The Hand Colored Pictures of William James Harris
Interest in early 20th c. hand-colored images by “Harris” has been increasing in the latest several years, specifically in Harris’s Florida scenes. Nonetheless I’ll wager that most collectors never even know Harris’s initial title, let alone nearly anything about his background.
We had no information on Harris ourselves until numerous years in the past when we described Harris in a past post and questioned readers to supply us with any known information. As a end result we obtained an write-up on Harris postcards, and an short article that experienced been posted on Harris by the St. Augustine Historical Culture in 1991, both of which get rid of considerable gentle on the hand-colored photography career of William James Harris.
William James Harris (1868-1940) was born on Oct 12, 1868 in Herefordshire, England. His family emigrated to The us in 1870, settling in the Wilkes Barre, PA spot. Recognised in his youth as both equally “Will” and “Willie“, by age 20 he apprenticed less than a neighborhood photographer. Within just just one calendar year he was in a position to start his initially photography enterprise whilst residing with his parents and working his first studio in their dwelling.
In 1890, the 22 yr aged Harris moved with his family to W. Pittston, PA exactly where, whilst he continued running a studio in his mothers and fathers residence, he also started his vocation as a touring photographer. All through the early 1890’s, he expended substantial time photographing coal miners and mining functions in japanese Pennsylvania’s coal regions. Shortly thereafter he started utilizing the railroads to transportation him, and his images machines, to the mountains, lakes, towns, and wherever else he determined to just take his digicam. Cabinet images sold by Harris all around this time listed his deal with 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. Whilst there his began the first of quite a few subsequent promotional feats. A single of the focal factors of the 1893 Columbia Exposition was the initially-ever introduction of George Ferris’s excellent “Ferris Wheel“. And it was Harris who was the to start with to photograph it. He envisioned that by climbing upon a roof around the exact same peak as the Ferris Wheel’s centre shaft, he would be in a position to make a view whereby the curves of the wheel ended up not distorted vertically by perspective. This photograph was so extraordinary that Harris donated 2000 of them to the Ferris Wheel Company, every single of which provided his title and handle, which helped to make an early identify for the youthful photographer.
In 1895 he married Maude Dunn, a relationship that was limited-lived simply because she died out of the blue and unexpectedly in 1897.
Soon just after Maude’s demise, Harris and some pals opened a tourist organization in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, promoting photographs of Buck Hill Falls, the Delaware Water Hole, and other nearby sights to visitors and nearby inhabitants. Although operating from the “Harris Gallery” his solutions also integrated cabinet playing cards and tin-sort images,. This moveable studio after again served as an outstanding marketing feat simply because it enabled him to the two advertise his business, and process his photographic do the job, where ever he went.
Around 1901, Harris married a next time, producing Marion E. Briant the second Mrs. Harris. Jointly they had two little ones, a daughter (Ruth) and a son (Carver). This relationship lasted right up until about 1920. Following the divorce, Marion Harris returned to her Dover, NJ house with Ruth, leaving Carver with his father.
Soon thereafter, Harris married Ella Anderson, his 3rd and last marriage.
Lake Hopatcong: It was in 1898 that Harris moved to a location that would play a critical role in his life…Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Located in northern New Jersey, it is really 9 miles of shoreline and coves make it New Jersey’s premier lake and at the flip of the century, Lake Hopatcong experienced develop into a summer season mecca for the abundant and renowned. Conveniently positioned to close by New York metropolis, Lake Hopatcong made available an simple summer season getaway from the town warmth and quite a few summer months “cottages“, which in quite a few cases had been more like mansions, commenced springing up around the lake. Harris swiftly regarded the have to have for his photographic services right here all through the summertime months.
Gorgeous sunsets turned the Harris trademark when functioning on Lake Hopatcong and he was farsighted enough to established himself up on a section of the lake that was acknowledged as having the ideal sunsets. And staying the fantastic promoter that he was, Harris began advertising and marketing his studio as presenting the finest sunset photographs on the lake. Quickly travellers commenced flocking to his studio for their individual and relatives photos on Lake Hopatcong.
