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Collection Overview
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The General Photo File Collection represents an important collection of historical photographs of early California and Los Angeles, from the mid-19th Century through the 1980s. The collection of approximately 9,100 photographic prints was assembled by former History Department archivists and curators from other collections held at the Seaver Center for Western History Research. The prints in this collection have been assigned a variety of geographic titles, including: Los Angeles, Los Angeles neighborhoods, Los Angeles County, California cities and counties, and the western United States. The subject headings within this collection are varied: Transportation, Agriculture, Industries, Schools, Churches, Parks, Architecture, California Missions, Weapons, and War. A major selection of the prints in this collection provide a comprehensive look at the development of Los Angeles as a city and county from California Mission life through to its development to a large metropolis.
This collection was created and has grown from years of research activity at the Seaver Center for Western History Research. Throughout the years, copy prints of select photographs were made, especially for the purpose of fulfilling user and research requests. As copy prints of photographs were requested, a new copy was made, designated a General Photo File number and placed in black binders. The prints in this collection have been amassed from a variety of creators and sources, however many are attributed to Al Greene, Frederic Hamer Maude, and Frank Layton Washburn. Al Greene (1906-1980) was a commercial photographer in mid-twentieth century Los Angeles whose company, Al Greene & Associates, specialized in making photographic murals. He not only shot many of the photographs in this collection, but also bought the print and negative collections of retiring photographers in the region. Greene’s practice of copying other photographer’s images and supplying his own identification should alert researchers to treat the photographer/creator, descriptive, and date information on the photographs with some skepticism. Frederic Hamer Maude (1858-1959) was a commercial photographer who shot most of his prints and negatives in this collection himself, but also obtained some from other photographers. Frank Layton Washburn (1867-1950) was an inspector for the gas and electric company in Los Angeles. His photographs document the company’s work in various Los Angeles neighborhoods, including historic Chinatown, which was razed in the 1930s to build Union Station. Other recurrent photographers include Martin Behrman (1862-1945), an amateur who made copies of early daguerreotype panoramas in San Francisco, circa 1910; Dudley P. Flanders (1840-), operated various partnerships throughout California and Arizona, most notably with William Godfrey and Henri Penelon; and Valentin Wolfenstein, a Union Army veteran born in Sweden. Wolfenstein took up photography after the Civil War, and throughout the latter half of the 19th Century he opened various galleries in Fort Sumner, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Guatemala, and Stockholm.
58 linear feet (Boxes: 5 x 7, letter, ½ letter, 3-ring binders, 1 ov, 1 ov folder in mc-14)
Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.
Research is by appointment only. Researchers should refer to the General Photo File Number at all times when requesting information.