colored images of Carlock and Buckingham.
Ethel Carlock died during a flu epidemic in 1920, leaving Carlock a widower with a 15-month-old baby.
Carlock was fascinated by the architecture and national treasures of our state capital. He focused his photography and hand-coloring skills on subjects found in and around Washington DC. As the only photographer in his company, his black-and-white photographs were hand-painted in oils and sold to the multitudes of tourists who visited our nation’s capital in the post-World War I era.
In 1922 Carlock married his second wife, Emma Clarke. He also left Buckingham Studios the same year and opened his own photography studio at 406 13th Street NW in Washington, DC. Carlock’s”Snappy snap shop‘ specializing in the rapid development of tourist films along with the sale of his increasingly famous hand-colored photographs of Washington DC landmarks and monuments including the White House, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monuments, the US Capital Building and of course Washington’s colorful cherry blossoms. Working as a team, Carlock captured the images and Emma and other colorists hand-colored them.
We have seen Carlock images identified in three different ways:
• Passepartout pictures signed “Carlock” in the lower right corner below the image, with or without a title in the lower left.
• Narrow frame non-matted images with “Carlock” embossed in the lower left corner of the actual image.
• No mark on the picture or mat, just a “Carlock” Picture label on the backing.
Jane Crandall has reported that Royal Carlock was her uncle and that both of her parents worked for him at one point. She also reported that her mother, Julia Carlock, was one of Carlock’s colorists and brought home pictures to color in the evenings. Jane Crandall also reported that many of the signatures found on Carlock paintings were actually signed by her mother.
Royal Carlock continued in business into the 1940s. Collector Myke Ellis has reported that Polk Washington DC’s 1943 address book listed Royal Carlock as working at 913 Pennsylvania Avenue. Even during the Depression years, when so many other photographers saw their businesses either decline or close, Carlock’s business thrived largely because of the consistently high level of tourism and the large and growing number of people employed by the US government.
Although his photographs usually sold best during cherry blossom season, Carlock also produced a Christmas card for several years that featured a hand-colored photograph of Washington DC. These are considered quite rare by collectors today.
As with all other early 20th c. hand-colored photographers, the advent of color film led to the decline of Carlock’s hand-colored photograph business. The main focus of his business was the post-processing of photographs until he retired from the photography business in 1957 to devote his life to conservation.
In 1962, his 40-year marriage to Emma dissolved, and in 1964 he married Grace Diane Knapp.
Royal Carlock suffered from heart problems in the last years of his life and died of a heart attack in 1970. His ashes were interred on a small island in a lagoon at the National Isaac Walton League Conservation Park near Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Carlock paintings are still relatively inexpensive and quite affordable. Their low price, good quality, and interesting designs will likely continue to make them collectible. The only limitation is that only about 10 different scenes from Washington DC need to be collected. Next time you see a Washington DC image in a store or show, take a closer look. It will probably be one Royal Carlock hand colored photo.