Home News The Hand Colored Photography of William James Harris

The Hand Colored Photography of William James Harris


Curiosity in early 20th c. hand-colored images by “Harris” has been rising lately, particularly in Harris’s Florida scenes. But I will wager that almost all collectors do not even know Harris’s first title, not to mention something about his background.

We had no info on Harris ourselves till a number of years in the past once we talked about Harris in a earlier article and requested readers to produce us with any recognized info. Because of this we obtained an article on Harris postcards, and an article that had been revealed on Harris by the St. Augustine Historic Society in 1991, each of which shed appreciable mild on the hand-colored images profession of William James Harris.

William James Harris (1868-1940) was born on October 12, 1868 in Herefordshire, England. His household emigrated to America in 1870, settling within the Wilkes Barre, PA space. Identified in his youth as each “Will” and “Willie“, by age 20 he apprenticed below a neighborhood photographer. Inside one 12 months he was capable of begin his first images enterprise whereas residing along with his dad and mom and working his first studio inside their home.

In 1890, the 22 12 months outdated Harris moved along with his household to W. Pittston, PA the place, though he continued working a studio in his dad and mom house, he additionally started his profession as a touring photographer. Throughout the early 1890’s, he spent appreciable time photographing coal miners and mining operations in japanese Pennsylvania’s coal areas. Quickly thereafter he started using the railroads to move him, and his images tools, to the mountains, lakes, cities, and wherever else he determined to take his digicam. Cupboard images bought by Harris round this time listed his handle as West Pittston, PA; Tunkhannock, PA; Pittston, PA; Penn Yan, NY; Binghamton, NY; and Keuka, NY

In 1893 Harris traveled to the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago. Whereas there his started the primary of many subsequent promotional feats. One of many focal factors of the 1893 Columbia Exposition was the first-ever introduction of George Ferris’s nice “Ferris Wheel“. And it was Harris who was the primary to {photograph} it. He envisioned that by climbing upon a roof roughly the identical peak because the Ferris Wheel’s heart shaft, he would be capable to produce a view whereby the curves of the wheel weren’t distorted vertically by perspective. This {photograph} was so spectacular that Harris donated 2000 of them to the Ferris Wheel Firm, every of which included his title and handle, which helped to make an early title for the younger photographer.

In 1895 he married Maude Dunn, a wedding that was short-lived as a result of she died out of the blue and unexpectedly in 1897.

Shortly after Maude’s dying, Harris and a few associates opened a vacationer enterprise in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, promoting photos of Buck Hill Falls, the Delaware Water Hole, and different native points of interest to vacationers and native residents. Whereas working from the “Harris Gallery” his companies additionally included cupboard playing cards and tin-type images,. This moveable studio as soon as once more served as a superb promotional feat as a result of it enabled him to each promote his enterprise, and course of his photographic work, wherever he went.

Round 1901, Harris married a second time, making Marion E. Briant the second Mrs. Harris. Collectively they’d two kids, a daughter (Ruth) and a son (Carver). This marriage lasted till about 1920. After the divorce, Marion Harris returned to her Dover, NJ house with Ruth, leaving Carver along with his father.

Quickly thereafter, Harris married Ella Anderson, his third and closing marriage.

Lake Hopatcong: It was in 1898 that Harris moved to a location that may play an important function in his life…Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Situated in northern New Jersey, it is 9 miles of shoreline and coves make it New Jersey’s largest lake and on the flip of the century, Lake Hopatcong had turn into a summer season mecca for the wealthy and well-known. Conveniently situated to close by NY city, Lake Hopatcong supplied a straightforward summer season getaway from town warmth and lots of summer season “cottages“, which in lots of situations had been extra like mansions, started bobbing up across the lake. Harris shortly acknowledged the necessity for his photographic companies right here through the summer season months.

Stunning sunsets turned the Harris trademark whereas engaged on Lake Hopatcong and he was farsighted sufficient to set himself up on part of the lake that was acknowledged as having the most effective sunsets. And being the nice promoter that he was, Harris started promoting his studio as providing the best sundown images on the lake. Quickly vacationers started flocking to his studio for his or her private and household images on Lake Hopatcong.

