Carleton Watkins - Fine Art Prints of Historical Photos

Carleton Watkins is likely the best know photographer on this site, at least to Oregonians, and at least now. Though he never had a studio in Oregon, the spectacular photos of the Columbia Gorge taken by him in 1867 formed the core of the recent "Wild Beauty" exhibition at the Portland Art Museum.

Born in upstate New York in 1829, Watkins was drawn to California by the gold rush, arriving in 1851. Beginning as an aide in a San Francisco portrait studio, he didn't start taking pictures on his own till 1861. Especially interested in landscape photography, he created the "Mammoth Camera", which used large glass plates to produce incredibly detailed photographs. This leading-edge technology placed him ahead of his contemporaries, and when combined with his eye for composition made him famous for his 1860s views of Yosemite and other natural wonders.

Never a good businessman, Watkins was forced to sell his negatives, which were then published without credit by I. W. Taber, the new owner.

Beginning again with his "New Series", he had modest success, but remained poor, and he and his family lived for a while in an abandoned boxcar. Then in 1906 the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed his studio and remaining negatives.

In 1910 Watkins was committed to the Napa State Hospital for the Insane, where he died six years later.

--Summarized from Wikipedia.

15 Item(s)

per page

List  Grid 

Set Descending Direction
  1. Indian Camp at the Head of the Dalles - Watkins

    Indian Camp at the Head of the Dalles - 1867

    Seen from the Washington side of the Columbia, a modest dwelling overlooks the head of the Dalles, where the river narrows on the far side heading downstream to the right. Learn More
  2. Mills & McLoughlin House at Willamette Falls - Watkins

    Mills & McLoughlin House at Willamette Falls - 1867

    This 1867 view of the mills at Willamette Falls is part of a series of stereoviews created by Carleton Watkins during his visit to Oregon that year. Learn More
  3. Multnomah Falls with Timber Bridge - Carleton Watkins

    Multnomah Falls with Timber Bridge - c. 1883

    One of the first photos Carleton Watkins took during his return to Oregon in 1883 was this view of the then new timber bridge at Multnomah Falls. He numbered it "D3". Learn More
  4. Panorama of Helena, Montana Territory (No. 1) - Carleton Watkins

    Panorama of Helena, Montana Territory (No. 1) - c. 1883

    Helena was already about twenty years old when this photo was taken by Watkins during one of his 1880s visits to the Pacific Northwest. Learn More
  5. Panorama of Oregon City and Willamette Falls No. 2 - Watkins

    Panorama of Oregon City and Willamette Falls, No. 2 - 1867

    Panorama of Oregon City and the Willamette Falls No. 2, part of a series of five. Learn More
  6. Portage Railroad, Middle Blockhouse at Cascades - Watkins

    Portage Railroad and Middle Blockhouse at Cascades - 1867

    Looking downstream on the wooden tracks of the portage railroad on the Washington side of the Columbia Cascades. Learn More
  7. Portland and Mt. Hood - Watkins

    Portland and Mt. Hood - circa 1885

    The ornate stone building in the center of this image is Portland High School, located on the southwest corner of 14th and Morrison Streets. Learn More
  8. Smelting Furnace, Oswego Iron Works - Watkins

    Smelting Furnace, Oswego Iron Works - 1867

    A view from the back of the first Oswego Iron Smelter captures a moving goat or two browsing the refuse pile. Learn More
  9. The Middle Blockhouse at the Cascades - Watkins

    The Middle Blockhouse at the Cascades - 1867

    Officially known as "Fort Raines", the middle blockhouse was built in 1855 to protect the portage railroad around the Cascade Rapids. It was abandoned in 1857. Learn More
  10. The Passage of the Dalles - Watkins

    The Passage of the Dalles - 1867

    A boudoir card version of one of Carelton Watkin's most famous 1867 views of the Columbia River. Learn More
  11. The Tooth Bridge, O. R. R. at Cascades - Watkins

    The Tooth Bridge, O. R. R. at Cascades - 1867

    Looking upstream along the Tooth Bridge on the 5-mile-long portage railroad on the Oregon side of the Cascade Rapids. Learn More
  12. Thompson Falls, Montana Territory - Watkins

    Thompson Falls, Montana Territory - c. 1883

    We're looking across Thompson Falls on the Clark Fork tributary of the Columbia River, towards a mining town that was itself named Thompson Falls, in this view from about 1883. Learn More
  13. Tooth Bridge, Portage Railroad at the Cascades - Watkins

    Tooth Bridge, Portage Railroad at the Cascades - 1867

    Looking upstream along the Tooth Bridge at the 5-mile-long portage railroad on the Oregon side of the Cascades. Learn More
  14. Upper Cape Horn, Near Celilo - 1867

    Upper Cape Horn, Near Celilo - 1867

    A great view by Watkins of the upper portage railroad on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, and the bluffs of Upper Cape Horn. Learn More
  15. View at Spokane Falls, Washington Territory - Watkins

    View at Spokane Falls, Washington Territory - c. 1882

    Photographer Carleton Watkins returned to the Northwest several times in the early 1880s, creating a series of boudoir cards he called his "New Views". Learn More

15 Item(s)

per page

List  Grid 

Set Descending Direction