Portrait of a Chinese woman, c. 1890Young women seated on a staircase, San Francisco, c. 1890Constance Praeger Fox, holding Cecily Beatrice Fox, Mary Baker Fox, Los Angeles c. 1909. Mary Beatrice Fox Collection.
Around 1881, Mary Beatrice Fox’s (1876-1976!) family was among the first to settle in the new city of Pasadena, California. (Being that the Fox’s land was on the edge of Eaton Canyon, M.B. Fox eventually sold some of it to the county to create the well-loved park.) Fox inherited a trove of maps, deeds, letters, diaries and photographs, which she donated to the Huntington Library, providing an invaluable resource on early Pasadena and LA.
Constance Praeger Fox, the young mother in the photograph, seems to have published a book of poetry in 1929 called Fragments, and another in 1944 called A Handful of Songs. Constance and her daughter Cecily’s names also appear in a 1927 issue of Life. They seem to have donated to the magazine’s fund enabling poorer children to go to summer camp. Hupa Indian Reservation, c. 1896. Photograph by A.W. Ericson. Grace Nicholson Collection. (Caption written on photograph says Arcata, Cal–Indians)
Living in Northwestern California since about 1000 CE, the Hupa (Natinixwe) tribe were once recognized by their basket hats and red cedar planked houses. The government established the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in 1864, which is home to a population of about 2,600 today.
At the age of eighteen, a printer’s apprentice named Augustus William Ericson (1848-1927) left his native Sweden for the United States without his parents’ approval. By the 1880’s, Ericson settled in Northwest California (probably Arcata) and proceeded to photograph all aspects of the region with his son and business partner Edgar, right up to his death.
Grace Nicholson, the woman who donated this photo to the Huntington Library, also started a new life in California. Born in Philadelphia in 1877, Nicholson moved to Pasadena in 1901. Fueled by an interest in Native American culture, she spent the little money she had setting up a curio shop on Raymond Avenue.
In the 1910’s, Nicholson started collecting Asian art and artifacts. In the mid-’20s, she commissioned a building on Los Robles Ave. to house it all as well as herself–museum, gallery and apartment in one. In the 1940’s, Nicholson gave the building to the City of Pasadena for art and cultural purposes, maintaining her apartment until her death in 1948. Shortly after, it became the Pasadena Art Institute/Museum, remaining until 1970 when it moved and became the Norton Simon Museum. The Chinese-style mansion then became the stellar Pacific Asia Museum!
As a G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) band, these women were perhaps veteran nurses, secretaries etc. of the Union army in the Civil War. Mrs. Dwight Plympton Conklin, c. 1860. Photograph by Robert H. Vance.
This woman’s husband, born in 1829 in New York State, played some part in the California gold rush of 1849. He was rich, but I don’t know if that was already the case before the gold rush, if he profiteered from the gold rush or actually was a ’49er, or what. In the early 1850’s, they settled in San Francisco, where he died in 1856, meaning that at the time of this portrait, the young woman was a widow. Perhaps this is represented by the black cuffs around her wrists.
The photographer Robert H. Vance’s story begins with his birth in 1825 Maine to a 65 year-old father. But due to domestic problems, Vance and his siblings ended up the wards of Lot M. Morrill. His foster-dad went on to become Governor of Maine, a U.S. Senator, and then Secretary of the Treasury under President Grant. As a young man, Vance took up work as a daguerrotype photographer around New England. In 1847, he set sail for South America, establishing the first photography studios in Chile. He then high tailed it to California, snapping the first photographs of the gold rush. Carleton Watkins–one of whose photographs appeared in the previous post–apprenticed with Vance, as did many other Old California photographers. Mary A. McCloskey, c. 1855
Prettyman (1858-1932) was one of Oklahoma’s most prominent frontier photographers. After photographing an Osage group in Kansas, he became fascinated by the Plains tribes and the Southern tribes that had been relocated to the “Indian Territory” of Oklahoma. Setting up a studio in Blackwell, OK, for about a decade starting in 1883, Prettyman made at least one trip a year to photograph a Native community. William S. PrettymanCyclists in Mesa, Arizona, 1898. MacArthur Family Collection.
I assume this refers to General Douglas MacArthur’s family. In Douglas’ youth (b. 1880), his family lived at a succession of rugged army posts around the West, so perhaps that’s the connection to Mesa, Arizona if this is a photograph of his own relatives.
Come back soon for the final set of postcards of Women of the West!