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California Family Photograph Album Collection, circa 1890-1955Part of the Edith C. Smith Photograph Collection
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Collection Overview
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This collection of photograph albums provides pictorial documentation of the material culture and life events shared by several families living in Northern California during the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Recurring themes include images of residential life, gatherings of family and friends, travel to cities such as San Francisco, Monterey, Long Beach, and retreats to regions in the Sierra Nevada such as Yosemite, or coastal areas, such as Sea cliff Beach in Santa Cruz.
The historical significance within these albums rest on the fact that prior to their creation, amateur photography was too expensive and technically advanced for most Americans. If a person could afford it, a local or itinerant photographer would be hired to create a photograph. Subjects who "sat" for a photography session typically wore their finest clothes and approached the occasion with a degree of formality and poise. For several decades, camera film often required several minutes to be correctly exposed to light, meaning subjects would need to hold the same position and facial expression for several minutes to create a sharp photograph. This often led to photographs that appeared contrived, cold, or impersonal. These limitations started to give way in 1880's with the development of amateur camera equipment, simpler film, and commercial film processing. By the year 1900, middle class families could easily purchase and operate a camera on their own, producing their own photographs. The time of photography for only special occasions had ended; with greater accessibility, homemade photograph albums like those found in this collection became possible. Photography had ascended to a common but culturally significant activity of visually recording life in both the public and private spheres. (1)
2 cubic feet
Copyright has not been assigned to the Sourisseau Academy. Neither the original photographs nor the digital images held by the Sourisseau Academy may be reproduced, published, or used on the Internet without the expressed, written permission of the Executive Secretary. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Sourisseau Academy as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher. The credit line, "Courtesy of the Edith C. Smith Trust Collection, Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History" must accompany any such use.
Collection is open for research.