In a further transfer of community relations genius, Harris created his very own personalized “Floating Studio” in the summer time of 1899. Changing his land-dependent portable studio, this floating studio was basically a houseboat specially outfitted as a photographic studio. Called the “Harris Photo Float“, this 16’x50′ floating studio was able of traveling about the lake, and even had a distinctive porch for his famed sunset pictures. Though other photographers had been also doing the job all over the lake, Harris’ floating studio and his present for marketing effect gave him a competitive edge about the other photographers and he controlled a sizeable part of the lake’s photography small business. Regrettably, in 1903 Harris’ floating studio sprang a knothole leak and sank, using with it a great deal of Harris’ photographic tools.
But he swiftly recovered from this catastrophe and went on to proceed a almost 40-yr romance with Lake Hopatcong. Harris continued his summer months visits to the lake until eventually as late as 1939, when he was in his 60’s and his photographic vocation started winding down.
St. Augustine, Florida: In 1898 Harris moved to St. Augustine, Florida where he opened the “Acme Look at Company“. Harris’s Florida photographic expert services incorporated the sale of cameras and gear, no cost photographic recommendations to newbie photographers, the use of his darkroom, as effectively as expert photographic solutions to nearby residents or visiting tourists. He also shed no time in photographing the gorgeous sights in St. Augustine and the encompassing Florida countryside.
Harris swiftly fell in appreciate with St. Augustine and to a much larger extent, virtually all of Florida. Between 1898 and 1940 Harris commenced a photographic job that most of us would aspire to achieve these days…summers together the shorelines of beautiful Lake Hopatcong, NJ… and winters in heat and sunny St. Augustine, FL.
St. Augustine available a wide variety of photographic subjects that appealed to Florida’s expanding tourist trade such as the Fountain of Youth, the Oldest Home in America, Ft. Marion, Metropolis Gates, and The Previous Slave Marketplace, among the many others.
In 1912 Harris began a lengthy, and from time to time controversial, connection with the St. Augustine Historical Modern society. Serving as its organization supervisor and head curator, Harris was instrumental each in recruiting new associates to the Historical Modern society as well as advertising both of those the history and heritage of St. Augustine. Even though on his check out, sure members started to dispute some of the Historical Society’s unsubstantiated statements…was the “Oldest Property in The usa” really as old as claimed?. Was the “Outdated Slave Current market” truly a “Slave Industry” or was it simply just a “Public Generate Industry“.. The “…properly, they could have been…” responses by selected spot organization people today fulfilled resistance from other historical purists, and some alterations in St. Augustine’s historic promises resulted.
Irrespective of the controversy, Harris’s association with the St. Augustine Historical Culture lasted until finally his demise in 1940 and all the when, Harris continued to encourage his St. Augustine postcard and photography organization.
Harris Postcards: It was in 1893 although checking out the Columbia Exposition that Harris noticed a glimpse of the next coming development…postcards. By 1898 Congress handed a law authorizing the manufacture and use of “Private Mailing Playing cards” and what started as a trickle shortly exploded into a substantial small business. And Harris was in a fantastic situation to earn his share of the organization. The telephone was not nonetheless commonplace and postcards before long became a primary usually means of everyday communication. In 1901 Harris was advertising a grouping of 30 Lake Hopatcong sights that have been capable of getting inserted into a letter, so converting them into postcards was a relatively basic job. Immediately changing substantially of his present stock into postcards and incorporating new sights every year, Harris before long experienced practically hundreds of Lake Hopatcong postcard sights and turned acknowledged all around Lake Hopatcong as “Harris, the Postcard Guy“. Anybody wishing to ship a individual concept about their special vacation or vacation on Lake Hopatcong typically did it working with a Harris postcard. In 1909 alone Harris promises to have sold over 200,000 Lake Hopatcong postcards and projected even additional for 1910.
As his postcard business grew, he expanded into the memento and novelty area, selling paperweights, cups, extravagant holders, and other assorted picket and birch bark novelties, all with the title “Lake Hopatcong” on them. While such a souvenir organization was common in St. Augustine and other destinations, Harris was 1 of the 1st to begin these types of a organization at Lake Hopatcong.
As the postcard trend commenced to wind down all-around 1915, Harris experienced been looking at from a length the results of Wallace Nutting in Massachusetts and shortly made a decision to enter the industry of hand-coloured pictures himself. With his qualifications, it was a purely natural.
Hand-Colored Images: Harris’s earliest endeavor with hand-coloured photos arrived when he initially hand-tinted his Lake Hopatcong postcards. Following operating in black & white for many years, commencing around 1905 Harris assumed that the included colour could guide to increased income. But he also soon uncovered that the added expenditure of hand-coloring his postcards led to a larger unit value, and inevitably to decrease gross sales. Eventually Harris went the route of so many other postcard photographers of getting his postcards manufactured in coloration on significant-operate colour printing presses.
