Rae Ltd


Colour photograph of letter from Rae Ltd to the Glasgow School of Art, 1910

Rae Ltd, also known as Rae Brothers, were 'Photographic Dealers and Opticians', operating from 134 St Vincent Street, and Renfield Street, Glasgow from the late 1890s. 1 George Gladstone Rae (born c. 1869), and John Gibson Rae (born c. 1857) were sons of a stone-quarrier from Dumfriesshire (a major source of red sandstone for Glasgow's buildings from the 1890s). 2

Around 1894, George, a chemist, was partner in the short-lived firm Riddell & Rae, manufacturing and selling photographic materials and lantern slides. 3 By 1896 George and John, previously a stationer, had formed Rae Brothers, and opened branches in Paisley and Perth (1900), and in Greenock (1904). The Perth branch was overseen by John. 4

Rae's 1896 'changing box', which held photographic plates in the camera, received press attention. 5 As befitted photographic pioneers, Rae Ltd commissioned an early advertising film called 'The Clown', one of twenty-four shorts made by G. A. Smith in Brighton in 1898. 6 At the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition, Rae’s ‘attractive stand’, designed by Mackintosh, comprised ‘a shop with windows on either side’ and ‘charmingly designed’ cases. 7 These displayed apparatus and lenses from Kodak, Dalmeyer and Beck, alongside their own products, such as the ‘Rae’ Magazine snapshot camera. 8 During the First World War, Rae's sold 'trench periscopes', 'service pattern' binoculars and compasses to army officers. In 1916, they ceased hiring out lecture slides. 9 Their Greenock branch closed in 1930 due to the retirement of its proprietor. 10


1: Glasgow Post Office directories, 1890–1930.

2: Census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 7 April 2013].

3: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1894–5, p. 523; 1895–6, p. 452; Edinburgh Gazette, 27 August 1895, p. 1217.

4: Glasgow Herald, 13 March 1896, p. 2; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1896–7, pp. 463–4; Practical and Junior Photographer, 1, 1 August 1900, p. 18; Photographic Dealer, January 1904, p. 4; census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 18 March 2013].

5: Photographic News, 28 August 1896, p. 557; 'Changing Boxes: Bag Type', Note 22, Early Photography: Film and Plate Holders, www.earlyphotography.co.uk [accessed 27 March 2013].

6: David Fisher, 'Films Made in the Brighton and Hove Area: The Silent Era', Brighton on Film, 2009, www.terramedia.co.uk [accessed 18 March 2013].

7: 'The Exhibition: Messrs Rae Brothers', Merchant and Shipper: International Exhibition Number, June 1901, p. 278.

8: 'The Exhibition: Messrs Rae Brothers', Merchant and Shipper: International Exhibition Number, June 1901, p. 278.

9: Scotsman, 22 May 1915, p. 1; 19 December 1916, p. 1.

10: Scotsman, 22 March 1930, p. 7.