The Hand Colored Photography of William James Harris

Fascination in early 20th c. hand-colored pictures by “Harris” has been escalating in current decades, particularly in Harris’s Florida scenes. Nonetheless I will wager that most collectors never even know Harris’s initially title, permit on your own everything about his track record.

We experienced no details on Harris ourselves till many decades ago when we outlined Harris in a previous write-up and requested visitors to offer us with any acknowledged details. As a outcome we obtained an short article on Harris postcards, and an article that had been revealed on Harris by the St. Augustine Historical Modern society in 1991, both of those of which drop substantial mild on the hand-colored pictures profession of William James Harris.

William James Harris (1868-1940) was born on Oct 12, 1868 in Herefordshire, England. His family members emigrated to The united states in 1870, settling in the Wilkes Barre, PA region. Regarded in his youth as each “Will” and “Willie“, by age 20 he apprenticed under a community photographer. Inside of 1 year he was capable to start out his first pictures small business whilst living with his mothers and fathers and running his 1st studio inside of their home.

In 1890, the 22 yr aged Harris moved with his spouse and children to W. Pittston, PA the place, although he ongoing functioning a studio in his moms and dads household, he also started his occupation as a traveling photographer. Through the early 1890’s, he spent appreciable time photographing coal miners and mining operations in jap Pennsylvania’s coal areas. Quickly thereafter he started employing the railroads to transportation him, and his pictures equipment, to the mountains, lakes, metropolitan areas, and wherever else he made a decision to choose his digicam. Cupboard images sold by Harris close to this time outlined 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. Though there his started the first of lots of subsequent marketing feats. One particular of the focal points of the 1893 Columbia Exposition was the 1st-ever introduction of George Ferris’s great “Ferris Wheel“. And it was Harris who was the initially to photograph it. He envisioned that by climbing on a roof approximately the same peak as the Ferris Wheel’s heart shaft, he would be capable to develop a see whereby the curves of the wheel had been not distorted vertically by perspective. This photograph was so remarkable that Harris donated 2000 of them to the Ferris Wheel Organization, every single of which incorporated his title and deal with, which assisted to make an early name for the younger photographer.

In 1895 he married Maude Dunn, a marriage that was shorter-lived for the reason that she died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1897.

Soon following Maude’s loss of life, Harris and some friends opened a tourist organization in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, providing images of Buck Hill Falls, the Delaware Water Gap, and other nearby sights to holidaymakers and regional people. Even though functioning from the “Harris Gallery” his expert services also provided cabinet playing cards and tin-variety pictures,. This portable studio at the time once again served as an outstanding marketing feat because it enabled him to the two market his company, and procedure his photographic do the job, anywhere he went.

Around 1901, Harris married a 2nd time, producing Marion E. Briant the 2nd Mrs. Harris. Jointly they experienced two young children, a daughter (Ruth) and a son (Carver). This marriage lasted until eventually about 1920. After the divorce, Marion Harris returned to her Dover, NJ property with Ruth, leaving Carver with his father.

Quickly thereafter, Harris married Ella Anderson, his 3rd and final marriage.

Lake Hopatcong: It was in 1898 that Harris moved to a site that would participate in a important job in his everyday living…Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Located in northern New Jersey, it truly is 9 miles of shoreline and coves make it New Jersey’s greatest lake and at the switch of the century, Lake Hopatcong had come to be a summer mecca for the abundant and well-known. Conveniently located to close by New York town, Lake Hopatcong offered an quick summer season getaway from the metropolis heat and quite a few summer time “cottages“, which in several instances have been a lot more like mansions, started springing up around the lake. Harris speedily recognized the need for his photographic providers right here all through the summer time months.

Attractive sunsets grew to become the Harris trademark whilst doing the job on Lake Hopatcong and he was farsighted adequate to established himself up on a portion of the lake that was regarded as obtaining the best sunsets. And remaining the good promoter that he was, Harris commenced promotion his studio as giving the finest sunset photographs on the lake. Quickly tourists began flocking to his studio for their personalized and relatives images on Lake Hopatcong.

