CAPTURING HISTORY

CAPTURING HISTORY


(silence) (photo flash) (silence) ♪ It’s hard to imagine the
history of the last two centuries without photographs. It’s through the
photographer’s lens, we’re able to see another time. Another place. At the turn of the
twentieth century, three very different
photographers worked and lived in the Inland
Northwest: Charles A. Libby. Frank S. Matsura. And Frank Palmer. Charles Libby photographed
Spokane at a time of great change. For six decades,
Libby and his son, Charles Jr., documented
the city’s rapid growth. It’s impossible to imagine
Spokane’s early history without visualizing a Libby photograph. In the Okanogan Valley,
photographer Frank Matsura, a Japanese immigrant, was
befriended by a community of cowboys, miners,
merchants and Native Americans. In a time when portraits
were stiff formal affairs, Matsura’s photographs seemed to
capture a more authentic image of his friends and neighbors. Then there’s Frank Palmer, whose
love of nature is captured in his beautiful
hand-painted photographs. Palmer’s exotic wilderness
photographs were used as postcards by the Spokane Chamber
of Commerce to promote tourism in the Inland Northwest. This is Palmer’s wife
showing off her crop of enormous potatoes. Join us now as we explore
the photography of Charles A. Libby,
Frank S. Matsura and Frank Palmer. ♪ Hello, I’m Don Hamilton. I’m a working commercial
photographer here in Spokane, Washington. Which means I’m following in
the footsteps of Charles A. Libby one of Spokane’s
first commercial photographers. Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine Spokane in 1910. What you see is a
Libby photograph. Charles, and his
son Charles Libby Jr, created a remarkable
document of early Spokane. No other Spokane photographer
took as many pictures over as long of a period
as Charles Libby. By the time he retired in 1962,
Libby had worked for over six decades. He photographed four Presidents
and left more than 200,000 negatives. For Libby, the early 1900’s
was an exciting time to be a photographer. New technologies, like
halftones, allowed photographers to publish their works in books, newspapers, and advertisements. This created a new demand
for Commercial Photography, a form that Libby would
whole heartedly embrace. ♪ ♪ Charles Augustus Libby
was born in Olympia, Washington in 1879. After his
father’s death in 1898, he moved with his
family to Spokane at age 19. It was his older sister Addie
who taught Libby photography. An accomplished
photographer in her own right, Addie had opened a portrait
studio in downtown Spokane, where she employed
her teenage brother as her assistant. Under Addie’s instruction,
Charles learned the craft of portrait photography, but
he wanted to branch out. New, lighter weight field
cameras and halftone printing opened up the exciting world of commercial
photography for Libby. In his spare time, he
started taking photographs of Spokane Falls, Manito Park, downtown Spokane, and various businesses. He saw this great potential
to go out and do commercial photography and go out and take
scenic landscapes and pictures of businesses and buildings. In 1902, Libby broke away
from Addie and started his own photography business. And while started by
setting up a portrait studio, he actually made a reputation
for himself by shooting outside of it. He advertised himself as a
“commercial photographer”, who would bring
his camera to you. His timing was perfect. ♪ Spokane, at the
turn-of-the-century, was really a bustling community. Libby as a commercial
photographer was in the right place at the right time. The city fathers really
promotionalized expansion and the benefits of the community. Spokane was kind of a central
hub for all of these rural industries that were going on. So mining in Stevens and
Okanogan County and also over in Idaho. You have logging and agriculture
agricultural groups from the Palouse would come up and
purchase all of their materials in Spokane. And it was a big supply city
as well as kind of the central business district
for the region. It really was the
jewel of the Northwest. Spokane was booming. As new buildings and
businesses were being built, Libby was there to document it. The ability to print photographs
in publications and newspapers and brochures was new at the
time and so that idea of being able to take a picture of
your business as part of your advertisement was definitely
appealing to many business owners. As a commercial photographer,
Libby produced every type of image from automobiles to
zoo creatures at Manito Park. He took countless photographs
for these businesses and word of mouth got out that he was really
passionate about his work. And so one business would
hire him and they would show the photographs to their friends and
