George P. Thresher Negative Collection of the Southwest

Huntington Library. Photo Archives
Huntington Library. Photo Archives
Photograph Collections, 1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
(626) 405-2129

Descriptive Summary

Title: George P. Thresher Negative Collection of the Southwest
Dates: ca. 1898-1910
Collection Number: photCL 449
Creator/Collector: Thresher, G.P. (George P.)
Extent: 83 glass plate negatives and 129 film negatives in 7 boxes; 8 lantern slides and 188 copy prints made from the original negatives in 1 box. See itemized list under “Additional collection guides.”
Repository: Huntington Library. Photo Archives
San Marino, California 91108
Abstract: A collection of negatives focusing on the American Southwest and Native Americans of the region, particularly of Arizona, and the Gila River crossing area, from ca. 1898 to 1910. Tribes depicted include Yuma, Apache, Navajo, Maricopa, Pima, and Papago (Tohono O’Odham). There are views of native peoples in their daily lives, as well as posing in studio portraits. There are also landscape and town views, including Phoenix (AZ), Santa Fe (NM), missions at San Antonio (TX), and the Salt Lake Temple in Utah.
Language of Material: English


Access is granted to qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact the Curator of Photographs at the Huntington Library.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Photographs. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Huntington as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Preferred Citation

George P. Thresher Negative Collection of the Southwest. Huntington Library. Photo Archives

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Alta California Books, February 24, 1978.

Biography/Administrative History

George P. Thresher was born on September 11, 1854 in Massachusetts and emigrated to California in 1895. Described variously as an amateur photographer and real estate developer, he lived in Los Angeles until his death in 1927 at age seventy-two. Between 1904 and 1926, Thresher appears in the Los Angeles business directories, often listed as a real estate broker with office addresses on either the 200 or 300 block of Broadway. At various points in his career, he served as the Director of the Artesian Company of Los Angeles and the Vice President of the Los Angeles Building Company. He married Florence Evans Stone in 1878 and they had three daughters together. From 1905 until his death, he resided at 37 Westmoreland Place in Los Angeles. Thresher took up photography at some point in his life, concentrating his efforts on California and the Southwest. A few of his photographs depicting missions and similar subjects appear in books by noted lecturer, author, and promoter, George Wharton James. James credited images to Thresher in “The Old Franciscan Missions of California” (1913), “In and Out of the Missions of California” (1906), and “Through Ramona’s Country” (1909). Thresher eventually sold his negatives to Charles C. Pierce, the proprietor of a large photographic supply business and studio as well as the largest picture library in Los Angeles. Once Pierce purchased a photographer’s images, he rarely credited the creator, stamping his own name on the print instead. This practice may explain some of the confusion surrounding attribution of Thresher’s prints which are variously credited to Pierce and George Wharton James. Adding to the confusion, some of Thresher’s negatives in the Huntington collection appear to be copies of images by other photographers of the period. NOTE ON SOURCES: Information drawn from County of Los Angeles death certificate and “Western History-Material” document at the Los Angeles Public Library. Copies of both documents are in the collection file. / Letter from C.C. Pierce to Leslie E. Bliss, Librarian at the Huntington, November 16, 1933. See C.C. Pierce Collection File (photCL Pierce), Photo Archives. See also the C.C. Pierce Finding Aid for more information on Pierce and his business.

Scope and Content of Collection

The majority of the Thresher Collection contains images of towns and sites in Arizona, including Phoenix, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Montezuma Castle, Peach Springs, and adobe ruins. Photographs of Texas are well represented in the collection, including many views of Missions San Concepcion, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), San Francisco de la Espada, and Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo. There are also images of Colorado (Garden of the Gods, Pike’s Peak, and Castle Rock), New Mexico (Santa Fe, Tesuque, and possibly Laguna), and unidentified pueblos. Notable portraits from California are of Victoriano, chief of the Soboba Indians, and his unnamed third wife. There is a separate and very interesting sequence of images depicting the Mount Beauty Mine and its operations in San Diego County, California. A small assortment of lantern slides is at the end of the collection showing Indians of Arizona, California, and New Mexico. There are no copy prints for the following negatives: (16), (23.1), (33), (40.1), (45.1), (63), (80.1), (96), (111), (120-122), (131), (136-137), and (157). It appears that the Thresher images at the Huntington are a sub-section of a larger collection that the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley purchased in 1978. The Thresher photographs at the Bancroft depict the California Missions and various scenes in Los Angeles and California generally from 1899 through 1916. See William Roberts, “California Views of George P. Thresher,” “Bancroftiana” (November 1981), pp. 3-4.

Indexing Terms

Adobe houses
Apache Indians
Hopi Indians
Indians of North America—Funeral customs and rites
Indians of North America—Southwest, New
Luiseño Indians
Maricopa Indians
Mines and mineral resources--California--San Diego County
Mission San Antonio de Valero
Mission San Concepción (San Antonio, Tex.)
Mission San Francisco de la Espada (San Antonio, Tex.)
Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo (San Antonio, Tex.)
Mission San Xavier del Bac (Tucson, Ariz.)
Missions, Spanish
Montezuma Castle (Ariz.)
Navajo Indians
Salt Lake Temple
Sihasapa Indians
Tohono O’Odham Indians
Ute Indians
Yuma Indians
Buckskin Charlie, Ute chief
Casa Grande (Ariz.)
Castle Rock (Colo.)
Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Gila River (N.M. and Ariz.)
Las Vegas Hot Springs (N.M.)
Peach Springs (Ariz.)
Phoenix (Ariz.)
Pike’s Peak (Colo.)
Pueblo of Laguna (N.M.)
Salt Lake City (Utah)
Santa Fe (N.M.)
Tesuque Pueblo (N.M.)
Film negatives
Glass negatives
Lantern Slides

Additional collection guides