Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
A guide to the Carl Christensen photograph albums, 1855-1965
P78-478a (SAFR 19519)  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (186.24 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication and Use Rights
  • Processing Note
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Historical or Biographical Note
  • Collection Scope and Content
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Related Materials

  • Title: Carl Christensen photograph albums
    Date: 1855-1965
    Date (bulk): 1890-1950
    Identifier/Call Number: P78-478a (SAFR 19519)
    Creator: Christensen, Carl M. (Carl Mobius)
    Physical Description: 6543 items.
    Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Historic Documents Department
    Building E, Fort Mason
    San Francisco, CA 94123
    Abstract: The Carl Christensen photograph albums, 1855-1965, bulk 1890-1950, (SAFR 19519, P78-478a) are comprised of 74 photograph albums compiled by Carl Christensen, primarily of West Coast shipping. The collection has been processed to the File Unit level with some Items listed and is open for use.
    Physical Location: San Francisco Maritime NHP, Historic Documents Department
    Language(s): In English.


    This collection is open for use unless otherwise noted.

    Publication and Use Rights

    Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

    Processing Note

    The collection was previously cataloged as SCR 9 a-vvv.
    Each photographic image has been assigned an Item number, starting with the number 1 in each album. When citing these images, it is vital to include the File Unit number, so it is clear which album the image came from.
    Copy negatives were made for 11 of the album prints. These prints and negatives have been described at the Item level.
    Additional black-and-white copy negatives were made for 5 album prints. These copies were cataloged as part of the SFMNHP Classified photograph collection and have not been included in the total item count for P78-478a. The original 5 album prints have been cataloged at the Item level.

    List of Classified photograph collection negatives copied from P78-478a prints:

    • E07.40263 copied from File Unit 02, Item 084
    • F01.36935 copied from File Unit 07, Item 056
    • F07.35509 copied from File Unit 31, Item 24
    • B11.35511 copied from File Unit 59, Item 042
    • K01.40923 copied from File Unit 64, Item 20
    Description Notes: Dates refer to when the original photograph was taken. Many of the photographic prints in this collection are copies that were made later than when the original photograph was taken.
    The descriptions in this collection guide were compiled using the best available sources of information. Such sources include the creator's annotations or descriptions, collection accession files, primary and secondary source material and subject matter experts. While every effort was made to provide accurate information, in the event that you find any errors in this guide please contact the reference staff in order for us to evaulate and make corrections to this guide.
    Please cite the title and collection number in any correspondence with our staff.

    Preferred Citation

    [Item description], [Location within collection organization identified by Collection Number/Series Number/File Unit Number/Item Number], P78-478a (SAFR 19519), Carl Christensen photograph albums, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Acquisition Information

    On September 4, 1975, Carl Christensen sold the San Francisco Maritime Museum 74 photograph albums that he had compiled, primarily of West Coast shipping, 1855-1965 (see SFMM Accession Ledger 448/18). These albums were formally accessioned in December 1978 by the J. Porter Shaw Library and had the collection number scr9. Christensen also sold the negatives to the museum at this time, and they were very likely cataloged as P85-035 (many of the negatives in P85-035 match the prints in the photograph albums in this collection).
    SAFR-00001 is a blanket accession that was transferred from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in September 1988. GGNRA had previously acquired the collection from the San Francisco Maritime Museum when it became a unit of the National Park Service in 1977.
    GOGA-00789 is a blanket accession that was transferred from the J. Porter Shaw Library to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) in February 1985.