their friends owned businesses and they’d be like you should
come and take pictures of my storefront. He was involved in every type of
commercial photograph whether it was automobiles,
commercial construction, industrial development. He was really called upon to
photograph the development of Spokane. ♪ Charles Libby was fascinated
by new technology and machines, especially automobiles. In the early 1900s, Spokane
was rapidly changing from the culture of the horse to
that of the motor car. And, buying a new car
was a big darn deal. Libby shot
hundreds of photographs, of new owners and
their fabulous machines. So, getting an
automobile was a big deal. These pictures of families
standing in front of their new automobile in
front of their house. Photos were also taken of the
dealerships that sold the cars and the gas stations
that provided the fuel. And he not only took pictures of
families that would buy new cars but also dealers
when they sell a car. So you have these pictures of
rows of automobiles in front of Coeur D’ Alene Park or over
on Riverside Avenue with the courthouse in the background. And if a company
bought a fleet of vehicles, Libby would get a call to
photograph the proud occasion. Libby also
photographed automobile races, auto touring and
automobile shows. One of my favorite Libby
photographs was shot right behind me here in the
Lobby of the Davenport hotel. It was of automobiles being
brought in from the railroad level and down ramps
to the floor below. Libby showed up
for the wrecks too. He took thousands of photographs
of crashed cars and derailed trains for insurance companies. At that time automobile
accidents really needed to be documented and Libby of course
as a commercial photographer was the first person that
somebody would call. ♪ I’m in the presence of Libby’s
actual camera equipment here at the MAC under the
watchful eye of the curator. I can’t believe my great good
fortune to be able to lay my hands on Libby’s
actual machines. Believe it or not, Libby’s
photography equipment was considered field gear. It was lighter than most
of the studio cameras, but it was still a lot of
heavy equipment to haul around. For example, in the beginning,
Libby shot on individual glass plates like this one. They were heavy,
very very heavy. So early on in photography
you don’t get a lot of images because you’re lugging around
12 glass plates that’s actually quite a bit of weight. And glass plates are shot in the
size that the print is going to be. So if you wanted to take an 8X10
photograph you would shoot with an 8 X10 glass plate. As the technology changed, Libby
evolved into using the lighter plastic nitrate negatives. Libby was meticulous in how
he documented his photographs. He would individually number
each photograph on the negative in his own handwriting. He thought a lot about the
process and thought about how he as a photographer was going
to document his own work. Libby experimented in how he
wanted to sign his negatives. Sometimes you’d see
LibbyOGraph or Libby Photo, and other times it might be
signed Chaz Libby or C. A. Libby. Libby’s ledgers
were equally detailed. For example, April 9, 1924,
image number 25630 to 640. Rotary Club of Spokane. Image number 25 641 the Chamber
of Commerce Executive committee. Because of Libby’s
detailed numbering system, people still remember being able
to go to Libby’s studio to order a photograph taken
decades earlier. He individually
numbered his photographs. The ledgers would
correspond with these numbers, so if you had a photograph of a
luncheon for instance with the Women’s Club, there might be
five photographs and he would have them all listed and he
would have the women’s club and how much they paid for the
photograph and what size the photograph they ordered and
whether they paid for it or not. ♪ Many of Libby’s photographs were
used by the Chamber of Commerce as color postcards
to showcase Spokane. Charles Libby really
captured the essence of an urban community. Street scenes, which were often
utilized for color postcards which were very
prominent in the teens and 20s. The type of images that
people wanted to showcase their community. They were proud of Spokane. And I think Charles Libby
especially had a pulse on what would sell. ♪ ♪ In 1905, Libby married
Gretchen Schlussler. Their only child,
Charles A. Libby Jr., was born two years later. When Libby’s son
was a young man, he joined the business and the
name was changed to Libby and Son Photography. ♪ Charles Libby and his
camera seemed to be everywhere. He was hired to
photograph special occasions, parades, visiting dignitaries,
eloquent Davenport dinners, and pictures at Natatorium Park. No job was too big or too small. Whether it was photographing
