Snail's Postcard Post

Women of the West Pt. I

Here’s the promised and belated postcard book of photographs of women in the old West. In fact, it is the first installment. Each postcard is so interesting, atmospheric and/or intimate that I couldn’t choose among them, so I’m going to share them all over the course of three posts. Hopefully the Huntington Library won’t sue me.

Because the photos are from the Huntington’s archives, many of them are of the Los Angeles area. I wish the images looked better, but as always with stiffly bound postcard books, the postcards were tough to photograph. I know you’ll enjoy them anyway. Saddle up for a nice long ride! 

IMG_6426On the cover is an Arizona female scout, c. 1896. A. Frank Randall Collection.

Based in Wilcox, Arizona, Randall was a correspondent and photographer for Leslie’s Magazine. From 1883-88, during the U.S.’s war on the Apache, Randall documented General George Crook’s campaign to capture Apaches who’d fled to Mexico, and he remains best known for his Apache portraits. IMG_6427Employees of the Southern California Packing Company, Macy and Anderson Streets, Los Angeles 1895.

As an Angeleno, I was perplexed not knowing this intersection. Although I didn’t find any specific information, it seems that East Cesar E. Chavez Ave. used to be Macy Street. Anderson Street doesn’t cross Cesar Chavez, but perhaps it used to, or perhaps Macy Street’s route was different in this section than Cesar Chavez’. If you know, please comment! 800px-Los_Angeles_Downtown_locatorAnderson Street is the white line east of Mission Road running from 6th to 1st Streets. 

By the way, when I looked up Macy Street, I encountered a well-researched webpage of historic Downtown/East LA postcards and photos. Check out East of Main Street. Then, if you go to the home/index page, you’ll see that there are similar pages on other parts of the city and region. 
Grinding corn, c. 1890. A. Frank Randall Collection.IMG_6435Chemehuevi woman making splints, c. 1900. C.C. Pierce Collection.

The Chemehuevi tribe (or Nuwu, as they call themselves) are a branch of the Southern Paiute from the Mojave Desert. The tribe only has a few hundred members today. In 1853, the federal government claimed nearly all the tribe’s land. The Nuwu became concentrated in their remaining land in the Chemehuevi Valley near Lake Havasu, which was designated a reservation in 1907. To learn more about the modern history of the Chemehuevi, succinctly written, check out  the tribe’s own website.   

The C.C. Pierce photography collection is one of the most important when it comes to early California, especially the Los Angeles area. Once Charles Chester Pierce (b. 1861) moved to LA in 1886, he took up work at a succession of photo studios, capturing the boomtown on film. Around 1900–the same time as the above photograph–Pierce opened his own studio at 313 Spring Street. Not only was Pierce a photographer, but he collected the work of his colleagues (removing their names from the prints and stamping his own), which is why his collection is such a valuable resource.

IMG_6438Woman playing guitar at Rancho Camulos. C.C. Pierce Collection. 

Rancho Camulos–near Piru in Ventura Co., California–ran under two families from 1853 until the 1940s. On the Rancho Camulos website, there’s another photograph of a young woman with a guitar, and she’s identified as Nena del Valle Cram, b. 1873, a great-niece of the ranch’s founder. I can’t tell if this is the same musician.pictures_from_gary_236-207x317IMG_6441

Fruit cutters at work. C.C. Pierce Collection. IMG_6443A.E. Harrington’s strawberry ranch, Montebello, California. C.C. Pierce Collection.IMG_6445“Mama Pushing Car at Bachelor Mine,” Ouray, Colorado, May 1899. John Marshall Collection.

By 1895, the Bachelor of Syracuse mine was the highest producing mine (silver and gold) in Southwest Colorado. This photograph seems to have been a personal one later obtained by mineralogist and Colorado mining history enthusiast John H. Marshall (1931-2008). (Marshall donated a world-class mineral collection to the Ouray County Museum.) 

I’m itching to add that though you won’t strike it rich there anymore, I think Ouray’s location is the real treasure. On a long drive one March day, I perked up from my drowsiness as Route 550–clinging to the canyon wall–revealed the exquisite, pitched roofs of a Victorian village below: Ouray. This Christmas card vision was set against the granite mountain face, twinkling with waterfalls of ice.  IMG_6447Marlborough School girls with art history books, Los Angeles, 1895. Katherine Putnam Hooker Collection.

This one blew me away. Marlborough is the oldest independent girls school in Southern California. A ditzy finishing school at mid-century (according to the non-Marlborough kids of the day), it’s now an overly rigorous college preparatory. I had no idea it was once so bucolic and casual. (Unless the photograph is completely staged.) I’d step into this scene in a heartbeat!

Katherine Putnam Hooker (1849-1935) moved to Los Angeles in 1886. Around 1891, she and her family moved into a spacious house at 325 S. Adams St. in what is now Glendale, just north of LA-proper. Her daughter Marian was an amateur photographer from a young age, so I wonder if she attended Marlborough and took this photo of her friends.90100932_133696929777Katherine Putnam Hooker


Santa Barbara women, c. 1880. Photograph by Carleton E. Watkins.

Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916) was one of the earliest and most geographically diverse photographers in the West. The website cataloguing his photographs shows how this one, like most of his work, was originally printed as a stereograph titled “Beauties of Santa Barbara.”w4520p

Y’all come back for Part II now, y’hear?



This entry was published on August 23, 2013 at 11:28 pm. It’s filed under Historical, U.S.A. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Women of the West Pt. I

  1. This is great! The woman playing the guitar in the second picture is playing it left-hand. Either she’s Paul McCartney, the picture’s flipped, or she’s just posing… Note avocado tree in background of Marlboro girls pic–very California. Love that you go behind the scenes, your research is fascinating.

  2. Southern California Packing Co. was between Aliso and Cesar Chavez, west of Pleasant St. It’s all under the 101 on the east bank of the LA River. See this industry map from the Huntington for the location; it looks like they shaded in the cannery site, but didn’t actually mark it.
    Southern California Packing Co. was one of the companies that merged into the California Fruit Canners Association in 1899, which then became part of the California Packing Corporation (Del Monte) in 1916. I’m still trying to figure out what happened to the Los Angeles plant.

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