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Wilhem Hester Photographs, 1893-1905
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content Note
  • Indexing Terms
  • Arrangement

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Wilhem Hester Photographs,
    Date: 1893-1905
    Collection: P84-011
    Creator/Collector: Wilhem Hester
    Extent: 837 items
    Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (Calif.).
    Building E, Fort Mason
    San Francisco, California 94123
    Physical location: Historic Documents Department.
    abstract: Marine photographer Wilhelm Hester's images of sailing ships and seamen of Washington's Puget Sound from 1893-1905. The collection of mostly 8 x 10 inch glass gelatin dry plates includes broadside views of vessels at anchor, crew portraits, masters and family portraits, and cabin interiors.
    Language: English

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions

    This collection is accessible by contacting the San Francisco Maritime National Historical. Due to the fragility of the original glass dry plate negatives, researchers maybe restricted to handling and viewing the contact film interpositive or negative.

    Usage Restrictions

    The San Francisco Maritime NHP possesses physical property rights through ownership of the materials. However, copyright may reside with the individual or corporate body responsible for the creation of the materials, or with their heirs. It is the user's responsibility to respect the provisions of the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). Permission to reproduce or publish from this collection must be secured by the user from the copyright holders.

    Preferred Citation

    Item description, P05-XXX, Location within collection organization identified by series number, file unit number, or item number, Wilhelm Hester Photographs, 1893-1905, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.


    The photographs were taken by the Marine Photographer Wilhelm Hester from circa 1893 to 1905 in Seattle, Washington
    After Wilhelm Hester’s death in 1947 his house was purchased by Jerry and Nora Sands. In the new home the Sands discovered wooden boxes containing over 1,300 glass plate negatives. Aware of their historical value, the Sands attempted to find a buyer in Seattle without much success.
    In 1960, Robert Weinstein after examining a set of plates convinced Emerson Spear of Los Angeles to purchase the collection as gift to the San Francisco Maritime Museum in memory of his grandfather, Captain Alexander Spear. Acting as Spear’s agent Weinstein flew to Seattle, inspected the balance of the collection, secured a bill of sale, and supervised the packing and shipment to San Francisco.
    Some years later, the Sands sold a collection Hester’s prints to the University of Washington. Another group of Hester's personal photographs were later sent to Weinstein and reproduced in his book Tall Ships on Puget Sound: The Marine Photographs of Wilhelm Hester.
    The collection was acquired by the National Park Service when the Maritime Museum became a unit of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1977 and subsequently transferred to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park upon its establishment in 1988.
    Robert A Weinstein, Tall Ships on Puget Sound: The Marine Photographs of Wilhelm Hester (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978), 11-13.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Emerson Spear to the San Francisco Maritime Museum in memory of Captain Alexander Spear.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Daniel L. Keller and John Maounis.

    Completed in 1982.


    At the turn of the 20th-century, marine photographer Wilhelm Hester took and sold photographs of ships and sailors at the Tacoma, Seattle, and Port Blakeley waterfronts. The shipment of grain centered in Tacoma and lumber at Puget Sound's sawmills attracted deepwater sailing ships, steamers and coastal vessels.
    Hester was born in October, 1872, in central Hamburg. He and his brother Ernst arrived in the United States in 1890. They spent the years 1890-1893 in Montana. In the fall of 1893 they arrived in Seattle. Shortly after their arrival Hester started photographing together with his brother Ernst. He continued until 1898, leaving Seattle then for a year to search Alaska's famed Klondike for gold. At 34, he appears to have given up photography in 1905 or 1906 to pursue real estate speculation. In his retirement he bought and lived atop Seattle's Queen Anne Hill. He died at Seattle's Virginia Mason Hospital on February 25, 1947.

    Scope and Content Note

    This collection consists primarily of dry plate negatives and some original mounted prints. All of the negatives have preservation film interpositives and negatives.
    Hester's views of ships were by tradition a classic, broadside view at anchor or a photograph of her as she lay tied up at a wharf awaiting her cargo. He developed favorite vantage points from which to photograph--a nearby wharf or dock, the roof of a mill, a convenient swing bridge as at Eleventh Street in Tacoma, or from Port Blakeley's less crowded south shore. Crew portraits were another mainstay of his business. Rare interior photographs of 19th-century sailing ship cabins. The collection includes detailed images, both close-ups on deck and long shots, of loading lumber.

    Indexing Terms


    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Maritime history.
    San Francisco (Calif.).
    Portrait photographs.
    Group portraits.
    Marine photographs.


    The collection was organized and arranged by the San Franicisco Maritime Museum Library using a subject classification scheme as part of an artificial photograph collection. The falling material are listed by their classified photo number.