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Finding aid for the Henry E. Roberts Collection
SEKI 001  
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Collection Overview
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Henry E. Roberts was photo concessioner for General Grant National Park from 1900-1930. His collection of glass plate negatives, cellulose negatives, prints, stereographs, slides and correspondence weaves together different stages in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks history. The wealth of imagery includes park scenery, snapshots of life at Grant Grove Village, scrapbooks and correspondence documenting the life of the photographer and his family, and a number of early views of sequoia logging in and around Converse Basin. For the last of these alone, the collection is of considerable historic importance, but taken as a whole, the collection is irreplaceable for the breadth of view it offers into the parks early years of development.
Henry E. Roberts, operated the Grant Grove Studio from 1914 to 1935, selling images of park scenes to visitors and in large measure determining the public image of General Grant National. Roberts was born in Osceola, Iowa on September 10, 1869 and came west in the 1890s. By the turn of the twentieth century, he was in California, keeping bees in the former Russian colony of Sebastopol in Sonoma County. In the summer of 1904, he and his wife, Edna, set up a temporary photo studio in a tent at Millwood located in the mountains of Fresno. From here, he documented the devastation taking place with the sequoia logging operations at Converse Basin. By the end of the decade he had opened a permanent studio in Corona, in western Riverside County, producing photographic portraits and selling photographic supplies. Beginning in 1914, Roberts spent twenty-one summers at General Grant National Park. During the off-season, he would return to the studio in Corona. In later years when he had sold the studio, Roberts traveled with his second wife, Nelle, throughout Southern California setting up temporary portrait studios in places like Needles, Barstow, San Bernardino, and Lancaster. While in the park, Roberts took a number of trips into the Kings Canyon high country documenting the spectacular scenery of the area that would become, in 1940, Kings Canyon National Park. In 1935, Roberts left General Grant and returned to Corona. He briefly operated a malt shop, but soon reopened his photo studio. In an unpublished autobiographical fragment, Roberts writes of his photography: [F]or thirty-five years or more it was my business as well as my hobby. It was my pride and joy in life. The satisfaction I derived from making pictures was not to much from the sale of them, although this was a material necessity, as in the triumph of achievement. By the 1950s, Roberts had retired. In a 1959 note he left his photographic legacy to his only son, Harold Edmond (Eddie) Roberts: It is also my wish that you have all my negatives (glass and film), some are good but many are too old to be of much interest today. They are tales from a forgotten past. On May 30, 1961, H. E. Roberts died in Inglewood, California.
9 linear feet (22 archives boxes)
Many collections are former federal government records and are in the public domain. Other collections are from private sources; copyright has been transferred to the NPS on most. Some collections have publication restrictions. Staff will assist researchers in determining copyright status of selected materials. Researchers are required to properly credit all materials used. The researcher assumes responsibility for acquiring copyright permissions when needed.
Collection is open for research by appointment.