new home appliances or the Interstate Fair. Libby was there. As Spokane’s
skyline changed and grew, Libby photographed it. Libby and his son
worked extremely hard, seven days a week. Especially on weekends, if there
was a picnic or some type of convention at the
Davenport Hotel, a gathering at one of the
many lakes around Spokane, Washington, the
photographers would go out, especially around
lunch time, dinner time, take a picture, run
back to the studio, develop some copy prints, take
them back out to the occasion and try to get some sales from
individuals who were included. For many years, Natatorium
Amusement Park was a popular hometown destination. Libby was often on site taking
tourist photos and postcards of people on amusement rides. All the rides,
Jackrabbit, you name it. Libby was on site
taking photographs. Whether it was for his own
interest or a commercial interest, he was on the scene. ♪ ♪ Libby would go out to Liberty
Lake to photograph groups of picnickers using this
Kodak Panoramic camera. The camera was loaded with an
eight inch by ten-foot roll of film. The panoramic camera used a
clockwork drive to turn the camera while at the same
time pulling the film. The camera needed five seconds
to pan from one side of the group to the other. Generally, there was at least
one prankster who would try to run behind the group from one
side to the other to get in the picture twice. Panoramic photography was a
new thing and for a commercial photographer that’s a
really big selling point. If you can say to
a client, ‘hey, you have a company
picnic coming up? We could take a picture of the
entire employee picnic.’ All of them gathered in
one long big stretch. So, he quickly adopts the new
Kodac technology to take these long sweeping pictures. He’s very excited about these
new things and wants to try them out. ♪ ♪ In 1927, Spokane’s Felt’s Field
was chosen as the finish line for the National Air Races. The aviation craze was in
full swing across the country. Airplanes were exciting and
new, and aviators were seen as celebrities. And it was a huge tourist
attraction and both Libby’s were in the thick of it. Spokane’s Mayor,
Major Jack Fancher, and the Chamber of Commerce
helped sponsor the races. The main event was the
Transcontinental Air Race from New York City to Spokane, with
a $10,000 prize for the winner. 24 pilots entered the race. They hired Charles Libby and his
son to shoot the photography for the event. For six days, some 90,000 people
showed up for the air races in Spokane. Each day, over 36,000 people
packed the grandstands alone. The sheer amount of cars
that were in the parking lot. The fact that Libby took
pictures of the parking lot just to show the amount of
people that was there. Libby and his son shot numerous
photos of famous aviators and their planes. They also shot from the air,
with Charles Libby Jr. venturing out onto the wing. The winner that year of the
Transcontinental Air Race was Charles Speed Holman. He traveled from New York
City to Spokane in 19 hours and forty-two minutes. ♪ ♪ In 1933, construction began on
the eighth wonder of the world. Libby and Charles Jr. were
contracted to photograph the complete process of building
the Grand Coulee Dam, from start to finish. It was a five year project,
that required their continuous presence on the
construction site. The Grand Coulee Dam project for
Washington State at the time was a huge deal. It was a big economic draw in an
area that was drying up with the depression, and Libby getting
the contract to document the building of this huge dam. Libby and his son go out and
they start documenting the way this dam is constructed. And so there are countless
pictures of dump trucks dumping all the soil that they are
digging up to help prepare for the site as well as the
different buildings that get built up because there are
temporary cities that are built for this dam. And so you get this sense of how
monumentally large this project is. In 1934, President Roosevelt
came out to visit the Grand Coulee Dam construction site. Many national
photographers are in tow. But Charles Libby
Jr. has the advantage. He knows the construction
site inside and out. Libby Jr. sets his camera up at
the perfect location to capture the ideal photograph of FDR the
one that would be syndicated in newspapers worldwide. ♪ During the Great
Depression of the 1930’s, Libby did not photograph
breadlines or people in poverty, that was Dorthea Lange’s job. Rather he worked in
a room like this, photographing well-healed
patrons that could pay him well. A lot of his photographs are
what his client’s want to see and not necessarily documenting
all aspects of society. Interestingly enough in the 30s
he’s taking pictures of new cars and new washing machines and
