Who was George Phillos?


Portrait of George Phillos.

NHM Collection 2003.26.235

George Phillos was born in Tripoli, Greece around 1891. He immigrated to the United States in 1912 and settled in Bloomington, Illinois. There, George worked in his family’s candy stores as a confectioner. During the First World War, he served in the U.S. Army and was possibly stationed in California. Around that time, he acquired a camera and began to document his life and his travels. Later, he moved to Chicago, where he died in 1980.

Phillos’s family remember him as a jovial man. He never married but had a close relationship with his extended family. As evidenced by this collection, he was a photography enthusiast. He also enjoyed sharing stories about family from years long past. 

Phillos created this collection using photographs he himself took, in addition to those taken of him by others. The collection is particularly unique due to how rare it was for a newly-arrived immigrant to own a personal camera during this period. The black and white photographs were mostly printed on postcard paper, a popular, inexpensive printing medium at the time. There are also several portraits in the collection that were done in photography studios, like the one you see here of George.

The images in this exhibition represent photographs taken by one person and yet they tell us a story that is larger than one individual. These are snapshots of both a life, and life writ large, documenting an important period in the Greek American story--one George Phillos experienced firsthand.

Who was George Phillos?