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San Rafael, California, 1880-1884
Collection Description & Creator Information
Consists of a photograph album containing over 300 photographs of urban and rural locations in North America, Hawaii, and New Zealand, collected by Australian engineer Norman Selfe (1839-1911) during an 1884 tour. The album comprises a photographic record of Selfe's travels across the North American continent, and to a lesser extent, Hawaii and New Zealand. These travels were a part of Selfe's larger 1884-1885 tour of North America and Europe, which he undertook to inspect and document local engineering and architectural works. Selfe appears to have collected photographs from various photographers and studios in the locations he visited; while photographers or studios responsible for individual photographs are occasionally identified, most images are unattributed. Identifiable photographers include William Henry Jackson (Colorado), George Dobson Valentine (White Terrace, New Zealand), George Fiske (Yosemite Valley), I. W. Taber (San Francisco), William Noliman and Sons (Montreal), Notman Photograph Company (Albany), and Wheeler (Colorado Springs). Though Selfe collected photographs intended to depict locations and scenery as they appeared in 1884, most of the photographs were likely taken between 1880 and 1884, and some were taken as early as 1870.
The album is primarily arranged by location, with page titles and captions handwritten by Selfe. It begins with a group of photographs of New Zealand, taken in Auckland and at White Terrace (Te Tarata), followed by a series depicting Honolulu, Hawaii, including shots of the King's Palace ('Iolani Palace). The rest of the album documents the United States and its territories, and to a lesser degree, Canada. California features prominently; of note are photographs of street architecture, wooden houses (including houses under construction), and hotels in San Francisco and San Rafael, California, including seven large albumen plate images of houses in San Francisco; a series documenting logging and milling operations in the redwood and giant sequoia forests of central and northern California, including Eureka and other locations in Humboldt County; and images of Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove, and the Boca Brewery near Lake Tahoe. The California architecture series includes views of the grand palace-style houses of Central Pacific Railroad tycoons Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker. There are also a number of shots documenting the Oregon and Washington Territories and nearby Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Photographs show urban areas such as Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Tacoma, Washington; and Victoria, British Columbia; as well as locations along the Columbia River Gorge, including Multnomah Falls and the Dalles; mills on the Puget Sound; and the Cascade Range, including Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier. There are also a significant number of photographs of Colorado, including Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, Ute Pass, Manitou Springs, Buena Vista, and Leadville; as well as the Utah Territory, including Salt Lake City. Photographs of Nevada include three staged portraits of an American Indian man, woman, and child from an unidentified tribe. Midwestern locations represented consist of urban Chicago, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri. The last third of the album documents the eastern United States and Canada, including New York City, Albany, and Rochester in New York State; the White Mountains of New Hampshire; factories in Waltham, Massachusetts; government buildings in Washington, D.C.; and Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and the St. Lawrence River in Canada. Other frequent subjects are boats, particularly American steamboats, bridges, and railroads, photographs of which Selfe collected throughout his travels.
The title of the collection reflects the original title Selfe gave to the album. Descriptions of individual album pages also reflect Selfe's original page titles and photograph captions.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
No materials were separated during 2017 processing.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
Open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
- Credit this material:
San Rafael, California; 360 Photographs of American Scenery Collected by Norman Selfe on the Spots Represented in 1884, C1573, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Box P-000090