    Historical or Biographical Note

    Carl Christensen (1906-1986) lived in Eureka, California for many years, and was a photographer, photograph collector, and a maritime historian specializing in steam schooners of the Pacific Coast.
    Carl Mobius Christensen was born May 28, 1906. He was a native of Humboldt County, California and was born and raised on the Samoa Peninsula near the U.S. Coast Guard Station. Christensen lived in Eureka for many years before moving to Grove City and then to Arroyo Grande. He was a photographer, photograph collector, and a maritime historian specializing in steam schooners of the Pacific Coast. He was a member of the Humboldt County Historical Society and the Humboldt Maritime Museum. Christensen was a member of the Eureka Firefighters Local No. 652 and his father worked for years at the Humboldt Bar life-saving station.
    During the 1930s-1940s, Carl and his brother Art Christensen both piloted the launch MADAKET (ex NELLIE C.), ferrying passengers and freight from Samoa to Eureka. MADAKET was built in Fairhaven in 1909, launched in 1910 and refurbished in 1989. She is the oldest continuously operating passenger vessel in the United States, celebrated her 100th birthday on June 6, 2010, and is the last survivor of seven original ferries that transported mill workers and families around Humboldt Bay. The completion of the Eureka-Samoa bridge in 1971 put the ferry service out of business. Ironically, the second span of the California 255 Samoa Bridge is named in honor of Carl L. Christensen Jr., a democratic District Attorney and Justice in Humboldt County who died in September 1976.
    Carl often frequented Sam Swanlund's photography shop "Swanlund's Camera" in Eureka, California, where he would have prints made and would sell photographs to Swanlund. In an interview in 2002, Swanlund recalled that Carl Christensen and Lloyd Stine met Ray Jerome Baker (also known as R.J. Baker) who had a photo studio in Eureka from 1904-1910 before he moved to Hawaii with his family. Over the years, Christensen and Stine bought Baker's photographs (about 1400 glass plate negatives) from his time in Humboldt County. Carl and Lloyd would often come into Swanlund's shop to have contact sheets made from glass plate negatives they had purchased from Baker, and in the late 1960s Sam Swanlund purchased several hundred of those negatives from Christensen and Stine. In the 1970s, Peter Palmquist purchased other Baker photographs from Christensen. Swanlund donated all of his Baker photographs to Humboldt State University. Palmquist donated some Baker photographs to Humboldt State University and others to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University.
    Carl Christensen was very knowledgeable about steam schooners and corresponded with both Karl Kortum and Harold Huycke, among other maritime historians. In a letter that Harold Huycke wrote to Carl's brother Art in 2004, Huycke says that "upon reflecting on the numerous people I have known who have been very important in the accumulation of the entire steam schooner history, as far as I know, Carl is close to the top of the list of preservers and historians . . . I think it is very important that some space be dedicated to the biographies of those people, like Carl, who did so much in the very earliest years of this research."
    Carl Christensen died on January 6, 1986, in Arroyo Grande, California at the age of 79. He was survived by his wife Frankie B. Christensen, daughter and son-in law Beth and Isam Zamamiri, son David R. Christensen, brothers Arthur E. Christensen and George Christensen, and sister Anna McGrew.
    Written by Amy Croft, December 2011.


    • -Butler, Edith. 2001. Finding aid for the "Swanlund-Baker Photograph Collection, ca. 1904-1925," Humboldt State University Special Collections, http://cdn.calisphere.org/data/13030/1k/tf6779n81k/files/tf6779n81k.pdf, accessed December 14, 2011
    • -Doran, Bob. 2002. Sam Swanlund interview "Working on his Legacy" in the North Coast Journal, http://www.northcoastjournal.com/091202/cover0912.html, accessed December 14, 2011
    • -Huycke, Harold letter to Art Christensen, November 27, 2004. Harold D. Huycke Collection. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (HDC 1600, Series 3.08, File Unit 020)
    • -Upshaw, Deborah. June 1995. "Bay ambassador turns 85," North Coast Journal, http://www.northcoastjournal.com/JUN95/HISTORY.HTM, accessed December 14, 2011
    • -"100 Years of Madaket", Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum, http://humboldtbaymaritimemuseum.com/MADAKEThistory.html, accessed December 13, 2011.
    • -"Carl M. Christensen Obituary." Times-Standard. Eureka, California. 12 January 1986.

    Collection Scope and Content

    The Carl Christensen photograph albums, 1855-1965, bulk 1890-1950, (SAFR 19519, P78-478a) are comprised of 74 photograph albums compiled by Carl Christensen, primarily of West Coast shipping. The collection has been processed to the File Unit level with some Items listed and is open for use.
    Contains photographs primarily taken along the Pacific Coast of North America, showing various sailing and steam vessels, mostly steam schooners, at various ports and underway. Shipwrecks are also documented. There are 74 photograph albums containing 6532 items (6528 photographic prints and 4 documents) along with 11 copy negatives made from album prints. Each volume consists of an assortment of sail and steam vessels by various photographers. Christensen compiled the photographs from a variety of sources. Some photographs are printed from original negatives and many are copy prints. A small number of photographs are copies of oil paintings, lithographs, postcards, and newspaper articles. It is unknown when Christensen compiled these albums.
    The albums have been described at the File Unit level, with a sampling of vessels listed in the scope note.

