The Hand Coloured Pictures of William James Harris


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

We had no data on Harris ourselves till a number of years in the past once we talked about Harris in a earlier article and requested readers to provide us with any recognized data. Consequently we acquired an article on Harris postcards, and an article that had been printed on Harris by the St. Augustine Historic Society in 1991, each of which shed appreciable mild on the hand-colored pictures 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 an area photographer. Inside one 12 months he was in a position to begin his first pictures enterprise whereas dwelling together with his dad and mom and working his first studio inside their home.

In 1890, the 22 12 months outdated Harris moved together with his household to W. Pittston, PA the place, though he continued working a studio in his dad and mom house, he additionally started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 pictures 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 top because the Ferris Wheel’s heart shaft, he would be capable of 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 identify and handle, which helped to make an early identify for the younger photographer.

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

Shortly after Maude’s loss of life, Harris and a few buddies opened a vacationer enterprise in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, promoting footage 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 that they had 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 together 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 grow to be a summer time mecca for the wealthy and well-known. Conveniently situated to close by NY city, Lake Hopatcong provided a straightforward summer time getaway from the town warmth and lots of summer time “cottages“, which in lots of cases have been extra like mansions, started bobbing up across the lake. Harris shortly acknowledged the necessity for his photographic companies right here through the summer time 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 good 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. Known as the “Harris Photograph Float“, this 16’x50′ floating studio was able to touring across the lake, and even had a particular porch for his well-known sundown images. Though different photographers have been additionally working across the lake, Harris’ floating studio and his present for promotional impact gave him a aggressive edge over the opposite photographers and he managed a sizeable portion of the lake’s pictures 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 an almost 40-year relationship with Lake Hopatcong. Harris continued his summer time 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 novice photographers, using 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 at the moment…summers alongside the shorelines of lovely Lake Hopatcong, NJ… and winters in heat and sunny St. Augustine, FL.

St. Augustine provided 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 Outdated 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 “Outdated 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 individuals 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 loss of life in 1940 and all of the whereas, Harris continued to advertise his St. Augustine postcard and pictures enterprise.

Harris Postcards: It was in 1893 whereas visiting the Columbia Exposition that Harris noticed a glimpse of the subsequent coming pattern…postcards. By 1898 Congress handed a regulation authorizing the manufacture and use of “Non-public 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 major technique of informal communication. In 1901 Harris was promoting a grouping of 30 Lake Hopatcong views that have been able to being inserted right into a letter, so changing them into postcards was a comparatively easy process. Shortly 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 identify “Lake Hopatcong” on them. Though such a memento enterprise was frequent in St. Augustine and different locations, Harris was one of many first to start out 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 sector of hand-colored pictures himself. Together with his background, it was a pure.

Hand-Coloured Pictures: 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 might result in elevated gross sales. However he additionally quickly discovered that the added expense of hand-coloring his postcards led to a better 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 finest promoting footage quickly got here to be from the New York Adirondack Area (particularly Ausable Chasm) and Florida (particularly The Singing Tower), though his northeastern footage got here from all through a four-state area and his Florida footage got here from all through the complete Miami-St. Augustine stretch.

Earlier than lengthy, “Harris Footage” started to exchange “Harris the Postcard Man” as his major supply of revenue. In line with his son Carver…”what cash he had, he comprised of coloured footage“. And apparently he made sufficient cash to purchase homes in Florida and New Jersey, an imposing vehicle, a house-car, and a number of other launches and speedboats (which enabled him to get round Lake Hopatcong sooner than ever).

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

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

• Most Harris footage have 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 identify “Harris” signed on the image, by no means “W.J.‘ or some other variation of his first or center names. There’s additionally by no means any point out of Harris’s first or center identify on any of his image labels.

• Though the “Harris” identify is often written parallel below the image, often you will note the “Harris” identify written at a forty five diploma angle.

• Whereas extra uncommon, it isn’t unusual for the Harris identify 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 footage are hand-colored “photogravures” fairly than hand-colored images. Though his earliest scenes have been produced on photographic paper, a few of his later and best-selling views have been reproduced in bigger black & white portions utilizing the photogravure printing technique, after which individually hand-colored. Whereas Nutting had practically 100 colorists at his peak, Harris by no means had greater than 5 individuals coloring his footage at any given time.

One fascinating story about Harris footage pertains to a number of of his footage that characteristic 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 fowl for impact fairly than a stay, uncontrollable fowl. He was additionally recognized to hold a stuffed alligator for impact as properly.

Not surprisingly, Harris was often his personal finest salesman and his photographic expeditions additionally turned gross sales journeys as properly. At any time when he went into the countryside to shoot new footage, he often stopped at numerous artwork and present outlets alongside the way in which to acquire new wholesale and retail orders for his image enterprise. It was estimated that greater than 70 outlets on each coasts of Florida alone carried Harris’s hand-colored footage. Many motels used Harris footage on their partitions to advertise the beauties of early twentieth c. Florida, and it’s estimated that Harris would usually want greater than 25,000 footage 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 another time at New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong.

The Ultimate Years: William James Harris died on August 2, 1940 after struggling by way of a protracted sickness and was buried in his adopted metropolis of St. Augustine. Though not as properly often known as Wallace Nutting or a few of Nutting’s different contemporaries, Harris did obtain a substantial stage of fame. He loved an inexpensive 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 together with his adopted metropolis of St. Augustine, FL, and his photographic works definitely helped to popularize Florida greater than some other photographer of his time.

And now greater than ever, collectors of hand-colored pictures are actively searching for the attractive hand-colored footage of William James Harris.


Supply by Michael Ivankovich

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