By Gregory L. Williams
The San Diego Historical Society’s collection of photograph albums consists of professional, organizational, historical, or family albums used to document activity such as family vacations, the history of San Diego, the work of a photographer, or the work of a company. The subjects included in the photograph albums includes the military (Army, Navy, Navy- Air), schools, California scenes, travel, California Missions, Mission San Diego, Mexican insurrections, adobes, San Diego views, camps for children, floods, Crystal Pier construction, Hamilton Grocery Co., transportation (railways, busses and trolleys), passport photographs, art and architecture, San Diego watershed, Boldrick’s Shoe Store, Russell Parachute Co., Resthaven Preventorium, California Electric Works, Native Americans, SS President Wilson, Baja California, dam construction, and many other subjects. The collection includes many albums concerning the Panama-California Exposition (1915) and the California-Pacific Exposition (1935) both in Balboa Park.
Professional or amateur photographers represented in the collection include Carl H. Huchting, Walter E. Averette, A.C. Platt, Harry Erickson, Herbert Fitch, Larry Booth, O.A. Tunnell, Ed Coffer, J.R. Evans, Tom Miller, Ralph Stineman, and Robert V. Steele (newspaper hawker). The collection contains several albums of lithographs of San Diego scenes often printed by the Albertype Company.
Many of the albums consist of family albums put together to document family activities or trips. Family names represented in the collection include: Scripps, Mason, Marks, Hill, Thurston, Fraser, Winn, Hayman, Shafer, Babcock, Carmell, Dysart, Beam/Graham, Shirley, Campbell, Elliott, Stedman, Griest, Wilde, Duchy-Thieme, Newkirk, Chase-Ross, Thompson, Levi, Gaskill, Thing, Klauber, Gorton, Morrison, Sprague, Barkley, Mills, Wooden, Ross, Roberts and many others.
As a group the albums collected here easily echo the way photograph albums were collected throughout the U.S. Initially photograph albums consisted of ornate books filled with carte-de- visite portraits of family members or prominent individuals (1860s-1870s) and then cabinet cards were placed in similar albums (1880s-1890s). With the advent of the personal snapshot photograph albums became more personal. The albums began to document family activity or travel throughout the region, nation and the world (1890s-1930s). The albums generated out of San Diego follow a similar pattern. Often local families would take pictures of their short camping or picnic trips to the back country, east of San Diego, and also when they visited the Hotel Del Coronado, the beaches, rock formations at La Jolla, Old Town, Sweetwater Dam, the San Diego Mission, the Expositions at Balboa Park and many other once familiar San Diego landmarks.
Many albums are not in their original condition. The use of acidic black construction paper or adhesive plastic has resulted in deterioration of some photographs. Some photographs have been removed from their original binders. Some photograph albums came to the Society in poor condition. Photograph albums that have a great artifactual value have been left intact while albums with no artifactual value have been removed from potentially hazardous enclosures. The albums are listed by number. Some numbers are not represented.