Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Charles H. Abbott photographs,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1915-1935
Collection number: MS 110
Abbott, Charles H. (Charles Henry)
Collection Size: 4 photograph boxes
University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library.
Special Collections and Archives
Santa Cruz, California 95064
Abstract: This collection contains photographs taken by
Abbott during his tour of duty as a member of the 23rd Engineers in Europe
during and after WWI.
Physical location: Stored in Special Collections &
Archives: Advance notice is required for access to the collection.
Collection is open for research.
Property rights reside with the
University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the
records and their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the
material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Charles H. Abbott photographs, MS 110, Special Collections and Archives,
University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Gift of Charles Abbott.
Charles Henry Abbott was born in small lumber town of Cambro, Michigan
in 1894. The family moved west to Portland, Oregon when he was young. He lived
there until after high school when he followed his brother to Hawaii to work on
a pineapple plantation. While in Hawaii, he served in the Hawaiian National
Guard. Charles was drafted into the Army, 23d Engineers on Nov. 16, 1917. The
next four years were spent on the front lines of WWI in Europe. During and
after the end of the WWI, Chuck photographed the war torn landscape. After the
war he traveled throughout Europe and eventually ended up in New York, where he
Chas. H. Abbott Photography and sold sets of his war
photos. With money from the sale of the photographic sets he was able to open
an exotic bird shop on Fifth Avenue with his German partner. The business
prospered until the Depression in Germany destroyed the trade in exotic birds.
While in New York, Charles met and married the daughter of a wealthy rug
merchant and had a daughter. When the pet shop closed, the Abbotts moved to
Florida and opened "Abott's Joint", a dance hall and casino on the coast. The
hurricane of 1928 destroyed the dance hall and ended the first marriage. Mrs.
Abbott and their baby daughter went back to New York, and Chuck, at the request
of his sister, came west to Carmel, California. In Carmel, he opened a small
coffee shop on Main Street. After approximately five years in business and with
the realization that the coffee shop was a dead end, he was persuaded move to
Palm Springs by
Nellie Coffman, proprietor of the
Desert Inn. There he became known as the "Cowboy
Host". He would serve up breakfast rides and barbecues for the rich and famous
patrons of the Desert Inn, regaling them with stories and cowboy songs. The
breakfasts and dinners became such a hit that during the off-season, he
traveled to the East Coast to host "Cowboy" dinners for the wealthy EAst Coast
In the late 1939 or so, Chuck was hired by the
Tucson Sunshine Club to be the "Cowboy
Photographer", the handsome Stetson wearing photographer who specialized in
taking pictures of important people visiting the Tucson resorts. The photos
would be sent to their hometown papers, bringing publicity to Tucson. Local
Tucson photographers were furious that the Sunshine Club didn't hire one of
their own and formed a committee to protest the hiring of Chuck Abbott.
Esther Henderson, co-owner of one of the town's most
well-known photography studio was elected chairwoman. She protested Abbott's
hiring but was told it was too late to do anything about it. Chuck was warned
about the protest and went to see her to smooth the waters. Esther at first
refused to see him, but later went for drinks. The next weekend they went on a
picnic, taking their cameras to shoot pictures together and within two months,
they were married.
They remained in Tucson, raising two sons, Carl and Mark, and working as
free-lance photographers and for "
Arizona Highways". On vacations they would travel
around the country documenting the rise of "the mall" in America and "Downtown
Ecology". In 1962 the Abbotts retired to Santa Cruz, California. There they
fought to revitalize the downtown, advocating for a pedestrian mall and saving
the Victorian houses that remained. In 1965, when their son Mark was drowned
while body surfing in the waters off
Lighthouse Point, the Abbotts decided to donate a
lighthouse to the city in honor of their son. Five years earlier, the city had
purchased all of the lighthouse property except for the area immediately around
the still active wooden Coast Guard tower. In 1967, the
Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse was built adjacent
to the wooden tower that it would replace. The lantern room from the
decommissioned Oakland Harbor Lighthouse was used atop the new lighthouse, and
Mark's ashes were buried at the base of the tower. Chuck known as the "Father
of the Mall", died in 1973. Esther lived on in their original home, alongside
her son, daughter-in-law and grandsons until her death in 2003.
Scope and Content of Collection
This collection contains photographs taken by Charles H. Abbott during
his tour of duty in the 23rd Engineers during World War I. These photographs
constitute the "Overseas War Views", photograph sets produced and sold by
Abbott after the war. Also included are two sets of "war views" collected by
Abbott, one for the French public and one for the German public, documenting
the German Revolution, ca. 1918-1919.
The following terms have been used to index
the description of this collection in the library's online public access
World War, 1914-1918--Pictorial source
Photographs, black and white