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The Hand Colored Photography of William James Harris

The Hand Colored Photography of William James Harris

Interest in early 20th c. hand-coloured pictures by “Harris” has been rising in latest yrs, particularly in Harris’s Florida scenes. Still I am going to wager that most collectors will not even know Harris’s very first identify, let alone everything about his background.

We experienced no information on Harris ourselves right until many yrs in the past when we described Harris in a former short article and asked audience to source us with any known info. As a result we been given an article on Harris postcards, and an article that experienced been printed on Harris by the St. Augustine Historical Modern society in 1991, both equally of which shed appreciable light on the hand-coloured photography occupation of William James Harris.

William James Harris (1868-1940) was born on October 12, 1868 in Herefordshire, England. His family members emigrated to The us in 1870, settling in the Wilkes Barre, PA place. Known in his youth as each “Will” and “Willie“, by age 20 he apprenticed less than a community photographer. Inside a person calendar year he was in a position to start off his first photography enterprise although residing with his mothers and fathers and working his 1st studio within their dwelling.

In 1890, the 22 yr aged Harris moved with his loved ones to W. Pittston, PA the place, though he continued operating a studio in his mom and dad dwelling, he also commenced his occupation as a traveling photographer. In the course of the early 1890’s, he invested substantial time photographing coal miners and mining operations in eastern Pennsylvania’s coal locations. Shortly thereafter he commenced utilizing the railroads to transport him, and his images devices, to the mountains, lakes, metropolitan areas, and wherever else he made a decision to take his digicam. Cupboard photographs offered by Harris about this time shown 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. Even though there his commenced the first of a lot of subsequent advertising feats. One of the focal factors of the 1893 Columbia Exposition was the initial-ever introduction of George Ferris’s fantastic “Ferris Wheel“. And it was Harris who was the initially to photograph it. He envisioned that by climbing on a roof roughly the exact same top as the Ferris Wheel’s middle shaft, he would be in a position to deliver a watch whereby the curves of the wheel were not distorted vertically by standpoint. This photograph was so outstanding that Harris donated 2000 of them to the Ferris Wheel Firm, just about every of which incorporated his identify and handle, which assisted to make an early name for the younger photographer.

In 1895 he married Maude Dunn, a relationship that was quick-lived because she died out of the blue and unexpectedly in 1897.

Soon right after Maude’s death, Harris and some buddies opened a tourist enterprise in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, providing pictures of Buck Hill Falls, the Delaware H2o Gap, and other regional points of interest to tourists and nearby inhabitants. Whilst functioning from the “Harris Gallery” his solutions also included cabinet cards and tin-kind pictures,. This portable studio after once more served as an exceptional marketing feat since it enabled him to each publicize his business enterprise, and method his photographic function, anywhere he went.

Around 1901, Harris married a second time, producing Marion E. Briant the second Mrs. Harris. Alongside one another they experienced two children, a daughter (Ruth) and a son (Carver). This relationship lasted until finally about 1920. Following the divorce, Marion Harris returned to her Dover, NJ house with Ruth, leaving Carver with his father.

Before long thereafter, Harris married Ella Anderson, his 3rd and ultimate marriage.

Lake Hopatcong: It was in 1898 that Harris moved to a area that would enjoy a important function in his everyday living…Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Found in northern New Jersey, it really is 9 miles of shoreline and coves make it New Jersey’s biggest lake and at the transform of the century, Lake Hopatcong experienced turn out to be a summertime mecca for the abundant and well known. Conveniently positioned to nearby New York city, Lake Hopatcong available an simple summer time getaway from the town warmth and a lot of summer “cottages“, which in a lot of situations had been additional like mansions, began springing up all over the lake. Harris quickly regarded the need to have for his photographic solutions right here during the summertime months.

Attractive sunsets grew to become the Harris trademark when operating on Lake Hopatcong and he was farsighted plenty of to set himself up on a aspect of the lake that was recognized as owning the greatest sunsets. And getting the terrific promoter that he was, Harris began advertising and marketing his studio as offering the finest sunset pictures on the lake. Soon travellers commenced flocking to his studio for their private and relatives photographs on Lake Hopatcong.

