Carleton E. Watkins stereoviews, 1867-1890

Overview of the Collection

Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916
Carleton E. Watkins stereoviews
1867-1890 (inclusive)
1867 (bulk)
54 stereoview cards; 2 imperial photographic cards (1 box; 1 folder) ; various sizes
Collection Number
Stereoview cards by Carleton E. Watkins
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Entire collection can be viewed on the Libraries’ Digital Collections website. Permission of Visual Materials Curator required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Carleton E. Watkins was born November 11, 1829 in Oneonta, New York. He moved to San Jose, California in 1851 at the height of the gold rush and worked as a daguerreotype photographer in a local photography studio. Around 1857, Watkins established his own photographic studio for portraits and landscape photography in San Francisco.

Watkins visited the Yosemite Valley in 1861, making 30 mammoth plate (18" x 22") and 100 stereographic photographs of the area. His mammoth plates of Yosemite Valley were the first photographs of this size to be made in California, and among the first depictions of the American West available to people living in the eastern United States. Due in part to Watkins' photographs, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill in 1864 that declared the Yosemite valley "inviolable," and that paved the way for the National Parks system.

In 1865 the California Geological Survey (CGS) hired Watkins as their official photographer. While working for the CGS, Watkins became influenced by CGS Director Josiah Dwight Whitney’s interest in the Northwest. Watkins visited the Columbia River in 1867 and photographed the region extensively.

Financial problems caused Watkins to lose his Yosemite Art Galley in 1874, and subsequently to lose the rights to all of his prints and negatives to competitors J.J. Cook and Isaiah W. Taber. He later rebuilt his collection by revisiting and photographing the sites he had originally photographed. During his travels to rebuild his collection, Watkins met Frances Sneed and the two married on November 11, 1880. They had two children, a daughter, Julia and a son, Collis. Frances later managed Watkins' Montgomery Street studio in San Francisco.

In 1882, Watkins returned to the Northwest to create his "New Boudoir Series," which included Seattle, Port Blakely, Port Gamble, and Tacoma. On a second trip to the Northwest in 1890, Watkins made a series of stereoscopic views in Victoria, B.C., Canada. He extended this trip into Montana where he made mammoth plate views of the Anaconda copper mines and other subjects. Watkins' last large commercial job was to photograph the development work of the Kern County Land Company near Bakersfield, California. There, he made seven hundred photographs using 8" x 10" dry plate negatives.

In the late 1890s Watkins began to photograph the Hearst Hacienda near Pleasanton, California, for Phoebe Apperson Hearst, but ill health prevented him from completing the assignment. Watkins was in the process of negotiating with Stanford University for the sale of his glass plate negatives and photographs when the 1906 earthquake struck San Francisco and destroyed his studio and nearly all of its contents. By this time, Watkins was partially blind, in poor health and experiencing financial difficulties. He retired to his small ranch near Capay in Yolo County, which had been deeded to Watkins for unpaid services to the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1910 Watkins' failing health led his family to commit him to the Napa State Hospital at Imola, California. He died on June 23, 1916 and was buried on the hospital grounds.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains 54 stereoviews and two "Imperial Cards" photographed by Carleton E. Watkins. They include images of locations along the Columbia River. Included are views of Willamette Falls, Cape Horn, Multnomah Falls, Castle Rock, the Upper and Lower Cascades Region, Dalles City, Celilo, and Fort Lugenbeel.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The photographs on the stereoviews were all taken by Watkins in 1867. However, the stereoviews cards were published at different dates and in some case by publishers other than Watkins.

The collection is arranged in three series. The first series is from Watkins "Old Series" and is divided into eight sub-series by geographic location. They are arranged by the Watkins's original serial numbers. It is important to note that publishing dates and publishers differ on each stereoview. The second series consists of Watkins's "New Series" featuring stereoviews from the "E" series. The third series consists of mounted photographs that are "Imperial Cards" (8 1/2 x 10) inches in size. These photographs were taken in 1867, when Watkins traveled to the Pacific Northwest for the Oregon Steam Navigation Company.

The first series contains yellow mounted stereoview cards from the years of 1867 and 1868. These have distinguishing characteristics: for the yellow stereoview mounts published in 1867, the reverse of stereoview mount features "Photographic Views of the Pacific Coast, Stereoscope, Album, and Framing, Photographed and Published by C.E. Watkins, 425 Montgomery Street, San Francisco." Furthermore, the front sidebar is labeled "C.E." Watkins, Pacific Coast." The front sidebar indicates that the copyrights were "Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by C.E. Watkins."

