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Watkins (Carleton E.) Photograph Collection
photCL 74  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Processing Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Existence and Location of Copies
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement

  • Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
    Title: Carleton E. Watkins photograph collection
    Identifier/Call Number: photCL 74
    Physical Description: 6.25 Linear Feet (10 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): approximately 1860s-1880s
    Abstract: A collection of 653 albumen photographs (430 by Carleton E. Watkins and 223 by Alfred A. Hart) dating from approximately 1860s to 1880s. The images document scenery and activity chiefly in Northern and Southern California in the 1870s and 1880s, as well as construction of the western half of the transcontinental railroad by the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s.
    Language of Material: Materials are in English.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services. RESTRICTED: Original album (Box 10): Fragile. Available with curatorial approval.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Carleton E. Watkins photograph collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Provenance uncertain. The album was recorded as being part of the personal library of Henry E. Huntington on April 26, 1928, and is presumed to have been the gift of Carleton E. Watkins to Collis P. Huntington. Henry Huntington was the executor of Collis P. Huntington's estate.

    Processing Information

    The photographs were removed from the original presentation album by Huntington staff in the 1970s. The order of the photographs as found in the presentation album was not maintained, though in some instances the album page number is indicated on the back of the photograph in pencil. The photographs were rehoused in mylar and acid-free boxes in 1996.

    Biographical Note

    Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916) was born in 1829 in Oneonta, New York. In 1851, he migrated to Sacramento, California in the company of businessman Collis P. Huntington and several other residents of Oneonta. He began his photographic career as an apprentice to established San Francisco Bay area studio photographers Robert H. Vance (1825–1876) and James May Ford (c. 1827–1877).
    Watkins photographed Yosemite for the first time in 1861. His large-scale images inspired President Abraham Lincoln and the United States Congress to declare Yosemite the nation's first national preserve in 1864. By the end of the American Civil War, the photographer had become one of the medium's leading lights, winning prestigious commissions and international awards.
    Over the course of his career, Watkins operated studios at various Montgomery Street addresses in San Francisco. Around 1869, he purchased Alfred A. Hart's stereographic negatives documenting the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. Watkins subsequently published Hart's negatives under the series title: "Watkins Central Pacific Railroad."
    Watkins suffered severe financial reverses in 1875, losing his negative inventory to competitor Isaiah H. Taber. From that point onward, Watkins published negatives under the "New Series" heading.
    In 1879, Watkins married Frances Henrietta Snead. The couple had two children, Julia (1881–1977) and Collis (1883–1965). By the early 1890s, declining health forced Watkins to curtail his activities. He took his last major commission in 1894, photographing the Phoebe Apperson Hearst residence, Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, in Pleasanton, California. The earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed Watkins's San Francisco studio and its contents. Shortly thereafter, he entered the Napa State Asylum for the Insane in Napa, California, where he died in 1916.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains 430 photographs by photographer Carleton E. Watkins that chiefly depict buildings, points of interest, people, and scenery in Northern and Southern California in the 1870s and 1880s, as well as 223 photographs by photographer Alfred A. Hart documenting the construction of the western half of the transcontinental railroad by the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) in the 1860s, which were later published by Watkins under his own imprint.
    Images by Watkins depict locations in California and Arizona including: Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, the Mammoth Tree Grove, Paso Robles, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, San Pedro, Santa Monica, Soda Springs, Wilmington, and Yosemite, as well as views related to the Southern Pacific Railroad and of the Colorado River. There are a few images of Native Americans in Arizona and California, and several images related to trains and railroads.
    Photograph titles in the contents list were transcribed, when available, from captions and titles on the images; titles in square brackets were devised by Huntington Library staff.

    Existence and Location of Copies

    Visit the Huntington Digital Library: Photographs   to view digitized items from this collection.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library

    1. Carleton E. Watkins Stereograph Collection (photST Wat)  
    2. A. A. Hart Stereographs of the Central Pacific Railroad (photCL 184)  
    3. Album of the Yosemite Valley, California, 1866 (RB 379010, vol. 1)  
    4. New Almaden, Quicksilver Mine, and Mendocino Coast (RB 379010, vol. 2)  
    5. California Mission Series of Mammoth Plate Views (Watkins 1-38)
    6. Carleton E. Watkins Mammoth Plate Views (Watkins 39-98)
    7. Four bound albums mammoth plate views by Carleton E. Watkins for Collis P. Huntington:
    8. The Central Pacific and Views Adjacent (RB 137501)  
    9. Summits of the Sierras (RB 137502)  
    10. Arizona and Views Adjacent to the Southern Pacific R.R. (RB 137503)  
    11. Photographic Views of Kern County (RB 137500)  


    Photographs are arranged by photographer:

    1. A.A. Hart views of the Central Pacific Railroad
    2. Carleton E. Watkins photographs
    3. Original album binding

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Agriculture -- California -- Photographs
    Cactus -- Photographs
    Dwellings -- California -- Photographs
    Indians of North America -- Arizona -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- California -- Photographs
    Lakes -- California -- Photographs
    Locomotives -- Photographs
    Mining camps -- California -- Photographs
    Mountains -- California -- Photographs
    Orchards -- California -- Photographs
    Railroad companies -- West (U.S.) -- Photographs
    Railroad bridges -- California -- Photographs
    Railroad tracks -- California -- Photographs
    Railroad tracks -- Nevada -- Photographs
    Railroad tracks -- Utah -- Photographs
    Railroads -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Photographs
    Trees -- California -- Photographs
    Vineyards -- California -- San Gabriel -- Photographs
    Waterfalls -- California -- Yosemite Valley -- Photographs
    Wineries -- California -- San Gabriel -- Photographs
    Arizona -- Photographs
    Auburn (Calif.) -- Photographs
    California -- Photographs
    Cisco (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Colfax (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Donner Pass (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Dutch Flat (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Nevada -- Photographs
    Pasadena (Calif.)-- Photographs
    Placer County (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Reno (Nev.) -- Photographs
    San Gabriel (Calif.)-- Photographs
    San Francisco (Calif.)-- Photographs
    San Marino (Calif.)-- Photographs
    Sierra Madre (Calif.)-- Photographs
    Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.) -- Photographs
    Soda Springs (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Sunny Slope Ranch (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Tahoe, Lake (Calif. and Nev.) -- Photographs
    Truckee River (Calif. and Nev.) -- Photographs
    West (U.S.) -- Photographs
    Wilmington (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs
    Yosemite Valley (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Yuba River (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Albumen photographs