In another move of public relations genius, Harris developed his individual own “Floating Studio” in the summertime of 1899. Replacing his land-based mostly moveable studio, this floating studio was essentially a houseboat specially outfitted as a photographic studio. Termed the “Harris Picture Float“, this 16’x50′ floating studio was able of touring all-around the lake, and even had a unique porch for his famed sunset photographs. Whilst other photographers ended up also doing work all over the lake, Harris’ floating studio and his present for advertising influence gave him a aggressive edge above the other photographers and he controlled a sizeable portion of the lake’s pictures organization. However, in 1903 Harris’ floating studio sprang a knothole leak and sank, having with it a great deal of Harris’ photographic products.

But he speedily recovered from this disaster and went on to continue on a approximately 40-12 months romantic relationship with Lake Hopatcong. Harris continued his summer season visits to the lake until as late as 1939, when he was in his 60’s and his photographic job began winding down.

St. Augustine, Florida: In 1898 Harris moved to St. Augustine, Florida where by he opened the “Acme Perspective Organization“. Harris’s Florida photographic expert services integrated the sale of cameras and tools, free photographic guidelines to beginner photographers, the use of his darkroom, as very well as professional photographic companies to neighborhood citizens or viewing vacationers. He also dropped no time in photographing the attractive sights in St. Augustine and the surrounding Florida countryside.

Harris rapidly fell in enjoy with St. Augustine and to a larger sized extent, virtually all of Florida. Involving 1898 and 1940 Harris commenced a photographic occupation that most of us would aspire to obtain currently…summers together the shorelines of lovely Lake Hopatcong, NJ… and winters in heat and sunny St. Augustine, FL.

St. Augustine available a selection of photographic topics that appealed to Florida’s rising tourist trade together with the Fountain of Youth, the Oldest Household in America, Ft. Marion, Metropolis Gates, and The Outdated Slave Market place, between other folks.

In 1912 Harris commenced a prolonged, and from time to time controversial, relationship with the St. Augustine Historical Society. Serving as its company supervisor and head curator, Harris was instrumental both equally in recruiting new users to the Historic Society as very well as advertising both the record and heritage of St. Augustine. Though on his enjoy, sure associates started to dispute some of the Historical Society’s unsubstantiated claims…was the “Oldest Dwelling in The united states” basically as previous as claimed?. Was the “Outdated Slave Industry” genuinely a “Slave Sector” or was it simply a “Public Generate Industry“.. The “…very well, they could have been…” responses by specified place business folks achieved resistance from other historic purists, and some changes in St. Augustine’s historic promises resulted.

Irrespective of the controversy, Harris’s association with the St. Augustine Historical Society lasted until his demise in 1940 and all the even though, Harris continued to promote his St. Augustine postcard and pictures small business.

Harris Postcards: It was in 1893 while visiting the Columbia Exposition that Harris saw a glimpse of the up coming coming development…postcards. By 1898 Congress handed a law authorizing the manufacture and use of “Personal Mailing Cards” and what commenced as a trickle before long exploded into a big small business. And Harris was in a excellent situation to gain his share of the business. The telephone was not however commonplace and postcards before long grew to become a primary implies of casual conversation. In 1901 Harris was promoting a grouping of 30 Lake Hopatcong views that have been able of currently being inserted into a letter, so changing them into postcards was a somewhat straightforward activity. Quickly changing significantly of his present inventory into postcards and incorporating new sights each individual year, Harris shortly had literally hundreds of Lake Hopatcong postcard views and became known all around Lake Hopatcong as “Harris, the Postcard Man“. Any individual wishing to send out a individual information about their distinctive trip or getaway on Lake Hopatcong typically did it utilizing a Harris postcard. In 1909 alone Harris claims to have sold more than 200,000 Lake Hopatcong postcards and projected even extra for 1910.

As his postcard small business grew, he expanded into the memento and novelty industry, providing paperweights, cups, extravagant holders, and other assorted picket and birch bark novelties, all with the name “Lake Hopatcong” on them. Whilst these kinds of a memento business enterprise was typical in St. Augustine and other places, Harris was 1 of the very first to begin these types of a small business at Lake Hopatcong.

As the postcard fad commenced to wind down around 1915, Harris experienced been watching from a distance the good results of Wallace Nutting in Massachusetts and before long made a decision to enter the industry of hand-colored pictures himself. With his qualifications, it was a normal.

Hand-Colored Photographs: Harris’s earliest try with hand-colored pictures arrived when he initial hand-tinted his Lake Hopatcong postcards. Right after doing work in black & white for quite a few decades, starting all around 1905 Harris assumed that the included colour could lead to elevated revenue. But he also before long uncovered that the added expense of hand-coloring his postcards led to a better unit cost, and ultimately to lower revenue. In the end Harris went the route of so a lot of other postcard photographers of having his postcards generated in colour on large-run coloration printing presses.

