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Grace Nicholson Photograph Collection: Finding Aid
photCL 56  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Materials
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Grace Nicholson Photograph Collection
    Dates (inclusive): approximately 1870s-1968
    Bulk dates: 1903-1920s
    Collection Number: photCL 56
    Creator: Nicholson, Grace, -1948
    Extent: Approximately 10,000 photographs, negatives and ephemera in 49 boxes.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains approximately 10,000 photographs, negatives, and ephemera created or compiled by Grace Nicholson (1877-1948), a collector and dealer of Native American and Asian arts and crafts in Pasadena, California. The bulk of the collection dates from 1903 to the 1920s and includes photograph albums and individual photographs with views of Native Americans of the Northwest Coast, California, and the Southwest of North America; pictures documenting Nicholson's basket-collecting trips, primarily between 1902 and 1912; images of Nicholson's stores and residences in Pasadena, including the building of the "Grace Nicholson Treasure House of Oriental Art" in the mid-1920s; and personal photographs of Nicholson, her family, friends, and associates.
    Language: English.
    Finding aid last updated on May 26, 2015.


    Advance arrangements for viewing negatives must be made with the Curator of Photographs. The collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please visit the Huntington's website: www.huntington.org.  

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    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

    Grace Nicholson Photograph Collection. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    The Huntington Library received the collection in October 1968 from Thyra H. Maxwell, one of Grace Nicholson's assistants and an executor of her estate. Maxwell's donation included manuscripts, photographs, and printed materials related to Grace Nicholson. All non-photographic materials are included in the Grace Nicholson Papers and Addenda collection (mssNicholson papers and addenda) in the Manuscript Department.

    Related Materials

    Material Cataloged Separately in The Huntington Library

    Related Materials in Other Repositories

    • Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley:
      • Photographic negatives and prints of Calif. Indian baskets and other ethnographic items handled by Grace Nicholson from about 1912-1925 when she was a dealer in Pasadena (Accession 2880).
      • Grace Nicholson's ledger of Indian baskets from about 1912-1925 in Pasadena, California (Accession 2881).
    • Smithsonian Institution. National Museum of the American Indian Archives:
      • American Indian - Heye Foundation Correspondence of Grace Nicholson (NMAI.AC.001)
      • William Benson Letters and Mythology.

