Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Stereographic Views from the Eugene Compton Collection by Carleton E. Watkins
Date (inclusive): 1870-1885
Collection Number: BANC PIC 1965.027--STER
Carleton E. Watkins
37 stereographs; b&w: 9 x 18 cm.
37 digital objects
The Bancroft Library.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: The Stereographic Views from the Eugene Compton Collection consists of 37 stereographic prints taken by Carleton E. Watkins
during the years 1870-1885.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
Information for Researchers
Collection is available for use.
Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction
of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions,
privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond
that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be
commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the
Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See:
[Identification of item], Stereographic Views from the Eugene Compton Collection by Carleton E. Watkins, BANC PIC 1965.027--STER,
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.
Title: Miscellaneous Stereoviews from the Eugene Compton Collection,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1965.030 -- STER
Title: Yosemite Stereoviews,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1965.028 -- STER
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
Compton, Eugene. Associated name CU-BANC
Harris, W., photographer.
Online Archive of California.
Hetch Hetchy Valley (Calif.) -- Pictorial works.
Indians of North America -- California -- Yosemite Valley -- Photographs.
Mechanics' Institute (San Francisco, Calif.) -- Pictorial works.
Park, T. W. (Trenor William), 1823-1882 -- Pictorial works.
Tuolumne Meadows (Calif.) -- Pictorial works.
Wharves -- California -- Oakland -- Pictorial works.
Yosemite National Park (Calif.) -- Pictorial works.
Yosemite Valley -- Photographs.
The Eugene Compton Collection was donated by Eugene Compton circa 1965.
Carleton E. Watkins was born in Oneonta, Oswego county, New York, on November 11, 1829. He was the youngest of five children
of a Scottish innkeeper. During his youth he became acquainted with Collis P. Huntington, who frequented his father's hotel.
Soon after the discovery of gold, both young men went to California, where Huntington later became one of the Big Four who
built the Central Pacific Railroad.
In 1854, while working as a clerk in a store on Montgomery Street, Watkins met R. H. Vance, the daguerreotypist who had studios
in San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento. The employee at Vance's San Jose studio had suddenly quit and Vance asked Watkins
if he would fill in until a permanent replacement could be found. Although he knew nothing of photographic processes, Watkins
agreed. For the first few days he was simply the care-taker of the studio, but when Vance could not find a new operator, he
instructed Watkins in coating the daguerreotype plates and making exposures. With only the briefest instructions, Watkins
was able to make portraits and completely operated the gallery for a short period. In 1857 or 1858 Watkins returned to San
Francisco where he established his own photographic studio for portraits and view photography.
Watkins usually spent a large portion of the summer traveling throughout California, leaving his gallery and studio in the
hands of an assistant. In 1858 or 1859 he visited the Mariposa Grove and was the first person to photograph the "Grizzly Giant."
In 1861, Watkins visited the Yosemite Valley and made the first 18" x 22" landscape photographs in California (and possibly
the world). He made many more trips to Yosemite during the 1860's and 1870's.
In 1868 Watkins made his first trip to Oregon, where he made the first photographic reproductions of the Columbia River. Five
years later, Watkins went to Utah with his wagon, team and photographic equipment on railroad cars. Thanks to his friend Collis
P. Huntington, he traveled free. He was accompanied on this trip by close friend and artist William Keith, who made extensive
use of Watkins' photographs for many of his oil paintings.
During the winter of 1871-72, Watkins expanded his San Francisco gallery (the Yosemite Gallery), which put an extra strain
on his finances. When the Bank of California went under in 1874, Watkins lost his Yosemite Art Galley to competitors J.J.
Cook and I.W. Taber. Not only did his competitors take over his Gallery, they took all of his negatives as well. Watkins then
began the task of rebuilding his collection, which meant rephotographing many of the sites he had visited earlier in his career.
"Watkins' New Series" of views replaced those lost in the foreclosure. Watkins did become reassociated with the Yosemite Gallery,
first as a photographer, and later as manager, but never as the owner.
Watkins went to the Comstock Lode, near Virginia City, Nevada, in 1876. Here he made many of the photographs that comprise
the Hearst Collection. It was probably during this trip that he met Frances Sneed, who later managed his Montgomery Street
studio and became his wife on November 11, 1880 (Watkins' fiftieth birthday). They had two children : a daughter, Julia and
a son, Collis.
In 1880, Watkins went to Southern California for the first time and traveled along the line of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Later he went to the "End of the Track" and as far as Tombstone Arizona. The photographs taken by Watkins on this trip represent
some of the earliest views of San Bernardino, San Gabriel, Pasadena, Los Angeles and San Diego. On the way back to San Francisco,
he followed the old overland stage road, traveling the greater part of the way in his wagon and photographing most of the
Franciscan missions. These pictures constitute the earliest photographic collection of California Missions.
On a second trip to the Northwest in 1890, Watkins made a series of stereoscopic views in Victoria, B. C. He extended this
trip into Montana where he made 18" x 22" views of the Anaconda copper mines and other properties. His last large commercial
job and long country trip was to photograph the development work of the Kern County Land Company near Bakersfield. He made
seven hundred views using 8" x 10" dry plate negatives. In the late 1890's, Watkins began to photograph the Hearst Hacienda
near Pleasanton for Phoebe Apperson Hearst, but ill health prevented him from completing the assignment.
Watkins was in the process of negotiating with Stanford University for the sale of his plates, photographs, etc. when the
1906 earthquake struck San Francisco. By this time, Watkins was partially blind, in poor health and experiencing financial
difficulties. He had been living with his family in his studio on the top floor of a building on the southeast corner of Ninth
and Market Streets. Immediately following the quake, Watkins' wife and daughter went to the refugee camp at the Presidio.
Watkins was led by his son to the home of his old friend, C. B. Turrill, who had assisted Watkins financially in the past.
Watkins' entire collection was destroyed in the fire which followed the quake. He was shocked by the loss of his life's work
and shortly thereafter retired to his small ranch near Capay in Yolo County. The ranch had been deeded to Watkins through
the offices of Collis P. Huntington of the Southern Pacific Railroad for his faithful, but unpaid, service to the railroad.
Watkins never recovered from the shock of losing his entire collection in the San Francisco fire. He managed to live at the
ranch with his family until it became necessary to have him committed to the Napa State Hospital at Imola, California in 1910.
He died on June 23, 1916 at the age of eighty-seven and was buried on the hospital grounds.
The Early Pacific Coast Photographs of Carleton E. Watkins, by J. W. Johnson, Professor of Hydraulic Engineering, University of California Berkeley, and "The Life and Photography of
Carleton E. Watkins", by Peter E. Palmquist.)
Scope and Content
The Stereographic Views from the Eugene Compton Collection consists of 37 stereographic prints taken by Carleton E. Watkins
during the years 1870-1885. The collection consists of views in California, for the most part in Yosemite, encompassing views
of El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks, the Yosemite and Vernal Falls, camping in Yosemite, etc. A number of the scenes in Yosemite
have been tinted. Also included is a view of Watkins' Exhibit at the Mechanics' Institute, houses and ranches and other views.
The collection also contains one view of Carson City, Nevada. The stereographs are distributed into three Series: "Watkins'
Pacific Coast," Watkins' "Central Pacific Railroad," and "Watkins New Series," some of which bear the photographer's number.
Printed captions are reprinted in the containers listing. Captions in parentheses appear in manuscript on the stereographs.
Captions in brackets have been supplied.