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.
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.
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.
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.
Reproductions are available for most items in the collections. The Huntington provides 8x10 inch glossy prints, xerox copies, 35 mm slides, color transparencies (on a six month loan basis), microfilm, and a variety of other facsimiles. We require prepayment on all orders through checks drawn on a United States bank, money orders in U.S. dollars, or in cash. A price list of available services is available through the Photographic Services Department