    Biographical Note

    Biographical Note for Grace Nicholson

    Grace Nicholson (1877-1948), a collector and dealer of Native American and Asian arts and crafts, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 31, 1877, the daughter of attorney Franklin Nicholson (1851-1891) and Rose Dennington Nicholson (1855-1878). At the age of thirteen, following the death of her parents, Nicholson went to live with paternal grandparents, William Nicholson (1819-1901) and Mary Nicholson (1824-1901).
    After graduating from the Philadelphia Girls' High School in 1896, Nicholson worked as a stenographer and in other jobs in Philadelphia. In 1898, she met Mr. Carroll S. Hartman (1857-1933). She began working for Hartman in 1900, first as a promoter for "The Battle of Manila" cyclorama, and later in an amusement parlor on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
    In late 1901, with money from a small inheritance, Nicholson moved to Pasadena, California. In early 1902, she began purchasing Native American baskets and artifacts, opening a store at 41-43 South Raymond Avenue in Pasadena. Within a few years, she moved her combined home, store, and gallery to nearby 46 North Los Robles Avenue. Carroll Hartman had also relocated to Southern California, and Nicholson employed him as a buyer for her store.
    Nicholson traveled throughout Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington studying and purchasing Native American arts and crafts and establishing relationships with the artists, whom she often interviewed and photographed. Hartman often accompanied her on these expeditions, taking photographs as well. Nicholson kept extensive diaries and notes on her buying trips through Native American territory, especially of the Karok, Klamath, and Pomo Indians. Her subjects included Native American legends, folklore, vocabulary, tribal festivals, basket making, the art trade, and living conditions. Native American artists with whom Nicholson established long-term business and personal connections included Pomo basket weaver Mary Benson (1878-1930) and her husband William Benson (1862-1937), as well as Elizabeth Hickox (1875-1947) of the Karuk tribe. Because of her ethnographic work, the American Anthropological Association elected Nicholson to membership in 1904. She facilitated the purchase of artifacts by museums such as the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, the Field Museum in Chicago, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
    In the 1910s, as the market for Native American artifacts declined, Nicholson began expanding her work as an Asian art dealer. In 1912, Nicholson purchased additional land next to her Los Robles Avenue property and, in 1924, hired architects Marston, Van Pelt, and Maybury to renovate the property and construct a Chinese-style palace. Completed in 1929, it became known as the "Grace Nicholson Treasure House of Oriental Art." Following a 1929 trip to China and Japan, Nicholson dealt almost exclusively in Asian arts and craft.
    In 1943, facing financial difficulties, Nicholson entered into an agreement with the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Art Institute that transformed her Los Robles building into the Pasadena Art Institute. In 1954, the Institute was renamed the Pasadena Art Museum; it occupied the building until 1970, when it moved to a new Pasadena location and became the Norton Simon Museum. The Pacificulture Foundation founded the Pacific Asia Museum in the "Treasure House" in 1971.
    Nicholson continued to live at 46 North Los Robles, but she moved her shop to a smaller building at 45 South Euclid Avenue in Pasadena in 1944, and her assistants Thyra H. Maxwell and Estelle Bynum assumed growing responsibilities for it. Nicholson died on August 31, 1948.
    Following Nicholson's death, her Native American Indian art collection was left to Maxwell and Bynum, the executors of her estate; her 12,000-item Asian art collection was auctioned by the Curtis Gallery in November 1950 and purchased by Los Angeles businessman Edker Pope. In 1968, Maxwell donated Nicholson's papers and photographs to The Huntington Library and sold Nicholson's collection of baskets made by the Bensons, as well as a large collection of correspondence and myths from William Benson, to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, of New York City (now part of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.).


    Bernardin, Susan, et. al. Trading Gazes: Euro-American Women Photographers and Native North Americans, 1880-1940. (New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press, 2003).
    Bsumek, Erika Marie. "Exchanging Places: Virtual Tourism, Vicarious Travel, and the Consumption of Southwestern Indian Artifact" in Rothman, Hal. The Culture of Tourism, the Tourism of Culture: Selling the Past to the Present in the American Southwest University of New Mexico Press, 2003), pp. 118-139.
    Gasser, Maria del Carmen, ed. "My Dear Miss Nicholson" : Letters and Myths by William Benson A Pomo Indian. (Carmel, New York: Printed Privately by the editor, 1995).
    Packer, Rhonda. "Grace Nicholson: An Entrepreneur of Culture" in the Southern California Quarterly. Vol. 76, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp. 309-322.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains approximately 10,000 photographs, negatives and ephemera created or compiled by Grace Nicholson (1877-1948), a collector and dealer of Native American and Asian arts and crafts in Pasadena, California. The bulk of the collection dates from 1903 to the 1920s and includes photograph albums and individual photographs with views of Native Americans of the Northwest Coast, California, and the Southwest of North America; pictures documenting Nicholson's basket collecting trips primarily between 1902 and 1912; images of Nicholson's stores and residences in Pasadena, including the building of the "Grace Nicholson Treasure House of Oriental Art" in the mid-1920s; and personal photographs of Nicholson, her family, friends, and associates. Nicholson's personal snapshots and photograph albums provide a valuable resource for studying Native American communities, particularly in Northern California, in the early 20th century. Many of the photographs depict daily life and include images of homes, community events, dances and rituals, families and children, and portraits, which are often accompanied by Nicholson's handwritten identifications.
    The collection is organized into five series, with Series 1-3 containing the bulk of the collection and consisting of photograph albums and loose photographs. Series 4 holds a small group of related ephemera and other materials, and Series 5 is composed mainly of negatives and copy prints that correspond to images found in Series 1-3.
    • Series 1, Native Americans and Basket Collecting Trips, primarily contains views of Native Americans of the Northwest Coast, California, and Southwest of North America. The series includes several photograph albums compiled by Nicholson, and individual prints organized geographically by tribe and subject matter, often with people and places identified in Nicholson's handwriting. Most of these photographs were taken by Grace Nicholson or her assistant, Mr. Carroll S. Hartman. There are 6 negative cases with Nicholson's handwritten ledgers that were used to identify and date some of the photographs. Finally, there are many postcards and commercial photographs collected by Nicholson, which include views of native peoples from other parts of North America. Notably, there are two postcards showing women with flattened skulls (Box 1, Items 27-28).
    • Series 2, Grace Nicholson's stores; building of Treasure House; Asian art, contains construction and finished views of her store and residences in Pasadena, California, the galleries and garden courtyard, and artists and artwork exhibited. There are also views of Chinese art objects and architecture in China.
    • Series 3, Personal, contains personal photograph albums and individual prints of Grace Nicholson and family, friends and associates; Pasadena, California; travels in California and elsewhere; California missions and bells; and miscellaneous scenes.
    • Series 4, Ephemera and other materials, contains one box of ephemera such as brochures, advertisements, publications, and notes, as well as three photograph album covers.
    • Series 5, Negatives, transparencies, and copy prints, contains original negatives and duplicate prints created by Nicholson, as well as copy prints, negatives, and transparencies created by The Huntington Library. The images in this series are represented in Series 1-3 above.