In a different transfer of public relations genius, Harris produced his personal own “Floating Studio” in the summer time of 1899. Changing his land-based mostly moveable studio, this floating studio was basically a houseboat specially outfitted as a photographic studio. Referred to as the “Harris Picture Float“, this 16’x50′ floating studio was able of traveling close to the lake, and even had a unique porch for his famed sunset photographs. Though other photographers have been also doing the job all around the lake, Harris’ floating studio and his present for marketing result gave him a aggressive edge around the other photographers and he managed a sizeable portion of the lake’s images business enterprise. Sad to say, in 1903 Harris’ floating studio sprang a knothole leak and sank, having with it significantly of Harris’ photographic devices.

But he rapidly recovered from this disaster and went on to keep on a just about 40-year partnership with Lake Hopatcong. Harris ongoing his summer time visits to the lake until finally as late as 1939, when he was in his 60’s and his photographic profession commenced winding down.

St. Augustine, Florida: In 1898 Harris moved to St. Augustine, Florida the place he opened the “Acme Perspective Organization“. Harris’s Florida photographic expert services integrated the sale of cameras and products, cost-free photographic guidance to beginner photographers, the use of his darkroom, as nicely as specialist photographic companies to local citizens or viewing travellers. He also dropped no time in photographing the wonderful sights in St. Augustine and the surrounding Florida countryside.

Harris rapidly fell in adore with St. Augustine and to a larger sized extent, almost all of Florida. Amongst 1898 and 1940 Harris started a photographic career that most of us would aspire to achieve right now…summers along the shorelines of lovely Lake Hopatcong, NJ… and winters in warm and sunny St. Augustine, FL.

St. Augustine presented a wide variety of photographic topics that appealed to Florida’s expanding vacationer trade which includes the Fountain of Youth, the Oldest Residence in The usa, Ft. Marion, Metropolis Gates, and The Outdated Slave Market, among the others.

In 1912 Harris commenced a lengthy, and at times controversial, marriage with the St. Augustine Historic Modern society. Serving as its organization manager and head curator, Harris was instrumental each in recruiting new associates to the Historic Modern society as nicely as advertising the two the historical past and heritage of St. Augustine. Whilst on his enjoy, specified customers started to dispute some of the Historic Society’s unsubstantiated promises…was the “Oldest Property in The united states” basically as outdated as claimed?. Was the “Previous Slave Marketplace” actually a “Slave Sector” or was it simply just a “General public Create Market place“.. The “…properly, they could have been…” responses by certain space enterprise people met resistance from other historic purists, and some variations in St. Augustine’s historic statements resulted.

No matter of the controversy, Harris’s association with the St. Augustine Historical Society lasted till his dying in 1940 and all the although, Harris ongoing to endorse his St. Augustine postcard and photography company.

Harris Postcards: It was in 1893 although traveling to the Columbia Exposition that Harris observed a glimpse of the upcoming coming development…postcards. By 1898 Congress handed a law authorizing the manufacture and use of “Private Mailing Playing cards” and what started out as a trickle quickly exploded into a huge business enterprise. And Harris was in a great place to generate his share of the business enterprise. The telephone was not nevertheless commonplace and postcards soon became a major implies of everyday communication. 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 relatively very simple job. Promptly converting a lot of his present inventory into postcards and adding new sights each individual 12 months, Harris soon experienced virtually hundreds of Lake Hopatcong postcard sights and became recognised close to Lake Hopatcong as “Harris, the Postcard Guy“. Any one wishing to send a private concept about their distinctive journey or family vacation on Lake Hopatcong usually did it making use of a Harris postcard. In 1909 on your own Harris claims to have sold around 200,000 Lake Hopatcong postcards and projected even extra for 1910.

As his postcard enterprise grew, he expanded into the souvenir and novelty field, offering paperweights, cups, extravagant holders, and other assorted picket and birch bark novelties, all with the identify “Lake Hopatcong” on them. Although this kind of a souvenir business was typical in St. Augustine and other spots, Harris was just one of the to start with to start these types of a company at Lake Hopatcong.

As the postcard craze started to wind down all around 1915, Harris experienced been viewing from a length the accomplishment of Wallace Nutting in Massachusetts and shortly determined to enter the field of hand-coloured images himself. With his track record, it was a pure.

Hand-Coloured Photos: Harris’s earliest attempt with hand-coloured images came when he first hand-tinted his Lake Hopatcong postcards. Right after performing in black & white for a lot of a long time, setting up around 1905 Harris assumed that the added color could guide to elevated sales. But he also shortly acquired that the included expense of hand-coloring his postcards led to a greater device selling price, and at some point to decrease sales. In the end Harris went the route of so lots of other postcard photographers of having his postcards developed in coloration on significant-run colour printing presses.