advertisements for different kinds of home equipment such
as ovens and things like that. He is a commercial photographer
and he’s a photographer for hire so he is not out documenting
like a photojournalist would. ♪ As we know, Charles Libby
made his living as a commercial photographer. He didn’t fancy himself a
historian or a documentarian and yet he played the essential role
for six decades of documenting Spokane’s evolution. There’s one Charles Libby image
which shows horses for sale and it’s showing the
backside of these horses, and the contrast between that
image and the family that just acquired an automobile out at
Manito Park so it really was a documentary aspect
to the work they did. The Charles A. Libby Collection at the Northwest Museum of
Arts and Culture, is one of the greatest
assets from a historical perspective that we
have in our community. ♪ ♪ Our next
photographer, Frank Matsura, was a Japanese immigrant who
lived in the Okanogan valley in the early 1900s. Matsura would have fit right
in to our culture today of Instagram’s and Selfies. He took photographs like
a family member would, with a real
personal connection, many times including himself. Frank Matsura was well-liked
in the Okanogan valley. He was gregarious
and full of fun, and seemed to get
along with everyone; from all walks of life. His camera knew no
social barriers: cowboys, farmers, miners, Native Americans, women, rich or poor, they all came under his spell. ♪ Frank Sakai Matsura
was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1873, to a Samurai family,
that could trace their ancestry back to the 1600s. For generations, the
Matsura family was powerful and influential. But, by the time
Frank came along, times had changed. Samurai were no longer powerful,
and to make matters worse, he was orphaned at a young age. Matsura went to live with
his Uncle’s family who ran a Christian girls school in Tokyo. Frank found himself surrounded
by intellectuals who influenced him. In his early twenties, he moved
to Yokohama for five years to study photography and English. Renjo Shimooka, considered
Japan’s Father of Photography, had a studio there. He was part of the
Shimooka social circle. Father of photography in Japan. At age 28,
looking for adventure, Frank Matsura
packed up his camera, grabbed his passport
and sailed for America. ♪ In the fall of 1903, Frank
Matsura arrived in Conconully, Washington in Okanogan County. He was hired by Jess Dillabough
to work at the Elliot hotel as a laundryman and general
roustabout. They need a cook, a washer,
a roustabout, somebody to help out with the chores. He answered the call. At that time, Okanogan County
was considered one of the last frontiers of the American west. People were still
packing six-guns, but at the same time you had
the automobile and incandescent light. The Elliot Hotel was the
biggest building in town. It was the headquarters for the
stages and mining men that were coming in and I think Frank
was right in the middle of it. Matsura lived in the
back of the hotel. The Dillaboughs kind of adopted
him and treated him like kind of a big brother to
their young family. And there’s a lot of pictures of
the Dillabough kids with Frank. Matsura soon began taking
photographs in his spare time and developing them in the
Laundry room of the hotel. Early on his name starts
appearing in the Okanogan Record Newspaper. At first, Matsura was reffered
to as “the little jap”. Before long, he
becomes, Mr. Frank Matsura, the esteemed photographer who is
taking wonderful photographs of our community. The bleeding edge of
Manifest Destiny out here. The 1880 saw
anti-Chinese riots in Seattle. There was a lot of animosity. Xenophobia, the fear of the
immigrants taking a job that rightfully
belonged to a white man. But Frank and his camera seemed
to break down social barriers. His gregariousness and his
ability to be at all levels of social strata. He was friends with everybody. Made no difference
whether Indian, white, monied, poor, he
just got along with everybody. He was much more engaged at a
direct level with the people of the community that
he was working with. That he would see
on a regular basis. That he was friends with. That distinction right there
tells me about Frank Matsura. That he lived in the community. He was a part of the community
and so with that his engagement with the people that
he was photographing, it was much more personal,
there wasn’t this removal. ♪ ♪ Frank Matsura also had a
special connection with the Native Americans. Here was a person who
looked a lot like them, in skin color and eyes and
did not condescend to them, in fact, offered them
the Japanese humility and hospitality and took note of
their material culture and their families and visited their