As aspect of his New Jersey summer months-Florida winter season cycles, Harris commenced taken new pictures with the intention of hand-coloring them for re-sale. His greatest providing pictures soon arrived to be from the New York Adirondack Location (specially Ausable Chasm) and Florida (primarily The Singing Tower), despite the fact that his northeastern images arrived from in the course of a four-point out region and his Florida photographs came from through the entire Miami-St. Augustine extend.

In advance of extended, “Harris Photos” started to exchange “Harris the Postcard Person” as his most important resource of money. In accordance to his son Carver…”what dollars he experienced, he produced from coloured pics“. And seemingly he manufactured more than enough funds to obtain houses in Florida and New Jersey, an imposing car, a dwelling-vehicle, and various launches and speedboats (which enabled him to get close to Lake Hopatcong speedier than ever).

Like Wallace Nutting shots, Harris shots ended up commonly hand-coloured pictures, tipped onto a linen-type matboard, and signed with the “Harris” title decreased proper, and title reduce remaining, typically signed in pencil. Most Harris photographs were matted, although a honest variety had been “shut-framed” and signed instantly on the photo devoid of any matting. And pretty frequently you will continue to obtain an unique “Harris” label either on the matboard back again or on the backing paper.

Still Harris pics carry a number of subtle variances between Nutting and some of the main Nutting-Like photographers:
• Most Harris photographs ended up rectangular sights, with the duration normally currently being additional than twice the width (or vice versa).
• Harris only sold Exterior (outdoor) sights. He in no way marketed Colonial Interior scenes.
• You will only see the title “Harris” signed on the photo, never ever “W.J.‘ or any other variation of his first or middle names. There is also never any mention of Harris’s very first or center name on any of his photograph labels.
• Whilst the “Harris” title is typically composed parallel less than the image, often you will see the “Harris” title penned at a 45 degree angle.
• When additional abnormal, it is not unusual for the Harris title to be decrease remaining and the title to be reduce right.
• Most Harris signatures are signed in pencil

And most likely most diverse from Nutting, quite a few Harris images are hand-coloured “photogravures” somewhat than hand-coloured images. Even though his earliest scenes were manufactured on photographic paper, some of his later on and finest-providing views have been reproduced in much larger black & white portions making use of the photogravure printing technique, and then individually hand-colored. Whereas Nutting had approximately 100 colorists at his peak, Harris by no means experienced much more than 5 folks coloring his shots at any presented time.

One particular appealing story about Harris pics relates to various of his photographs that element a egret standing in the Florida water. Seemingly for the sake of simplicity, Harris carried a “stuffed” egret as aspect of his photographic tools, presumably due to the fact it was easier to shoot a nevertheless fowl for influence alternatively than a dwell, uncontrollable hen. He was also recognized to carry a stuffed alligator for influence as properly.

Not amazingly, Harris was ordinarily his personal ideal salesman and his photographic expeditions also grew to become sales trips as well. When he went into the countryside to shoot new images, he usually stopped at various art and reward shops alongside the way to acquire new wholesale and retail orders for his image business enterprise. It was believed that additional than 70 outlets on the two coasts of Florida alone carried Harris’s hand-colored pictures. A lot of accommodations applied Harris shots on their walls to encourage the beauties of early 20th c. Florida, and it is believed that Harris would normally need far more than 25,000 pictures per season just to fulfill the demand from customers of his Florida revenue outlets.

And as the Florida year would end Harris would pack vehicle, head again north, and get started the cycle all about once again at New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong.

The Last Years: William James Harris died on August 2, 1940 after struggling by way of a lengthy ailment and was buried in his adopted town of St. Augustine. Although not as nicely known as Wallace Nutting or some of Nutting’s other contemporaries, Harris did realize a significant level of fame. He savored a fair money good results in his decided on photographic industry, he liked the travel and perform involving the northeast in the summer months and Florida in the wintertime months, he experienced a varied family members life, he made a powerful bond with his adopted town of St. Augustine, FL, and his photographic operates undoubtedly assisted to popularize Florida a lot more than any other photographer of his time.

And now much more than ever, collectors of hand-coloured photography are actively in search of the attractive hand-coloured images of William James Harris.