Presumably, the Gardner Collection of Photographs, Harvard University
To the present owner, 1965-66
The photograph offered here, and in the following 9 lots, are from the collection of Anthony Morse, III, a collateral descendant of the photographer, painter, and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse (1791 - 1872). As a high school student at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Brown and Nichols School in the 1960s, Anthony Morse's avid interest in geology was already confirmed. Morse also served as the student chairman of the Brown and Nichols library committee, and in late 1965 or early 1966, he was shown, by the school's librarian, a stack of mammoth-plate 19th-century photographs of the American West. Morse remembers the stack as being as at least three feet high. The librarian related to Morse that a friend at Harvard had rescued the photographs when the University was about to discard them. For approximately 40 of the photographs, Morse traded a 2-volume set of geology text-books, which was added to the school's library.
Improbable as this may sound, the de-accessioning of quantities of 19th-century landscape and geological photographs from Harvard in the 1960s is a documented fact. In her article, 'The Gardner Collection of Photographs' (History of Photography, Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring 1991, pp. 17-22), to which this entry is indebted, Heather Ross Munro describes the circumstances surrounding the formation and later decline of a large collection of photographs housed in the Geology Department of Harvard University. Initially funded in 1892 by Harvard graduate George Gardner, the collection numbered over 7,500 photographs by 1916. By the 1960s, however, when the teaching of geology through photographs had been replaced by slides, illustrated textbooks, and field trips, the collection was all but forgotten. In 1962, a Geology Department staff member was asked to deal with the vast archive, and a call was made to the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, who took 350 of the photographs for its collection. As Munro relates, Harvard ultimately decided to keep only around 1,000 photographs--mostly those dealing with Massachusetts--leaving some 6,000 photographs unaccounted for. It is assumed that the photographs offered here were originally part of this Harvard group.
In 1966, Anthony Morse gave approximately 15 of his photographs devoted to Oregon and the Pacific Coast to his grandmother, who was living in Oregon at that time. These were later donated to the Oregon Historical Society.
The present image shows the Hutchings Hotel (the Upper House) at the foot of Sentinel Rock. Alternate titles of the image are more descriptive of the natural landmark: 'The Sentinel, from Hutchings Hotel' and 'The Sentinel Rock, 3270 Ft.'
The Hutchings Hotel was on the site of the second hotel erected in Yosemite Valley, a canvas structure built by G. A. Hite in 1857. It was replaced by a wooden building the next year, and changed ownership several times before J. M. Hutchings assumed proprietorship in 1864. Hutchings was something of a character, and he ran the hotel for the next decade, as well as the local sawmill, in partnership with John Muir. In the Yosemite classic, A Journal of Ramblings through the High Sierras of California (reprinted by the High Sierra Classics Series, Yosemite, 1994), Joseph LeConte describes his fine repasts at the hotel in 1870. One account reads, 'Impossible to undertake the difficult ascent to the upper fall without lunch; I therefore jumped on the first horse I could find, (mine was unsaddled), and rode to Mr. Hutchings' and took a hearty lunch, to which Mr. Hutchings insisted upon adding a glass of generous California wine.' Fortified, LeConte then commenced his ascent of Upper Yosemite Fall (LeConte, op.cit., p. 41).
Clearly visible in the present image is a handbill for the services of Carleton Watkins, photographer, tacked to the front of the hotel.
As of this writing, Weston Naef and the Carleton Watkins Mammoth Plate Catalogue Raisonné Project locate only six other prints of this image: five in institutional collections, as well as one sold at Sotheby's New York in November 1983 (Sale 5107, Lot 286).
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