    Alternative Form of Materials Available

    Visit the Huntington Digital Library: Photographs   to view digitized images from this collection.
    Note: photograph albums A-J, M, and P were digitized separately, and links to the PDF versions of those albums are included in the contents list below.


    The collection is arranged in the following 5 series:
    • Series 1. Native Americans and Basket Collecting Trips
      • 1.1 Photograph Albums
      • 1.2 Loose Photographs
        • 1.2.1 Northwest Coast
        • 1.2.2 California
        • 1.2.3 Southwest
        • 1.2.4 Other North American Indians
        • 1.2.5 Baskets and other artifacts
        • 1.2.6 Native peoples - other world regions
        • 1.2.7 Negative cases with Nicholson's handwritten ledgers
    • Series 2. Grace Nicholson's stores; building of Treasure House; Asian art
      • 2.1 Grace Nicholson's stores in Pasadena
      • 2.2 Building of Treasure House and later views, 1924-1930s; last store, 1947.
      • 2.3 Asian art objects, galleries and miscellaneous
      • 2.4 Artists and artwork exhibited at Treasure House
    • Series 3. Personal
      • 3.1 Grace Nicholson; relatives; friends and associates
      • 3.2 Personal photo albums
      • 3.3 Pasadena; California; other travels
      • 3.4 Scenery and miscellaneous
      • 3.5 California missions, bells, adobes, and churches
    • Series 4. Ephemera and other materials
    • Series 5. Negatives, transparencies, and copy prints
      • 5.1 Negatives in cold storage
      • 5.2 Duplicate original prints
      • 5.3 Copy prints, copy negatives, and copy transparencies

