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Charles H. Abbott photographs
MS 110  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Charles H. Abbott photographs,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1915-1935
    Collection number: MS 110
    Origination: Abbott, Charles H. (Charles Henry)
    Collection Size: 4 photograph boxes
    Repository: University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library. Special Collections and Archives
    Santa Cruz, California 95064
    Abstract: This collection contains photographs taken by Abbott during his tour of duty as a member of the 23rd Engineers in Europe during and after WWI.
    Physical location: Stored in Special Collections & Archives: Advance notice is required for access to the collection.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Charles H. Abbott photographs, MS 110, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Charles Abbott.


    Charles Henry Abbott was born in small lumber town of Cambro, Michigan in 1894. The family moved west to Portland, Oregon when he was young. He lived there until after high school when he followed his brother to Hawaii to work on a pineapple plantation. While in Hawaii, he served in the Hawaiian National Guard. Charles was drafted into the Army, 23d Engineers on Nov. 16, 1917. The next four years were spent on the front lines of WWI in Europe. During and after the end of the WWI, Chuck photographed the war torn landscape. After the war he traveled throughout Europe and eventually ended up in New York, where he formed Chas. H. Abbott Photography and sold sets of his war photos. With money from the sale of the photographic sets he was able to open an exotic bird shop on Fifth Avenue with his German partner. The business prospered until the Depression in Germany destroyed the trade in exotic birds.
    While in New York, Charles met and married the daughter of a wealthy rug merchant and had a daughter. When the pet shop closed, the Abbotts moved to Florida and opened "Abott's Joint", a dance hall and casino on the coast. The hurricane of 1928 destroyed the dance hall and ended the first marriage. Mrs. Abbott and their baby daughter went back to New York, and Chuck, at the request of his sister, came west to Carmel, California. In Carmel, he opened a small coffee shop on Main Street. After approximately five years in business and with the realization that the coffee shop was a dead end, he was persuaded move to Palm Springs by Nellie Coffman, proprietor of the Desert Inn. There he became known as the "Cowboy Host". He would serve up breakfast rides and barbecues for the rich and famous patrons of the Desert Inn, regaling them with stories and cowboy songs. The breakfasts and dinners became such a hit that during the off-season, he traveled to the East Coast to host "Cowboy" dinners for the wealthy EAst Coast patrons.
    In the late 1939 or so, Chuck was hired by the Tucson Sunshine Club to be the "Cowboy Photographer", the handsome Stetson wearing photographer who specialized in taking pictures of important people visiting the Tucson resorts. The photos would be sent to their hometown papers, bringing publicity to Tucson. Local Tucson photographers were furious that the Sunshine Club didn't hire one of their own and formed a committee to protest the hiring of Chuck Abbott. Esther Henderson, co-owner of one of the town's most well-known photography studio was elected chairwoman. She protested Abbott's hiring but was told it was too late to do anything about it. Chuck was warned about the protest and went to see her to smooth the waters. Esther at first refused to see him, but later went for drinks. The next weekend they went on a picnic, taking their cameras to shoot pictures together and within two months, they were married.
    They remained in Tucson, raising two sons, Carl and Mark, and working as free-lance photographers and for " Arizona Highways". On vacations they would travel around the country documenting the rise of "the mall" in America and "Downtown Ecology". In 1962 the Abbotts retired to Santa Cruz, California. There they fought to revitalize the downtown, advocating for a pedestrian mall and saving the Victorian houses that remained. In 1965, when their son Mark was drowned while body surfing in the waters off Lighthouse Point, the Abbotts decided to donate a lighthouse to the city in honor of their son. Five years earlier, the city had purchased all of the lighthouse property except for the area immediately around the still active wooden Coast Guard tower. In 1967, the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse was built adjacent to the wooden tower that it would replace. The lantern room from the decommissioned Oakland Harbor Lighthouse was used atop the new lighthouse, and Mark's ashes were buried at the base of the tower. Chuck known as the "Father of the Mall", died in 1973. Esther lived on in their original home, alongside her son, daughter-in-law and grandsons until her death in 2003.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection contains photographs taken by Charles H. Abbott during his tour of duty in the 23rd Engineers during World War I. These photographs constitute the "Overseas War Views", photograph sets produced and sold by Abbott after the war. Also included are two sets of "war views" collected by Abbott, one for the French public and one for the German public, documenting the German Revolution, ca. 1918-1919.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Abbott, C. H.--Archives
    World War, 1914-1918--Pictorial source
    Photographs, black and white