Carleton E. Watkins photographs, circa 1882

Overview of the Collection

Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916
Carleton E. Watkins photographs
circa 1882 (inclusive)
28 photographic prints (1 box)
Collection Number
This collection contains portions of Carleton E. Watkins’s New Boudoir Series, circa 1882. Includes views of Seattle, Port Blakely, Port Gamble, Port Ludlow Mill, Port Madison, and Victoria
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.


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.

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

In 1870, the Northern Pacific Railroad surveyed the Pacific Northwest, triggering a land boom that was unprecedented in the area. Early on, settlers realized the Puget Sound’s potential for the lumber mill industry. The region’s calm waters and abundance of forests were ideal conditions, and thus many people arrived with the idea of starting a lumber business. Along the coast, mills emerged in Port Blakely, Port Gamble, Port Madison, and Port Ludlow, among others. Captain William Renton established Port Blakely in 1864, on the southeast side of Bainbridge Island. Renton, originally from Nova Scotia, purchased what was then known as Port Blakely Harbor. This location was ideal for storing the log rafts necessary for running a mill because of its calm waters and easy accessibility. The mill was highly successful over the next 40 years, shipping lumber to California, the Eastern United States, Australia, England, Germany, France, and South America. By 1882, the mill was turning out the largest amount of board (200,000 feet per day) of any mill in the Pacific Northwest. A railroad eventually had to be built to haul logs from Kamilche Point to keep up with demand. In 1888, the mill burned to the ground in a fire. Afterwards, Renton built a new mill atop the old.

Charles Wilkes founded Port Ludlow in 1842 on the Olympic Peninsula. In 1852, William F. Sayward and John R. Thorndyke established a sawmill on Port Ludlow Bay. At the same time, Andrew J. Pope and Captain William C. Talbot formed a partnership with the intent to establish a sawmill business in the Puget Sound area. Finding Sayward and Thorndyke’s mill already in Port Ludlow, Talbot and Pope founded their sawmill in Port Gamble. In 1878, Talbot and Pope purchased Sayward and Thorndyke’s mill at an auction. After adding new equipment, the Port Ludlow mill turned out 125,000 board feet of lumber per day, a level of productivity that helped increase the town’s population to 500.

In 1873, Isaac and Winslow Hall opened the Hall Brothers Shipyard in Port Ludlow. The Port Ludlow Mill provided the lumber for their work. Between 1873 and 1880, they built 31 ships. Their business temporarily made Port Ludlow known as a place for fine shipbuilding. Later in 1897 the Hall Brothers Ship Yard moved to Port Blakely and then to Eagle Harbor in 1903.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection contains photographs from Carleton E. Watkins’s "New Boudoir Series," taken in 1882. Included are panoramic views of Seattle and Victoria, B.C., Canada, photos of the sawmill, shipyard, and town of Port Blakely, and general views of Port Gamble, Port Ludlow Mill, and Port Madison. Also included is one photograph of the Columbia River. Numbers in parenthesis are Watkin's original negative numbers.

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


Photographs are arranged first geographically, then numerically based upon Watkin's numbering.

Acquisition Information

Gifts from E. S. Meany Bequest, C.A. Raymond, May 21,1957, and C. Bagley Estate, April, 1959.

Some may have been purchased January 1982, from Photographic Antiques / Russell Norton, P.O. Box 1070, New Haven, CT 06504.

Processing Note

Processed by Erin Langer and Megan Peacock; processing completed in 2006.

Related Materials

Also in the repository, Carleton E. Watkins stereoviews, PH Collection 1025.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Port Blakely, Washington TerritoryReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
2 4
  Log pond and mill at Port Blakely Mill (B5231)
"Capt. Wm. Renton build his first sawmill at Alki Point, Seattle, in 1853. In 1854 he moved it to Port Orchard. In 1863 he changed to Port Blakely. He had a number of partners at different times name Howard, Smith, Ham and Holmes. He was the mill man all the time. They were chiefly connected with the sales in California, with ship charters and merchandise purchases at San Francisco."
2 5 1882
2 6 1882
2 7
Sailing ships docked at sawmill (B5237)
2 8 1882
2 9
  Residence of Captain Renton, Sackman home and schoolhouse (B5242)
"Residence of Capt. Rentner [sic], Port Blakely, W.T."
2 10 1882
Hall Brothers Shipyard
Folder item
3 11 1882
3 12 1882
3 13 1882
3 14 1882
3 15
  The ships William Renton (right) and Hesper (left), under construction, Hall’s Shipyard (B5248)
"The Hall Brothers Shipyard was begun at Port Ludlow in the 1870s. It was moved to Port Blakely in the 1880s, and to Eagle Harbor in the 1890s. Between the three places it has gone on forty years, and has built and repaired several hundred vessels."
3 16 1882

Port Gamble, Washington TerritoryReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
4 17 circa 1882
4 18 circa 1882
4 19 circa 1882
4 20 circa 1882
4 21 circa 1882
4 22 circa 1882

Port Ludlow, Washington TerritoryReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
5 23 circa 1882
5 24
  Men working in mill yard, Port Ludlow Mill (B5258)
"The lumber is raised to cars placed under it and carried in tramways to any desired part of the wharf to which vessels of any draft can come with facility.Opposite the double circular [or] frame containing the four saws is a big gang saw with equal improved facilities rollers, hoisting machines etc. by [which] lumber can be moved to either machines by the mere application of the sawyer's hand or by pushing a lever. There are two filing rooms 12 x 15 over the boiler-house and an additional structure 16 x 50 feet provides room for the lath machines. About 4,000,000 ft. of lumber and 400,000 shingles were used in the construction of this mill, the cutting capacity of [which] will reach 250,000 ft. per day."
circa 1882
5 25 circa 1882

Port Madison, Washington TerritoryReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
6 26 circa 1882

Victoria, British Columbia, CanadaReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
7 27 undated

Columbia RiverReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
8 28 undated

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

  • Port Blakely (Wash.)--Photographs
  • Port Gamble (Wash.)--Photographs
  • Port Madison (Bainbridge Island, Wash.)--Photographs
  • Seattle (Wash.)--Photographs
  • Victoria (B.C.)--Photographs

Form or Genre Terms

  • Photographs