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Benson, William R. (William Rhalganal), 1862-1937 -- Photographs.
    Captain John (Hupa Indian), -1912 -- Photographs.
    Couse, E. Irving (Eanger Irving), 1866-1936 -- Photographs.
    Dat-so-la-lee, approximately 1829-1925.
    Hartman, Carroll S., 1857-1933 -- Photographs.
    Holmes, Burton, 1870-1958 -- Homes & haunts -- Photographs.
    Hover, Elsie, 1902-1972 -- Photographs.
    Miller, Lilian -- Photographs.
    Nampeyo, approximately 1856-1942 -- Photographs.
    Phillips, Bert Geer, 1868-1956 -- Photographs.
    Pritchard, Zarh, 1866-1956 -- Photographs.
    McLeod, Edwin Lincoln, 1861-1908 -- Ethnological collections.
    Sauerwein, Frank Paul, 1871-1910 -- Photographs.
    Acoma Indians -- Photographs.
    Apache Indians -- Photographs.
    Architectural elements -- China -- Peking -- Photographs.
    Art, Asian--Collectors and collecting--United States -- Photographs.
    Art, Chinese -- Photographs.
    Artists--New Mexico--Taos -- Photographs.
    Basket making -- Photographs.
    Burial -- Photographs.
    Cahuilla Indians -- Photographs.
    California Missions -- Photographs.
    Campo Indians -- Photographs.
    Cayuse Indians -- Photographs.
    Cemeteries -- Photographs.
    Chilcotin Indians -- Photographs.
    Chilkat Indians -- Photographs.
    Chinese -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs.
    Chinese -- California -- Monterey -- Photographs.
    Chinese -- California — San Francisco -- Photographs.
    Church bells -- Photographs.
    Colville Indians -- Photographs.
    Deer Dance -- Photographs.
    Diegueño Indians -- Photographs.
    Duwamish Indians -- Photographs.
    Eagle Dance -- Photographs.
    Gabrielino Indians -- Photographs.
    Havasupai Indians -- Photographs.
    Hopi Indians -- Photographs.
    Hotel Maryland (Pasadena, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Human remains (Archaeology) -- Photographs.
    Hupa Indians -- Photographs.
    Indian reservations -- Photographs.
    Indian baskets--Collectors and collecting -- Photographs.
    Indian dance -- Photographs.
    Indians of Mexico--Mexico--Baja California (Peninsula) -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- Alaska -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- Baskets -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- British Columbia -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- California -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- Education -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- Klamath River Valley (Or. and Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- Oregon -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- Southwest, New -- Photographs.
    Indians of North America -- Washington (State) -- Photographs.
    Inuit -- Photographs.
    Isleta Indians -- Photographs.
    Jicarilla Apache Tribe of the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation -- Photographs.
    Kalispel Indians -- Photographs.
    Kamia Indians -- Photographs.
    Karok Indians -- Photographs.
    Kaskimo Indians -- Photographs.
    Klamath Indians -- Photographs.
    Klikitat Indians -- Photographs.
    Luiseño Indians -- Photographs.
    Maidu Indians -- Photographs.
    Makah Indians -- Photographs.
    Mesa Grande Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Mesa Grande Reservation, California -- Photographs.
    Miwok Indians -- Photographs.
    Modoc Indians--Wars, 1873 -- Photographs.
    Mohave Indians -- Photographs.
    Monuments -- Pennsylvania -- Valley Forge -- Photographs.
    Mono Indians -- Photographs.
    Navajo Indians -- Photographs.
    Nez Percé Indians -- Photographs.
    Nootka Indians -- Photographs.
    Off-reservation boarding schools -- Photographs.
    Paiute Indians -- Photographs.
    Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915 : San Francisco, Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Pechanga Band of Mission Indians -- Photographs.
    Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians of California -- Photographs.
    Pima Indians -- Photographs.
    Pueblo Indians -- Photographs.
    Pueblo pottery -- Photographs.
    Puyallup Indians -- Photographs.
    Quinault Indians -- Photographs.
    Santo Domingo Indians -- Photographs.
    School children -- Photographs.
    Shasta Indians -- Photographs.
    Siwash Indians -- Photographs.
    Skokomish Indians -- Photographs.
    Snake dance--Arizona -- Photographs.
    Spokane Indians -- Photographs.
    Stores & shops -- California -- Pasadena -- Photographs.
    Taos school of art -- Photographs.
    Tapush Indians -- Photographs.
    Tolowa Indians -- Photographs.
    Totem poles -- Photographs.
    Tule River Indian Tribe of the Tule River Reservation, California -- Photographs.
    Umatilla Indians -- Photographs.
    Warm Spring Apache Indians -- Photographs.
    Wasco Indians -- Photographs.
    Washoe Indians -- Photographs.
    Wintu Indians -- Photographs.
    Wintun Indians -- Photographs.
    Yakama Indians -- Photographs.
    Yokuts Indians -- Photographs.
    Yuma Indians -- Photographs.
    Yurok Indians -- Photographs.
    Acoma Pueblo (N.M.) -- Photographs.
    Alaska -- Photographs.
    Arizona -- Photographs.
    Baja California (Mexico : Peninsula) -- Photographs.
    British Columbia -- Photographs.
    California -- Photographs.
    First Mesa (Ariz. : Mesa) -- Photographs.
    Humboldt County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Inyo County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Isleta Pueblo (N.M.) -- Photographs.
    Klamath River (Or. and Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico -- Photographs.
    Lake County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Nevada -- Photographs.
    New Mexico -- Photographs.
    Oraibi (Ariz.) -- Photographs.
    Oregon -- Photographs.
    Orleans (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Pasadena (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Quinault (Wash.) -- Photographs.
    Riverside County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Diego County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    San Francisco (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Santo Domingo Pueblo (N.M.) -- Photographs.
    Second Mesa (Ariz. : Mesa) -- Photographs.
    Siskiyou County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Sonoma County (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Taos Pueblo (N.M.) -- Photographs.
    Tesuque Pueblo (N.M.) -- Photographs.
    Trinity River (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Ukiah (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pa.) -- Photographs.
    Walpi (Ariz.) -- Photographs.
    Washington (State) -- Photographs.
    Yosemite National Park (Calif.) -- Photographs.
    Zuni (N.M.) -- Photographs.


