Joseph Buchtel - One of Oregon's First Photographers

According to his later reminiscences, in 1851 Joseph Buchtel purchased a daguerreotype outfit and entered the portrait business in Urbana, Illinois. In 1852 he crossed the plains to Oregon, and spent the next four years working on steamboats that plied the upper Willamette River, including the Shoalwater, Canemah and Willamette.

As riverboat work was slow when water was low in the summers, Buchtel resumed daguerreian work in 1853. By September of that year, the Oregon Spectator reported that he had "some beautiful specimens of pictures taken in this city. He is going to Canemah in a few days, to give the people there an opportunity to have their likenesses taken.". While there is some dispute about details, Buchtel was clearly one of the earliest Oregon photographers.

In 1855 Buchtel took his first photographs on paper. During the next few years, he moved between Portland and Oregon City, eventually partnering with Byron P. Cardwell. In the first Oregon State Fair, held in Gladstone in 1861, Buchtel and Cardwell won diplomas for their displays of forty photographs, including twenty ambrotypes.

As photographic techniques evolved, so did Buchtel. By 1865, as a partner with Alonzo B. Woodward, he was selling enlargements of John Wilkes Booth one week after the Lincoln assassination. He also received a commission to photograph Fort Vancouver, where he took a 12-part panorama of the garrison.

In 1873 Buchtel found a new partner, E. H. Stolte. Buchtel and Stolte offered stereoviews and advertised likenesses of Captain Jack and other Modoc warriors. In 1878 that partnership was dissolved, and two years later, after his son's sudden death, Buchtel decided to lease his gallery to William H. Towne while he travelled back east, leaving behind his collection of 25,000 negatives.

Buchtel found to his dismay upon returning home that Towne had discarded almost all of his vast collection of negatives. Buchtel's days as a major Portland photographer were over. He continued to own a small gallery for a few years, but moved more towards civic affairs, serving two terms as sheriff and one as fire chief. He died at home on August 10, 1916.

--Summarized from Palmquist and Kailbourn, "Pioneer Photographers of the Far West".

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  1. A Music Hall Fiddler - Joseph Buchtel
  2. A Very Small Girl in a Plaid Dress - Buchtel

    A Very Small Girl in a Plaid Dress - c. 1874

    We don't know the name of this young girl, but we do know the original small-format CDV photo was taken by Buchtel and Stolte, at 91 First Street in Portland. Learn More
  3. Agnes Dolph, daughter of Sen. Joseph Dolph - Buchtel

    Agnes Dolph, Daughter of Sen. Joseph Dolph - c. 1875

    A well-to-do girl in a wonderful fringed dress, posed next to perhaps a family heirloom? Learn More
  4. Albert G. Walling, Early Publisher - Joseph Buchtel

    Albert G. Walling, Early Oregon Publisher - 1872

    A. G. Walling emigrated with his family to the West Linn area now known as Robinwood in 1849. Learn More
  5. Bishop Benjamin Wistar Morris - Buchtel

    Bishop Benjamin Wistar Morris - c. 1871

    This early portrait of Morris was taken by pioneer photographer Joseph Buchtel about two years after Morris arrived in Oregon to assume the position of Episcopal Bishop of Oregon. Learn More
  6. Boy from Salem in Military Garb - Buchtel

    Boy from Salem in Military Garb - c. 1862

    Early tintypes can rarely be attributed to specific photographers. We know this view was by Joseph Buchtel, as the original has an advertisement for his Salem "branch gallery" glued to its back. Learn More
  7. Bringing a Stein of Beer - Buchtel

    Bringing a Stein of Beer - c. 1872

    In early photography, cameras were so bulky that occupational photos were usually shot in the studio. Here we see a bar keeper bringing a glass beer stein to a customer. Learn More
  8. Early Lumber Mill at Willamette Falls - Buchtel

    Early Lumber Mill at Willamette Falls - 1870s

    A small early sawmill occupies the northern end of Willamette Falls, with the newly completed locks visible on the far side. Learn More
  9. Father and Daughters - Joseph Buchtel

