C. Hadley Smith was born in Burke, NY, in 1910, the son of Mary (Hadley) and Clifford Smith. Hadley attended Clarkson University, where he studied mechanical engineering. His studies were cut short due to the Great Depression, and he found work with the Wirthmore Feed Company. In the decade that followed, he managed agricultural supply stores throughout New England. At the outset of World War II, Hadley enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a technical photographer, recording tests of experimental aircraft, a duty that was considered particularly hazardous. After his discharge, Hadley came to Ithaca as head of the photo lab at Agricultural Advertising and Research. In 1947, he opened his own commercial and illustrative photography business, which he and Getrude operated until 1984. Hadley's photojournalism appeared in Life, Look, Newsweek, and Time, as well as in newspapers throughout upstate New York. His advertising work was used in many national publications, particularly sports-related magazines. He photographed many notable Americans including Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Bobby Kennedy, Linus Pauling, Carl Sagan, Mario Andretti, Wilt Chamberlain, Duke Ellington (Hadley's favorite composer and performer), Marion Anderson, Bob Hope, Mary Pickford, and Dick Gregory. Hadley was particularly proud of his long association with Ithaca College, during which he documented in photographs the growth of the college and the development of its South Hill Campus.