    Cartes de visite.
    Film negatives.
    Glass negatives.
    Photograph albums.
    Photographic postcards.

    Alternate Authors

    Crandall, C. J., 1855-1935, photographer.
    Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941, photographer.
    Curtis, Edward S., 1868-1952, photographer.
    Davis, Edward H., 1862-, photographer.
    Ericson, A. W. (Augustus William), 1848-1927, photographer.
    Forbes, A. A., photographer.
    Gifford, Benjamin A., photographer.
    Greene, J. Edward, photographer
    Haight, George, photographer.
    Hartman, Carroll S., 1857-1933, photographer.
    Hawkins, J. Allen, 1915-, photographer.
    Heller, Louis, 1839-1928, photographer.
    Hiestand, J. G., photographer.
    Ironmonger, Charles, photographer
    Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942, photographer.
    La Roche, Frank, 1853-1934, photographer.
    Markham, B. C. (Benjamin Clayton), photographer.
    Martin, W. H. (William H.), 1865-1940, photographer.
    Meiser, J. A. (Jesse A.), photographer.
    Moorhouse, Lee, 1850-1926, photographer.
    Morse, Samuel G. (Samuel Gay), 1859-1921, photographer.
    Nowell, Frank H., 1864-1950, photographer.
    Palmer, Frank, 1864-1920, photographer.
    Price, Robert C., photographer.
    Rieder, M., photographer.
    Rinehart, F. A. (Frank A.), photographer.
    Sargent, H. E. (Homer Earle), 1875-1957, correspondent and photographer
    Waite, C. B. (Charles Betts), 1861-1927, photographer.
    Dickson & Thurber (firm)
    Detroit Photographic Co., photographer.
    Fred Harvey (Firm), publisher.
    Hillers Studio (firm)
    Lowman & Hanford Stationery & Printing Co.
    Marston, Van Pelt and Maybury (Firm), architect.
    Parker & Knight (firm)
    Pillsbury Picture Co., publisher.
    T.N. Hibben & Co., publisher.
    Valentine & Sons, publisher.