families at their houses. But by no means was he trying to
document the Native people in a way that was trying to capture
them before they disappeared. This by no means was the
intention of Frank Matsura, you could see that. He allowed the people to be
who they were in that time; whether it was, proudly wearing
their traditional regalia or the clothes that they wore out on
the ranch with their big angora chaps and hats and cuffs. He was very conscious of who
they were in that moment in time. ♪ By 1906, Frank Matsura
was selling his work. He took out a full page ad in
The Okanogan Record advertising his souvenir postcards
of the local scenery. Frank’s photographs were also
featured in a booster edition of the newspaper headlined
Conconully – Pride of the Okanogan. Matsura was making
a name for himself. A local newspaper
stated, Mr. Frank Matsura, the local photographer, has the
thanks of The Record office for some excellent
pictures of local scenes. Mr. Matsura takes a great
interest in photography and does credible work. We joked that he must have been
part mountain goat because the places where he took pictures
and they’re up on mountain tops. Frank Matsura was a
gentlemen, well-educated, and spoke fluent English. He actually translated one of
the horticultural texts that was used in the high schools and he
translated it into Japanese and send it back to Japan. He wrote a letter to the editor
or an op-ed in the Conconully Register on the role of
women in Japanese society. And to read those, he’s got this
impeccable command of academic English. Matsura’s photographs
connected with people. Unlike the more ridged portrait
photography reflective of the times, Matsura’s photography was
more spontaneous, candid and fun. It was kind of like an iPhone
and it could be there all the time. And people were
becoming more and more at ease. It wasn’t viewed as a
sanctimonious event where you’ve got to drop everything and
assume a certain rigorous chin out posture. It was a moment to have fun and
then relive that moment again and again when you had the
print in your hand and that was something that a lot of
people had never experienced. Frank seemed to be everywhere. He was the life of the party. The town clown. He was the instigator
of all the fun stuff going on. I don’t think he
ever missed a ball game. He never missed a parade. Here’s somebody who can take
a picture and you can have an instant memory of your
most recent town celebration. No event would be complete without a Frank
Matsura photograph. Like this one taken of the
King and Queen of the Winter Carnival. One of the negatives I was just
working on and I got zooming in on that photo and found a banner
across second avenue and on that banner was, it
looked like welcome spelled out in fireworks. And on the end of that string
of fireworks down by the W was a man in oriental dress and
he’s lighting the fireworks. Matsura was known for his
whimsical nature and his sense of humor. Even Mikey, a dog belonging to
Matsura’s friend Judge Brown, turns up in a variety of shots,
including studio shots with pipe and glasses. We’ve got one picture of a
sledding party that took place on Pine St. There’s these people
lined up in the snow banks and kids on sleds coming down and
the school in the background with the windows half open. It’s just this
incredible portrait of kids in knickerbockers. ♪ Matsura had a way of
capturing the essence of people, drawing in the viewer. The one that I am always drawn
to is a photograph of an elderly Native American woman carrying
wood down the main street I assume of Okanogan, and she’s
walking down the street in the snow. I think for some people, they
might think that it speaks to the plight of Native people,
and I surely can see that, but that’s not how I
read the photograph. When I see the photograph, I
think of all the grandmothers and great
grandmothers, my aunties, the women, the strong women that
I’ve had the privilege to know in my life to learn from. That important
element of our culture, that matriarchal element
that reveals the strength, the determination, that
component that that holds us together. ♪ In 1907, Frank Matsura moved
20 miles from Conconully to Okanogan. He opened up his own
photography studio downtown, near first and pine. There was always something
happening outside of his photography studio. Because it was just right across
from the Bureau Hotel and then down the street was
the Okanogan Hotel. And at the same time you had the
steamboat coming in two or three times a week. So, that was kind of the main
hub of Okanogan at the time. Frank’s photography studio
sold post card souvenirs by the thousands and
Japanese curiosities. There was also a small
portrait studio in the back. He just was everywhere. His shop was right there where