In one other transfer of public relations genius, Harris created his personal private “Floating Studio” in the summertime of 1899. Changing his land-based moveable studio, this floating studio was truly a houseboat specifically outfitted as a photographic studio. Referred to as the “Harris Picture Float“, this 16’x50′ floating studio was able to touring across the lake, and even had a particular porch for his well-known sundown pictures. Though different photographers had been additionally working across the lake, Harris’ floating studio and his reward for promotional impact gave him a aggressive edge over the opposite photographers and he managed a sizeable portion of the lake’s images enterprise. Sadly, in 1903 Harris’ floating studio sprang a knothole leak and sank, taking with it a lot of Harris’ photographic tools.

However he shortly recovered from this catastrophe and went on to proceed a virtually 40-year relationship with Lake Hopatcong. Harris continued his summer season visits to the lake till as late as 1939, when he was in his 60’s and his photographic profession started winding down.

St. Augustine, Florida: In 1898 Harris moved to St. Augustine, Florida the place he opened the “Acme View Firm“. Harris’s Florida photographic companies included the sale of cameras and tools, free photographic directions to beginner photographers, the usage of his darkroom, in addition to skilled photographic companies to native residents or visiting vacationers. He additionally misplaced no time in photographing the attractive sights in St. Augustine and the encircling Florida countryside.

Harris shortly fell in love with St. Augustine and to a bigger extent, practically all of Florida. Between 1898 and 1940 Harris started a photographic profession that almost all of us would aspire to realize immediately…summers alongside the shorelines of gorgeous Lake Hopatcong, NJ… and winters in heat and sunny St. Augustine, FL.

St. Augustine supplied quite a lot of photographic topics that appealed to Florida’s rising vacationer commerce together with the Fountain of Youth, the Oldest Home in America, Ft. Marion, Metropolis Gates, and The Previous Slave Market, amongst others.

In 1912 Harris started a protracted, and typically controversial, relationship with the St. Augustine Historic Society. Serving as its enterprise supervisor and head curator, Harris was instrumental each in recruiting new members to the Historic Society in addition to selling each the historical past and heritage of St. Augustine. Whereas on his watch, sure members started to dispute among the Historic Society’s unsubstantiated claims…was the “Oldest Home in America” truly as outdated as claimed?. Was the “Previous Slave Market” really a “Slave Market” or was it merely a “Public Produce Market“.. The “…properly, they may have been…” responses by sure space enterprise folks met resistance from different historic purists, and a few adjustments in St. Augustine’s historic claims resulted.

Whatever the controversy, Harris’s affiliation with the St. Augustine Historic Society lasted till his dying in 1940 and all of the whereas, Harris continued to advertise his St. Augustine postcard and images enterprise.

Harris Postcards: It was in 1893 whereas visiting the Columbia Exposition that Harris noticed a glimpse of the following coming development…postcards. By 1898 Congress handed a regulation authorizing the manufacture and use of “Personal Mailing Playing cards” and what began as a trickle quickly exploded into an enormous enterprise. And Harris was in an ideal place to earn his share of the enterprise. The phone was not but commonplace and postcards quickly turned a main technique of informal communication. In 1901 Harris was promoting a grouping of 30 Lake Hopatcong views that had been able to being inserted right into a letter, so changing them into postcards was a comparatively easy process. Rapidly changing a lot of his current inventory into postcards and including new views every year, Harris quickly had actually tons of of Lake Hopatcong postcard views and have become recognized round Lake Hopatcong as “Harris, the Postcard Man“. Anybody wishing to ship a private message about their particular journey or trip on Lake Hopatcong often did it utilizing a Harris postcard. In 1909 alone Harris claims to have bought over 200,000 Lake Hopatcong postcards and projected much more for 1910.

As his postcard enterprise grew, he expanded into the memento and novelty area, promoting paperweights, cups, fancy holders, and different assorted wood and birch bark novelties, all with the title “Lake Hopatcong” on them. Though such a memento enterprise was frequent in St. Augustine and different locations, Harris was one of many first to begin such a enterprise at Lake Hopatcong.

Because the postcard craze started to wind down round 1915, Harris had been watching from a distance the success of Wallace Nutting in Massachusetts and shortly determined to enter the sphere of hand-colored images himself. Together with his background, it was a pure.