    Father and Daughters - circa 1868

    We don't know the names of these people, but we can make some good assumptions about them. Learn More
  10. First Street, 1876 Portland Flood - Buchtel

    First Street, 1876 Portland Flood

    In this photo of an early Portland flood, pioneer photographer Joseph Buchtel is standing at the corner of First and Pine, facing northeast. Learn More
  11. Front Street Portland in 1852 - Buchtel

    Front Street in Portland in 1852

    This circa 1900 photo was copied from an original daguerreotype attributed to Joseph Buchtel. It shows Front Street from Ash Street to Salmon Street, with the docks in the distance. Learn More
  12. George Law Curry, Oregon's Last Territorial Governor - Buchtel

    George Law Curry, Oregon's Last Territorial Governor - 1860s

    George Law Curry, a publisher and jewelry maker, served as Oregon Territory's governor on three different occasions. Learn More
  13. James John, Founder of St. Johns - Buchtel

    James John, Founder of St. Johns - c. 1875

    James John, an early settler who arrived in Oregon in 1842, platted "St. Johns on the Willamette" in 1852. Learn More
  14. Joseph Lane, Oregon's First Territorial Governor - Buchtel

    Joseph Lane, Oregon's First Territorial Governor - 1879

    General Joseph Lane, Oregon's first territorial governor, in later years. Learn More
  15. M. K. Lauden, Co-founder of Portland Business College - Buchtel

    M. K. Lauden, Co-founder of Portland Business College - 1868

    Lauden, along with H. M DeFrance, started National Business College in Portland in 1866, which was renamed as Portland Business College in the 1880s. Learn More
  16. Mary Marsh, Daughter of Sidney &  Eliza - Buchtel

    Mary Marsh, Daughter of Sidney & Eliza - c. 1876

    Mary Marsh was about eleven years old when this photo of her was taken by Joseph Buchtel. Her father would die young three years later. Learn More
  17. Mount Hood from the East - Buchtel

    Mount Hood from the East - c. 1873

    There are thousands of photos of Mt. Hood. This is one of the earlier ones, taken by pioneer photographer Joseph Buchtel in about 1873. Learn More
  18. Portland Harbor - Buchtel

    Portland Harbor - c. 1876

    This stereoview of Portland's harbor was originally printed between 1875 and 1878. Learn More
  19. Senator Joseph N. Dolph - Buchtel

    Senator Joseph N. Dolph - c. 1876

    The "Buchtel & Stolte" imprint on the original cabinet card dates this image to between 1875 through 1878, a few years before Dolph was first elected to the U. S. Senate in 1882. Learn More
  20. Short-haired Girl with Doll - Buchtel

    Short-haired Girl with her Doll - c. 1879

    A young girl with short-cropped hair holds her doll with long braids. Learn More
  21. The Charman Brothers, Oregon City - Buchtel

    The Charman Brothers, Oregon City - c. 1864

    Lennie (later known as T. L.) and Elmer Charman, ages about 4 and 3, who grew up to partner in a number of well-known Oregon City business ventures. Learn More
  22. Thomas & Sophia Charman, Wedding Photo - Buchtel

    Thomas & Sophia Charman, Wedding Photo - 1854

    Reproduced from a rare Joseph Buchtel daguerreotype. According to a note in its case, the original photo was taken on September 27, 1854, the day after Thomas and Sophia were married in Oregon City. Learn More
  23. Thomas & Sophia Charman, Wedding Photo B - Joseph Buchtel
  24. White River Falls, Circa 1872 - Buchtel

    White River Falls - c. 1871

    White River Falls are located on a tributary of the Deschutes River, in Wasco County. Learn More
  25. Youngs River Falls, Early 1870s - Buchtel

    Youngs River Falls - c. 1871

    This early view of Youngs River Falls, near Astoria, was created as a stereoview by Joseph Buchtel in the early 1870s. Learn More

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