Presumably, the Gardner Collection of Photographs, Harvard University
To the present owner, 1965-66
Other prints of this image:
James Alinder, Carleton E. Watkins: Photographs of the Columbia River and Oregon (The Friends of Photography in Association with the Weston Gallery, Carmel, 1979, in conjunction with the exhibition), pl. 23
Nickel, Douglas R., Carleton Watkins: The Art of Perception (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1999, in conjunction with the exhibition), pl. 50
Passion and Precision: Photographs from the Collection of Margaret W. Weston (Monterey Museum of Art, 2003, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 57
The photograph offered here, and in Lot 17 and Lots 116 through 125, 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 By the 1960s, however, when the teaching of geology through photographs had been replaced by slides, illustrated textbooks, and field trips, the collection was all but forgotten.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 Garrison, Columbia River,' also known as 'The Garrison and Castle Rock, Washington Territory,' is one a series of photographs taken along Oregon's Columbia River in 1867. In his essay for The Friends of Photography volume of Watkins's Columbia River views, David Featherstone traces Watkins's Oregon itinerary, and points out that photographs from the trip may well have been commissioned by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, whose steamboats regularly traveled the routes recorded in Watkins's photographs. The 'Garrison' shows Watkins's absolute gift for picture-making: the garrison upriver in the middle distance, as well as Castle Rock on the horizon, with a log cabin anchoring the foreground. Weston Naef has pointed out that the cabin may have been an outbuilding on the McCrary property, from which the photograph was likely made.
Weston Naef and the Carleton Watkins Mammoth Plate Catalogue Raisonné Project have located nine other prints of this image in institutions, as well as three in private collections, including one recently sold in these rooms (Photographs from the Collection of Margaret W. Weston, 26 April 2007, Sale 8387, Lot 20). Naef further notes that the image was shown in the 1868 and 1869 Mechanics' Institute Fair in San Francisco. The census information offered here, and for all Watkins mammoth-plate lots in this catalogue, has been generously supplied by Weston Naef, Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and General Editor of that Museum's Carleton Watkins Mammoth Plate Catalogue Raisonné Project. For detailed information on this comprehensive ongoing survey, please see page 246.
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