William Herman Rau (1855-1920) was a Philadelphian with close ties to that city's photographic activities. The brother of photographer George Rau (and son of coal merchant John Frederick Rau), William married Louise Bell, daughter of photographer William Bell. He had worked for Bell until purchasing his father-in-law's company in 1878. Louise Bell Rau later exhibited her own work in pictorialist circles. Among Rau's other associates besides his brother George, with whom he opened a photographic studio in 1885, were the well-known photographic publisher Edward L. Wilson, and John Moran, brother of landscape artist Thomas Moran.
In 1874 Rau had joined an international expedition to the South Seas to photograph the transit of Venus, working with John Moran on the project. He then worked intermittently in the southwest United States, including a period with William Henry Jackson. In 1881 he accompanied Edward Wilson to Egypt, where he made an extensive set of stereoviews and possibly some larger prints, although these have never been identified. He worked in Philadelphia during the Centennial Exposition of 1876 and was later the official photographer for the St. Louis Exposition of 1904 and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland.
Best known for his railroad and landscape images, Rau was hired in 1890 by the Pennsylvania Railroad and in 1899 by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, for which he produced a series of views from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Also in the 1890ís Rau was a prolific maker of stereoviews, which were published by Griffith and Griffith, and in the late 1890ís to 1905 he published by himself as the Universal View Company. Notable views were of the Boer War, the Spanish American War and United Sates navy vessels. He also recorded the Johnstown flood and the 1904 Baltimore fire. Today, Rau is important for his position linking, through subject and style, key aspects of photography in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Although he released numerous Yellowstone views through his companies such as Griffith and Griffith, Universal View Company, and Montgomery Ward & Co., he did release at least a few views under his name alone. One of them is shown below. It is likely that other Rau views will turn up in the future.
Curious Formations at Mammoth Springs, Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A.
Copyright 1901, by William H. Rau.