BOCA RATON, Fla. — Otto Bettmann, a refugee from Nazi Germany who built two trunks filled with photographs into the world's largest collection of images, has died in Florida, hospital officials said Sunday.
Bettmann died Friday night at Boca Raton Community Hospital, a hospital supervisor said Sunday. He was 94.
Bettmann fled Germany in 1933 with little more than two steamer trunks full of old photographs, his money seized by German customs agents as a "leaving-the-Reich tax" after he was expelled from his job for being Jewish.
The Germans had examined the photographs but dismissed them as worthless. But Bettmann made them the basis of what would become the Bettmann Archive, a 16-million-photograph image rental library based in New York that was sold for millions to Corbis Corp., a company wholly owned by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates.
Pictures in the archive include such 20th century icons as Winston Churchill giving his victory sign at the end of World War II, an astronaut walking on the moon, Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue and Marilyn Monroe standing over a street grate as her skirt blows skyward.
Images from the archive are licensed to publishers of books, magazines, advertisements, films, television programs, newspapers and other media. The Bettmann Archive credit line became one of the most famous in the field of photojournalism.
Bettmann's wife of 50 years, Anne, died of cancer in 1988. He is survived by three children and four grandchildren.