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Views of Yosemite by George Fiske, ca. 1880-1890
BANC PIC 19xx.066--ALB  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Views of Yosemite by George Fiske
    Date: ca. 1880-1890
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 19xx.066--ALB
    Photographer: George Fiske
    Extent: 1 album (68 photographic prints); 15 x 23 cm. 68 digital objects
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection stored off-site. Advance notice required for use.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library 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 reader.
    Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Views of Yosemite by George Fiske, ca. 1880-1890, BANC PIC 19xx.066--ALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Digital Representations Available

    Digital representations of selected original pictorial materials are available in the list of materials below. Digital image files were prepared from selected Library originals by the Library Photographic Service. Library originals were copied onto 35mm color transparency film; the film was scanned and transferred to Kodak Photo CD (by Custom Process); and the Photo CD files were color-corrected and saved in JFIF (JPEG) format for use as viewing files.

    Related Collections

    The Bancroft Library has extensive holdings of Fiske's work. Search under his name in the on-line catalog for additional collections.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information



    George Fiske was born October 22, 1835, in Amherst, New Hampshire, and raised on the family's farm. In 1858, at the age of 22, he moved west to Sacramento, California, where he worked as a banking clerk for his half-brother Thomas Fiske, of Thomas Fiske & Co. Located in the same building as the bank was the Vance & Weed Photographic Gallery, owned by Robert H. Vance and managed by Charles Leander Weed, the first photographer of Yosemite Valley. In the years following his move to California, it is likely that Fiske received a good amount of photographic training --though where and by whom is not certain --for in 1864 he surfaced as a freelance photographer in San Francisco. In 1868, after a brief hiatus from photography spent farming in the Santa Clara Valley, Fiske returned to San Francisco and became an assistant to Carleton E. Watkins. During the next few years he was employed as a photographer for Thomas Houseworth & Co., and worked with Eadweard Muybridge photographing the Yosemite Valley. In a one-year span between 1872 and 1873, Fiske lost his mother, father and half-brother James, and married his first wife, Elmira ("Myra") F. Morrill. In 1874 Fiske returned to work for Watkins. The following year Watkins went bankrupt, causing another hiatus in Fiske's career. In 1879, after resuming his photographic practice in San Francisco, Fiske moved to the Yosemite Valley, becoming its first year-round resident photographer. While at Yosemite, where he lived for nearly the remainder of his life, Fiske became the close friend of Galen Clark, established a long-running though modest photographic concession of landscape views and custom tourist portraits, and ceaselessly photographed the many features of the Valley and its environs.
    In 1884 Fiske began to receive the recognition due his work. Upon viewing Fiske's prints on exhibition at the New Orleans World's Fair, the influential Philadelphia Photographer critic Edward L Wilson described his work as "gems of photographic art" that "place Mr. Fiske in the front rank." That same year, Fiske sent a selection of his photographs to London for the inspection of John Ruskin, who replied, "It is impossible to choose subjects more fitly, or to do better work." Despite this and posthumous praise from the likes of Beaumont Newhall and Ansel Adams, Fiske is yet to be widely recognized as a prominent figure in the history of photography.
    In 1896, Myra Fiske died of cancer. The following year George Fiske married Caroline ("Carrie") Paull. In 1904 a fire destroyed Fiske's house and studio, as well as two cameras, two lenses, three quarters of his glass-plate negatives, and a large portion of his stock of prints. (A 1943 fire destroyed the remainder of Fiske's glass-plate negatives.) After the deaths of Galen Clark in 1910 and his wife Carrie in 1917, Fiske become very despondent. In 1918, facing dim business prospects and suffering intensely from a brain tumor, George Fiske committed suicide. He was buried next to Galen Clark in Yosemite's Pioneer Cemetery.
    (Sources: Paul Hickman, The Life and Photographic Works of George Fiske, 1835-1918 (M.A. Thesis, Arizona State University, 1979); Paul Hickman and Terence Pitts, George Fiske, Yosemite Photographer (Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Press; Tucson: University of Arizona, Center for Creative Photography, 1980).)

    Scope and Content

    The Views of Yosemite album contains 68 photographic prints taken by George Fiske, likely in the 1880s. The photographs are mainly of Yosemite Valley in the winter. Views include Black Spring, domes from Columbia Rock, Inspiration Point, El Capitan Bridge, and Grizzly Peak. The album also includes a photograph of a burro-drawn sled bearing an advertisement for Fiske's landscape photography business. Many of the photographs in the album are uncaptioned.