Southern California Edison. Bike Boys. 1912. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The Huntington Library houses approximately 500,000 prints and negatives spanning the century from 1850 to 1950. This superlative collection, which covers a variety of topics from the American Civil War to the building of the transcontinental railroad, from "Grand Tours" of Europe to modest family photograph albums, is particularly strong in depicting the history and development of the American West.
Within this broad regional focus are late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries images related to Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and the territories of Alaska and Hawaii. Into the twentieth century there is increased emphasis on collections depicting various aspects of Southern California and Los Angeles. Subjects represented within the regional framework include photography generated by the nineteenth century great surveys of the American West, commissioned by both railroad corporations and the federal government; Native American tribes; National Parks (notably Yosemite and Yellowstone); Transportation; Mining; Agriculture; Irrigation; Tourism; Prominent families of California; Urban and suburban planning and development; Southern California architecture, to name but a few. Ongoing interest in the historical development of the region culminated in an online exhibition that features more than a dozen authors, critics, and scholars curating photographs from the 70,000-strong Southern California Edison archive at The Huntington.
Maynard Parker, M. Chaffin residence, Emerald Bay, Laguna Beach, California, 1948. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The Huntington has traditionally collected the work of noted photographers, most of whom were professionally active at the end of the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twentieth. The collection contains significant bodies of work by Carleton Watkins, Carl Moon, Frederick Monsen, Edward Curtis, Alfred A. Hart, F. Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Adam Clark Vroman, Andrew Russell, Eadweard Muybridge, C.C. Pierce, Frances Benjamin Johnston and others.
In recent years The Huntington has acquired the collections of several commercial photographers whose work documents various phases in the history of Southern California and elsewhere. These include the J. Allen Hawkins Collection of Pasadena (1910-1960), the "Dick" Whittington Collection of the development of southern California in the post WWII boom years, the B.D. Jackson Collection depicting the developing suburbs of Los Angeles, the Henry G. Peabody Collection, and the Maynard Parker Collection.
Photographs are found in a variety of formats and genres in the collections. Not surprisingly, The Huntington contains a rich collection of photographically-illustrated books with excellent examples of British photographic incunabula as well as many rare items from early America, California and the West. Family and travel albums (the Lady Anna Brassey Collection is the preeminent example of the latter) have been a collecting emphasis and are continually added to the collections.
The stereographic format is well represented with over 250 photographers and publishers represented in the stereographic collection. There is a sizable portrait file and an eclectic assortment of 110 cased images including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. There are a hundred or more excellent panoramic photographs and negatives and many excellent examples of landscape photography.
Ansel Adams, Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, 1927, gelatin silver print, 11 1/4 × 8 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The photograph collection is not a static entity and continues to grow through gift and purchase. The Huntington collects material within its stated interests which cover the time period from the beginning of photography up to the present day.
Recent Additions to the Collection
The Huntington has received all seven Ansel Adams portfolios in a gift from George Melvin Byrne and Barbara S. Barrett-Byrne. Over the course of his long career, Ansel Adams produced seven portfolios, each a group of between 10 and 15 photographs selected and printed by the artist himself. They represented, Adams said, “an excellent cross-section of my work.”
In 2014, The Huntington acquired the Ernest Marquez Collection of photographs. The collection records Santa Monica’s transformation from rustic hamlet to international symbol of the California good life, with prints from the 1870s to the 1950s. “This photo archive was amassed over a 50-year period by a descendent of Mexican land grantees who owned the 6,000-acre Rancho Boca de Santa Monica or present-day Rustic and Santa Monica Canyons, Pacific Palisades, and portions of the city of Santa Monica,” said Jennifer A. Watts, curator of photographs at The Huntington. “The resulting group of photographs is the best and most comprehensive collection of its kind in private hands.”
Access to the Collection
Researchers must apply for a Reader's Card through the Reader Services Department. In general, an applicant must demonstrate specific scholarly intent in order to use the collections. In some instances, appointments may be made with the curator to view the collections. Research fellowships are available to scholars who have a long-term project which requires them to be on site for one to six months. Applications and information about the Fellowship Program are available from the Research Division.
E.G. Morrison (ca. 1827–1888), Roller Coaster at the Arcadia Hotel, Santa Monica, late 1880s. Albumen print, Ernest Marquez Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Reproductions are available for most items in the collections. The Huntington provides digital images, 8x10 inch prints, photocopies, microfilm digitization, and a variety of other facsimiles. Requested material is shipped digitally through email; larger orders via WeTransfer.com. For all other shipments standard postal system is used. We require pre-payment on all orders through charge cards, checks drawn on a United States bank, money orders in U.S. dollars, or in cash. Visit Imaging Services for information about permissions and pricing.