the steamboats came in and the stages came in. And so he was just right
in the thick of things. One Sunday, Matsura photographed
a group of Okanogan bachelors sitting on a hitching
rail outside the Pool Hall. Because he too was a
bachelor, he took another shot, including himself. ♪ Like every
photographer I’ve ever known, Frank Matsura loved his toys. He was always adding to
his equipment inventory. To stay current, he once
bought a modern camera for $315. That doesn’t sound like much,
but it was a small fortune at that time. He was taking pictures of the
elected officials and important people and out and about
and taking pictures of people digging ditches and doing
hard work – across the board, he just seemed to be there. ♪ In 1906, The Okanogan Record
reported that “an automobile has, for the first time, made
its way safely into the county, and no cowboy has
roped and branded it, nor has an accident
befallen it.” Before long, a delegation
from the Great Northern Railroad Company arrived to inspect the
work for a new railroad line. Matsura had been hired to
document the construction of the first railroad into the area. ♪ In 1907, Matsura was selected as
the official photographer for the irrigation works during the
building of the Conconully dam. He will make a
series of pictures, taking views each month, thus
showing the progress of the work. Reported the Okanogan Record. Many of Frank’s photos were
used for civic boosterism. Civic Boosterism was very big
at this time and every community was trying to put on their best
face to visitors and inviting other people to their
community functions. The Okanogan was the backside
of the moon and it was just developing and people wanted
to get the word out about this area. His pictures were used
by the great railroad, and by all these expositions
that they were having. And, of course his
postcards went everywhere, so, he was influential
in getting the word out. ♪ Native Americans would travel
a great distance to have their photographs made
at Frank’s studio. It’s evident to me that there’s
a real personal connection that seems to exist between he and
the people that came into the studio, that would sit and
have their photographs taken. It seemed very natural. It would be in someway as if it
was a family member that took these photographs
with that same sort of kind of connection. In one photograph, Matsura
captures Chief Chiliwist Jim on his horse in downtown Okanogan. There is something remarkable
that I find with his photograph of Chiliwist Jim. He’s on his horse. The backdrop behind him is
the Watch and Jewelry store, and against the storefronts
are three gentlemen that are non-Native and a dog, and
they’re all kind of looking in the direction, not
really at Chiliwist Jim, but at Frank Matsura, you can
tell because he must have been in the middle of street
with his camera set up. It’s not so much about the
photograph as much as all the things that we’re
happening at that moment. ♪ To entertain themselves, Frank
and his friends set-up skits and dressed up for the camera. People didn’t have TV. And so they made their own fun
and they would do these skits and little plays and stuff
just outrageous sometimes, with props and
hats, and goofy stuff. He was doing crazy
things with playing cards, guys pointing
guns at each other, lighting each
others cigars, pipes, men and women both. Matsura owned a multi-image
camera that could take many small thumbnail size
photos on one sheet of film. These stamp photos were
inexpensive and fast to produce, so his gang of friends could
have fun and get creative. He was a clown. He was a comic. And had a great sense of humor. My favorite one and it’s all
of Frank in different poses, he put on his own selfie. It tells me what kind of
what kind of guy he was. He was just this
debonair, laid back, here’s a picture
of back my head, kind of guy. There is one skit where Matsura
is in front of a firing squad. He’s got himself in
front of a firing squad. Being shot. And he’s dressed for it. His shirt is torn. He’s got a blindfold on. He’s got blood pouring
out of a hole in his chest. That was the skit they
were doing that day. Matsura was just
one of the guys. He often included
himself in the photographs. He didn’t have the professional
distance you might call it, I mean he could be the
first photo Bomber really. And so he wants a record
of these are my people. And he wants his people back in
Japan to know his adopted people here in the Okanogan. ♪ Sudden Death in Okanogan
the Omak Chronicle reported. Sadly, on June 19, 1913, Frank
Matsura’s life was cut short by Tuberculosis. He died suddenly of a lung
hemorrhage while running to get help for a friend. Frank Matsura was
only 39 years old. A shadow of sorrow was cast over