As section of his New Jersey summer time-Florida winter cycles, Harris commenced taken new photos with the intention of hand-coloring them for re-sale. His best providing pics quickly came to be from the New York Adirondack Area (especially Ausable Chasm) and Florida (specially The Singing Tower), although his northeastern pictures came from all over a 4-state location and his Florida photographs came from all through the entire Miami-St. Augustine extend.

Prior to long, “Harris Pictures” commenced to substitute “Harris the Postcard Male” as his key supply of money. In accordance to his son Carver…”what money he had, he made from colored photos“. And seemingly he created sufficient funds to purchase properties in Florida and New Jersey, an imposing car, a residence-car, and quite a few launches and speedboats (which enabled him to get close to Lake Hopatcong faster than ever).

Like Wallace Nutting images, Harris shots ended up usually hand-colored images, tipped onto a linen-sort matboard, and signed with the “Harris” identify decrease right, and title reduced still left, generally signed in pencil. Most Harris shots ended up matted, though a fair quantity had been “shut-framed” and signed specifically on the picture without any matting. And very normally you will however obtain an first “Harris” label possibly on the matboard again or on the backing paper.

But Harris pictures carry numerous refined distinctions amongst Nutting and some of the key Nutting-Like photographers:
• Most Harris photographs were being oblong sights, with the size ordinarily getting more than twice the width (or vice versa).
• Harris only sold Exterior (outdoor) sights. He never ever bought Colonial Interior scenes.
• You will only see the name “Harris” signed on the photograph, never “W.J.‘ or any other variation of his first or center names. There is also never ever any mention of Harris’s initial or center name on any of his image labels.
• Although the “Harris” name is ordinarily penned parallel below the photograph, sometimes you will see the “Harris” name published at a 45 diploma angle.
• While much more abnormal, it is not unusual for the Harris identify to be reduce left and the title to be reduced suitable.
• Most Harris signatures are signed in pencil

And most likely most different from Nutting, numerous Harris pics are hand-coloured “photogravures” instead than hand-coloured images. Though his earliest scenes have been produced on photographic paper, some of his afterwards and ideal-providing views were reproduced in much larger black & white quantities utilizing the photogravure printing method, and then independently hand-coloured. While Nutting experienced nearly 100 colorists at his peak, Harris never ever experienced more than 5 people coloring his pictures at any offered time.

1 appealing tale about Harris photos relates to quite a few of his photos that element a egret standing in the Florida h2o. Evidently for the sake of simplicity, Harris carried a “stuffed” egret as aspect of his photographic gear, presumably mainly because it was simpler to shoot a nevertheless hen for result somewhat than a reside, uncontrollable chook. He was also known to carry a stuffed alligator for result as properly.

Not remarkably, Harris was normally his own ideal salesman and his photographic expeditions also became gross sales journeys as very well. Each time he went into the countryside to shoot new shots, he typically stopped at many art and reward stores together the way to acquire new wholesale and retail orders for his image enterprise. It was estimated that a lot more than 70 stores on each coasts of Florida alone carried Harris’s hand-colored photographs. Many inns utilised Harris pictures on their walls to boost the beauties of early 20th c. Florida, and it is believed that Harris would usually require a lot more than 25,000 pictures per season just to fulfill the demand from customers of his Florida product sales outlets.

And as the Florida year would conclude Harris would pack motor vehicle, head back north, and start off the cycle all more than yet again at New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong.

The Closing Yrs: William James Harris died on August 2, 1940 just after struggling by means of a lengthy health issues and was buried in his adopted city of St. Augustine. Even though not as well acknowledged as Wallace Nutting or some of Nutting’s other contemporaries, Harris did realize a substantial degree of fame. He loved a reasonable economic achievements in his selected photographic area, he liked the journey and perform between the northeast in the summer months months and Florida in the winter season months, he had a varied loved ones daily life, he formulated a robust bond with his adopted metropolis of St. Augustine, FL, and his photographic operates definitely helped to popularize Florida much more than any other photographer of his time.

And now more than at any time, collectors of hand-colored images are actively searching for the gorgeous hand-colored pictures of William James Harris.

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