    Additional Guides

    Album Page Item Inventory
    The collection included a previously prepared typed item list of all the photographs in each album created in the 1970s. The listing has been scanned and made searchable with optical character recognition software. The original typed listing is in the collection file.
    View the document as JPEGs  or for advanced viewing and word search instead select this link to the DjVu  document. This requires the installation of the DjVu browser plug-in  .
    For more information about the use of this format see about DjVu  .

    Collection Arrangement

    The collection consists of one Series which contains all the albums. The albums have been left in the order that the processing archivists found them in ("a" through "vvv") in 2013. It is unclear whether or not this is Christensen's original order. The albums have been numbered 1 through 74, which correspond to their File Units. For example, the album originally referred to as "a" is now Photograph Album 1, and is in File Unit 1. The previous letters assigned to the albums have been identified in the scope note.

    Related Materials

    Carl Christensen photograph collections:

    • Carl Christensen photographs (SAFR 18548, P78-085a)
    • Carl Christensen photograph collection (SAFR 19543, P79-093a)
    • Carl Christensen photograph collection (SAFR 00311, P83-057a)
    • Carl Christensen photograph collection (SAFR 14390, P85-035) Many of the negatives in P85-035 correspond to the photographic prints in the photograph albums in P78-478a. In the case that any prints need to be reproduced from this collection, the negatives in P85-035 should be consulted, for better quality reproductions.
    Harold Huycke collection (SAFR 22224, HDC 1600), Subseries 12.1.03: Carl Christensen photograph collection, circa 1880s-1965, 2002 (bulk 1934-1955). Contains Carl Christensen photographic prints and negatives of a variety of American and foreign vessels (schooners, steamships, etc.). Locations in the United States include: Alaska: Ketchikan, Uyak; California: Eureka, Humboldt Bay, Rolph, Samoa, San Francisco Bay, San Pedro, South Bay, Treasure Island; Oregon: Coos Bay; Washington: Seattle. Includes one photograph of Carl Christensen in front of his new boat in 1956.
    Carl Christensen collection of naval architectural drawings (SAFR 23561, HDC 1202). 56 items.
    • This material is located at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Cargo ships
    Government vessels--United States
    Merchant ships
    Passenger ships
    Paddle steamers
    Sailing ships
    Steam schooners
    Coastwise shipping--Pacific Coast (U.S.)
    Lumber trade--Pacific Coast (U.S.)
    Shipwrecks--Pacific Coast (U.S.)
    Christensen, Carl M. (Carl Mobius)
    Avoyel (cutter; U.S. Coast Guard)
    Balclutha (built 1886; ship, 3m)
    C.A. Thayer (built 1895; schooner, 3m)
    Cricket (steam schooner)
    Daisy Gadsby (built 1911; steam schooner)
    Eureka (built 1890; ferry)
    Frank H. Buck (built 1914; tanker)
    H-3 (built 1913; submarine: U.S. Navy)
    Hercules (built 1907; tugboat)
    Idaho (built 1916; steam schooner)
    Klamath (built 1909; steam schooner)
    Milwaukee (built 1904; cruiser: U.S. Navy)
    Noyo (built 1888; steam schooner)
    Oregon (built 1916; steam schooner)
    Samoa (built 1898; steam schooner)
    Sea Fox (built 1902; tugboat)
    Svea (built 1906; steam schooner)
    Vanguard (built 1904; steam schooner)
    Wapama (built 1915; steam schooner)
    Yosemite (built 1906; steam schooner)
    San Francisco Maritime State Historic Park (Calif.)
    Coos Bay (Or.)
    Humboldt Bay (Calif.)
    Oakland Estuary (Calif.)
    Pacific Coast (Calif.)
    Pacific Coast (Or.)
    Pacific Coast (Wash.)
    San Francisco Bay (Calif.)
    San Francisco Bay Area (Calif.)
    San Pedro Bay (Calif.: Bay)
    Black-and-white prints (photographs)
    Color prints (photographs)
    Gelatin silver prints
    Photograph albums