Helen Plummer Gatch photographs collection, 1880-circa 1910  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Gatch, Helen Plummer, 1861-1942
Helen Plummer Gatch photographs collection
1880-circa 1910 (inclusive)
0.21 cubic feet, (23 photographs in 1 box)
Collection Number
Org. Lot 32
Collection of work by photographer and artist, Helen Plummer Gatch, a pictorialist from Salem, Or., mostly depicting family members and views of the Oregon coast, along with other portraits of family members.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Helen Plummer Gatch (1861-1942) was born in Alton, Illinois, to Dr. Orlando P.S. Plummer, who moved to Portland, Ore. with his three daughters in 1864 after the death of their mother. As a young woman, Helen taught school before her marriage to Claud Gatch (born 1859), a banker who served as mayor of Salem, Or. from 1893-1896. They had two children, Orytha “Ryth” (born 1886) and Thomas Leigh “Tam” (1891-1954).

Helen Gatch, an ambitious amateur photographer, used her domestic life and her children as subjects for her pictorial photography, but also appears to have done documentary photographs during the 1890s, including one of the Oregon Insane Asylum in Salem. Although she did not construct stage sets for her photographs as other pictorialists did, Gatch used composition, costuming, and titles to pictorialize her subjects and to produce Dutch genre images. One example is “Romeo and Juliet” (Oregon Historical Society negative number CN004533), made in 1891, showing Ryth and Asahel Bush, Jr., playing Shakespeare at the Bush family home in Salem. This image was frequently reproduced and exhibited. Gatch used prominent Salem homes and friends as sets and models for her pictorial photography. She also photographed at the family summer house on the Oregon Coast near Newport.

Gatch made her mark at the local, regional, and national levels with winning contest entries and acceptance of her work into salons at San Francisco and Philadelphia. She joined the Salon Club (which opposed the Photo-Secessionists) and was involved in the organization of the Federation of American Photographic Societies in 1904. Her work was shown in the first American Photographic Salon later that year in New York, and it came to Portland the following year as the first show at the new Portland Art Museum. Gatch served on the committee for the second American Salon and on the jury for the third. She also was active in the Oregon Camera Club.

The Gatch family moved to California in 1912, and Helen died in Oakland on January 11, 1942.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of photographs taken by Helen Plummer Gatch, 1880-circa 1910. Gatch's photographs include cyanotype coast scenes on the vicinity of the family's summer cottage at Newport, as well as black-and-white prints depicting her children, Thomas Leigh and Orytha Gatch, and other family members, including Governor Stephen Fowler Chadwick and his wife, Jane Ann Smith Chadwick. This series also includes a photogravure of an award-winning Dutch genre print. A second series includes portraits of Helen, her husband Claud, and other unidentified family members, taken by professional portrait photographers in Portland and Salem, Or. The collection description also includes images from both series that were separated into an individually cataloged system at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any reproduction use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Helen Plummer Gatch photographs collection, Org. Lot 32, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series A:  Photographs by Helen Plummer Gatch, circa 1890-circa 1905Return to Top

The photographs include cyanotypes taken by Helen Plummer Gatch on the Oregon coast near the family’s summer home at Newport and black-and-white mounted family snapshots and art photography prints. Also included is a photogravure of an award-winning Dutch genre scene, possibly from a Salon portfolio.

Container(s) Description Dates
Oregon coast - cyanotypes
Images include views of the Gatch cottage, dunes, surf, and the Jump Off Joe rock formation. People pictured include Thomas Leigh Gatch and unidentified women in bathing costumes.Images in Cataloged System: Helen and Claud Gatch cottage and surrounding cottages at Newport (original at 314P122) and a portrait of Mrs. Claud Gatch, Sr. [mother of Claud Gatch, Jr., and wife of the University of Oregon President], made in the cottage (314P123).
1900-circa 1904
Scenic views
“Oregon Woods,” location unidentified (cyanotype)Image in cataloged system: Untitled pastoral, two young women on steam bank reflected (black-and-white), circa 1900 (315P118)
circa 1900
Orytha Gatch
Two mounted pictorial style viewsImage in cataloged system: (315P105)
circa 1890
Orytha and Thomas Leigh Gatch
Governor Stephen Fowler Chadwick and family
Mounted snapshots, probably by Helen Plummer Gatch. Family group includes the governor and his wife, Jane Ann Smith Chadwick, with other Gatch family members. There is also an individual photo of Jane Ann Smith Chadwick in a garden.
circa 1895
Dutch genre scene, probably of Gatch children in costume—photogravure labeled “First Award"
circa 1905

Series B:  Family portraits, 1880-circa 1910Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Helen Plummer Gatch and Claud Gatch
Individual studio portraits, circa 1895, circa 1910Image in cataloged system: Claude Gatch, circa 1900 (314P066)
circa 1895-circa 1910
Grace Plummer
Unidentified children
circa 1895

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Women photographers
  • Personal Names :
  • Chadwick, Jane Anne Smith, 1835-1916--Photographs
  • Chadwick, Stephen Fowler, 1825-1895--Photographs
  • Gatch, Claude, b. 1859--Homes and haunts--Newport (Or.)--Photographs
  • Gatch, Helen Plummer, 1861-1942--Photographs
  • Gatch, Claude, b. 1859--Photographs
  • Gatch, Orytha, b. 1886--Photographs
  • Gatch, Thomas Leigh, 1891-1942--Photographs
  • Geographical Names :
  • Newport (Or.)--Beaches--Photographs
  • Newport (Or.)--Dwellings--Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Cyanotypes
  • Photographic prints