Hand-Coloured Images: Harris’s earliest try with hand-colored images got here when he first hand-tinted his Lake Hopatcong postcards. After working in black & white for a few years, beginning round 1905 Harris assumed that the added shade may result in elevated gross sales. However he additionally quickly realized that the added expense of hand-coloring his postcards led to the next unit worth, and finally to decrease gross sales. Finally Harris went the route of so many different postcard photographers of getting his postcards produced in shade on large-run shade printing presses.

As a part of his New Jersey summer-Florida winter cycles, Harris started taken new images with the intention of hand-coloring them for re-sale. His greatest promoting photos quickly got here to be from the New York Adirondack Area (particularly Ausable Chasm) and Florida (particularly The Singing Tower), though his northeastern photos got here from all through a four-state area and his Florida photos got here from all through the whole Miami-St. Augustine stretch.

Earlier than lengthy, “Harris Footage” started to interchange “Harris the Postcard Man” as his main supply of revenue. In response to his son Carver…”what cash he had, he constituted of coloured photos“. And apparently he made sufficient cash to purchase homes in Florida and New Jersey, an imposing car, a house-car, and several other launches and speedboats (which enabled him to get round Lake Hopatcong quicker than ever).

Like Wallace Nutting photos, Harris photos had been often hand-colored images, tipped onto a linen-type matboard, and signed with the “Harris” title decrease proper, and title decrease left, often signed in pencil. Most Harris photos had been matted, though a good quantity had been “close-framed” and signed instantly on the image with none matting. And very often you’ll nonetheless discover an authentic “Harris” label both on the matboard again or on the backing paper.

But Harris photos carry a number of delicate variations between Nutting and among the main Nutting-Like photographers:

• Most Harris photos had been rectangular views, with the size often being greater than twice the width (or vice versa).

• Harris solely bought Exterior (out of doors) views. He by no means bought Colonial Inside scenes.

• You’ll solely see the title “Harris” signed on the image, by no means “W.J.‘ or every other variation of his first or center names. There may be additionally by no means any point out of Harris’s first or center title on any of his image labels.

• Though the “Harris” title is often written parallel below the image, sometimes you will notice the “Harris” title written at a 45 diploma angle.

• Whereas extra uncommon, it isn’t unusual for the Harris title to be decrease left and the title to be decrease proper.

• Most Harris signatures are signed in pencil

And maybe most totally different from Nutting, many Harris photos are hand-colored “photogravures” slightly than hand-colored images. Though his earliest scenes had been produced on photographic paper, a few of his later and best-selling views had been reproduced in bigger black & white portions utilizing the photogravure printing methodology, after which individually hand-colored. Whereas Nutting had practically 100 colorists at his peak, Harris by no means had greater than 5 folks coloring his photos at any given time.

One fascinating story about Harris photos pertains to a number of of his photos that function a egret standing within the Florida water. Apparently for the sake of simplicity, Harris carried a “stuffed” egret as a part of his photographic tools, presumably as a result of it was simpler to shoot a nonetheless chicken for impact slightly than a dwell, uncontrollable chicken. He was additionally recognized to hold a stuffed alligator for impact as properly.

Not surprisingly, Harris was often his personal greatest salesman and his photographic expeditions additionally turned gross sales journeys as properly. Each time he went into the countryside to shoot new photos, he often stopped at varied artwork and reward retailers alongside the best way to acquire new wholesale and retail orders for his image enterprise. It was estimated that greater than 70 retailers on each coasts of Florida alone carried Harris’s hand-colored photos. Many lodges used Harris photos on their partitions to advertise the beauties of early 20th c. Florida, and it’s estimated that Harris would sometimes want greater than 25,000 photos per season simply to fulfill the demand of his Florida gross sales shops.

And because the Florida season would finish Harris would pack automobile, head again north, and begin the cycle over again at New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong.

The Last Years: William James Harris died on August 2, 1940 after struggling via a protracted sickness and was buried in his adopted metropolis of St. Augustine. Though not as properly referred to as Wallace Nutting or a few of Nutting’s different contemporaries, Harris did obtain a substantial degree of fame. He loved an affordable monetary success in his chosen photographic area, he loved the journey and work between the northeast in the summertime months and Florida within the winter months, he had a various household life, he developed a powerful bond along with his adopted metropolis of St. Augustine, FL, and his photographic works definitely helped to popularize Florida greater than every other photographer of his time.

And now greater than ever, collectors of hand-colored images are actively looking for the attractive hand-colored photos of William James Harris.



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