the community early in the week by the sudden death
Monday night of Frank S. Matsura, the Japanese
photographer who has been part and parcel of the city ever
since its establishment seven years ago. The Okanogan Independent. The biggest funeral
that Okanogan had ever seen. The Independent also reported,
“Frank’s place in Okanogan City will never be filled. He was held in high
esteem of all who knew him. He was one of the most popular
men in Okanogan and was known from one end of this
vast county to the other.” ♪ Our final photographer is Frank
Palmer who lived in Spokane in the early 1900s. Palmer called himself a Scenic
Photographer who photographed nature’s Grandest Scenes. His beautiful hand painted
photographs were used to attract tourists to eastern
Washington and northern Idaho. Palmer’s images
included grand waterfalls, pristine lakes, and
towering mountains. They capture the essence and
spirit of turn-of-the-century Washington and Idaho. ♪ Frank Palmer came to
Spokane from Atchison, Kansas in 1898. He ends up in Rathdrum, Idaho. And was also up in Stephens
County at a point before coming to Spokane and settling in
Spokane as a young man and photographer. Palmer’s ledgers,
which begin in 1907, show that he had a large stock
of photographs that were selling well. Some of his biggest clients
were the boosters and promoters, like the Chamber of Commerce,
and the Railroads and Steamship companies. So, he’s working with the
railroads and the steamboat companies to kind
of drum-up business. And one of the ways he does that
is he’s contracted to produce 20,000 prints of the scenic
view on this steamboat or on this rail. And he does it. And he is able to mass produce
these prints as souvenirs. In 1910, Palmer noticed that he
sold over 15,000 photographic postcards. Palmer was an avid outdoorsman. He and his wife, Frances,
camped and took photos of their adventures. You get a really strong sense
that he loved nature and he loved the scenery in
Washington and Idaho. There’s these incredible
shots of waterfalls, of lakes, of these just
unique geographic locations. Outdoor World and
Recreation Magazine, headquartered in New York
City, used some of Palmer’s magnificent
scenic photographs. Palmer also offered his
clients something unique, color. He would painstakingly go in and
paint these really vivid colors on sunsets on the lake or of the
streams and waterfalls with this greenery and foliage around it. It’s rather incredible. Although there is no
actual documentation, Palmer and Frances apparently
collaborated in the photography business. She is very involved in his
career as a photographer. She works as an assistant
for him helping develop his photographs. And she very much is the star
of some of his photography. Many of Palmer’s photographs
highlight rural life in the Inland Northwest. He was very interested in
documenting the natural resources of the area. So, there’s these great pictures
of apple orchards and his wife holding this bushel of potatoes
that are just enormous and him hand coloring those in to really
give people a sense of what it looked like. There’s these great pictures of
a family posing outside of their log cabin. The incredible
documentation of rural life. ♪ ♪ He just had a sense of kind of
how to how to take a photograph and give it a
really timeless feel. One of his more iconic pictures
is this picture of Curley Jim who was a local Spokane Indian. And he is in very classic
western dress outfit with a fringed vest. It becomes used. And so it’s this contrast, not
just traditional garb but them being and embracing
a part of modern society and the everyday life and I think Palmer
really understood that. August 14, ’09, sent
to Grant L. Martin, Hunters,
Washington, 100 postcards, Town of Hunters, Washington. $3.50. Palmer travel all over
the Inland Northwest. In his 1908 ledger he recorded
that in that one year he traveled 4,315 miles. Palmer dies in 1920 at age 40. Frances inherits his negatives
and continues to sell prints into the 1930s. ♪ Palmer was very purposeful in
the way he took photographs. Some photographers take
thousands and thousands of pictures, his pictures
seemed much more intentional. So, he would take the time
to set up the shot to get the perfect photograph. ♪ Through the photography of
Charles Libby, Frank Matsura and
Frank Palmer, we have a unique window on the
past of the Inland Northwest. We’re so lucky that so
much of their work survives. Today, these treasures are
archived at the Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane; at
the WSU’s Special Collections; and the Okanogan
County Historical Society. Thanks for joining me. Until next time,
I’m Don Hamilton. [Captions by Ashley Unruh] ♪ ♪

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