The yellow mounts published in 1868 are distinguished with the "Paris International Exposition, 1868" featured on the reverse.

The series features three different types of orange mounted stereoview cards. The photographs were taken by C.E. Watkins in 1867, however, the publishing date and the publisher vary. Those published by C.E. Watkins between 1871-1875 can be distinguished with the label on the front bard indicating "Watkins' Pacific Coast, 22 and 26 Montgomery Street, opposite Lick House entrance, San Francisco."

The stereoviews published circa 1876 by Watkins' creditor, J.J. Cook, have the following characteristics: the front sidebar is labeled either "Watkin's Pacific Coast. No. 1 Montgomery St., cor. Post, San Francisco" or "Watkins' Pacific Coast. 26 Montgomery St., opp. Lick House Entrance, San Francisco," "J.J. Cook."

Acquisition Information

Donor: Sylvia Burns, 2008: 9 Stereoviews 5b, 8, 10b, 13, 15, 18, 20a, 32, 39.

Processing Note

Processed by Jordan Grimmer; processing completed in 2011.

Stereoviews 5b, 8, 10b, 13, 15, 18, 20a, 32, 39, donated by Sylvia Burns and originally accessioned as PH2009-011, have been incorporated into this collection.

Related Materials

Carleton E. Watkins photograph collection PH Coll 286 is available for use in Special Collections.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Watkins's "Old Series" of Oregon, Portland and Columbia River areaReturn to Top

Stereoviews are arranged by Watkins's original series numbers. They are arranged into eight sub-series based on geographic locations.
Container(s) Description Dates
Willamette Falls
Box item
1 1 1867
1 2 1867
1 3 1867
1 4 1867
Columbia River
Box item
1 5a 1867
1 5b 1867
1 6 1867
1 7 1867
1 8 1867
1 9 1867
Multnomah Falls, Columbia River
Box item
1 10a-10b 1867
1 11 1867
1 12 1867
1 13 1867
Castle Rock, Columbia River
Box item
1 14 1867
1 15 1867
1 16 1867
1 17 1867
1 18
  Columbia River and Castle Rock viewed through the forest
C.E. Watkins (publisher)
Published 1871-1875.Text on card mount: 1248 Castle Rock, Columbia River.; Watkins' Pacific Coast, 22 and 26 Montgomery Street, opposite Lick House entrance, San Francisco.
Cascades, Columbia River
Box item
1 19 1867
1 20a 1867
1 20b 1867
1 21 1867
1 22 1867
1 23 1867
1 24 1867
1 25 1867
1 26 1867
1 27 1867
1 28 1867
Upper Cascades, Columbia River
Box item
1 29 1867
1 30a circa 1867
1 30b 1867
1 31 1867
1 32a 1867
1 32b 1867
1 33 1867
1 34a 1867
1 34b 1867
Dalles City, Columbia River
Box item
1 35 1867
1 36 1867
1 37 1867
1 38a 1867
1 38b 1867
1 39 1867
1 40a 1867
1 40b 1867
Box item
1 41 1867
1 42 1867
1 43 1867
1 44 1867

Rare 'E' Series: "New Series" of Pacific Coast ViewsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box item
1 45 circa 1884-1885
1 46 circa 1884-1885

Imperial CardsReturn to Top

Two imperial photographic cards, taken on Watkins' 1867 trip to Oregon and the Columbia River area.

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 47
  View of Columbia River shore and log cabins on bluff
The same image is used in item 25.
1 48
  View of buildings and railroad bridge on island on the Columbia River
Same location, but not the same image as in item 30.Text on verso: Upper Cascades Blockhouse; Fort Lubanbeale ? (Bradford store & sawmill).
Shows the Upper Blockhouse known as Fort Lugenbeel (built 1856-57) to the right; upper end of the portage facilites of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company; possibly Daniel F. Bradford's store and warehouse, center.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Lumber trade--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Piers--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Railroad tracks--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Sawmills--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Shipbuilding--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Shipyards--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)
  • Wharves--Washington (State)--Photographs

Personal Names

  • Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916--Photographs

Geographical Names

  • Cascades (Or. and Wash.)
  • Celilo (Or.)
  • Columbia River
  • Dalles (Or.)
  • Multnomah Falls (Or.)
  • Willamette Falls (Or.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Stereo (photographs)
  • Stereo views
  • Stereoscope
  • Stereoviews