As section of his New Jersey summertime-Florida wintertime cycles, Harris began taken new photos with the intention of hand-coloring them for re-sale. His finest marketing shots quickly came to be from the New York Adirondack Region (especially Ausable Chasm) and Florida (specially The Singing Tower), whilst his northeastern pictures arrived from during a four-state region and his Florida pictures came from in the course of the total Miami-St. Augustine extend.
In advance of prolonged, “Harris Photographs” began to replace “Harris the Postcard Man” as his principal supply of revenue. According to his son Carver…”what funds he experienced, he designed from coloured shots“. And seemingly he manufactured more than enough funds to get homes in Florida and New Jersey, an imposing vehicle, a dwelling-vehicle, and a number of launches and speedboats (which enabled him to get all-around Lake Hopatcong a lot quicker than at any time).
Like Wallace Nutting pictures, Harris photographs were being commonly hand-coloured photos, tipped onto a linen-sort matboard, and signed with the “Harris” name lower appropriate, and title decrease remaining, ordinarily signed in pencil. Most Harris pictures have been matted, although a truthful quantity had been “shut-framed” and signed specifically on the photograph without having any matting. And quite typically you will still come across an unique “Harris” label both on the matboard back again or on the backing paper.
But Harris images have a number of refined variations concerning Nutting and some of the main Nutting-Like photographers:
• Most Harris images have been rectangular sights, with the size generally being far more than 2 times the width (or vice versa).
• Harris only marketed Exterior (out of doors) views. He by no means sold Colonial Interior scenes.
• You will only see the name “Harris” signed on the photo, never “W.J.‘ or any other variation of his initial or middle names. There is also never ever any point out of Harris’s 1st or middle name on any of his picture labels.
• Although the “Harris” name is ordinarily penned parallel beneath the image, once in a while you will see the “Harris” identify prepared at a 45 degree angle.
• While much more unusual, it is not unusual for the Harris name to be reduce remaining and the title to be decrease proper.
• Most Harris signatures are signed in pencil
And possibly most distinctive from Nutting, lots of Harris shots are hand-colored “photogravures” rather than hand-coloured images. Although his earliest scenes have been made on photographic paper, some of his later and most effective-offering sights have been reproduced in much larger black & white quantities working with the photogravure printing method, and then individually hand-coloured. While Nutting experienced almost 100 colorists at his peak, Harris in no way experienced a lot more than 5 persons coloring his photographs at any offered time.
One particular appealing story about Harris shots relates to various of his shots that attribute a egret standing in the Florida drinking water. Evidently for the sake of simplicity, Harris carried a “stuffed” egret as aspect of his photographic gear, presumably simply because it was much easier to shoot a however bird for result fairly than a dwell, uncontrollable bird. He was also recognised to have a stuffed alligator for effect as nicely.
Not surprisingly, Harris was typically his have most effective salesman and his photographic expeditions also turned income trips as nicely. Each time he went into the countryside to shoot new photographs, he typically stopped at a variety of art and gift retailers alongside the way to get new wholesale and retail orders for his picture organization. It was believed that a lot more than 70 stores on both of those coasts of Florida alone carried Harris’s hand-colored pics. Lots of inns employed Harris pics on their walls to encourage the beauties of early 20th c. Florida, and it is approximated that Harris would ordinarily require far more than 25,000 images for every period just to fulfill the demand of his Florida sales retailers.
And as the Florida year would conclude Harris would pack auto, head back north, and begin the cycle all in excess of once again at New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong.
The Remaining Years: William James Harris died on August 2, 1940 immediately after suffering through a long sickness and was buried in his adopted town of St. Augustine. Whilst not as nicely regarded as Wallace Nutting or some of Nutting’s other contemporaries, Harris did achieve a substantial amount of fame. He relished a realistic financial achievement in his preferred photographic subject, he savored the vacation and get the job done among the northeast in the summer months months and Florida in the winter season months, he experienced a varied family existence, he formulated a solid bond with his adopted metropolis of St. Augustine, FL, and his photographic works undoubtedly aided to popularize Florida more than any other photographer of his time.
And now extra than ever, collectors of hand-colored images are actively in search of the wonderful hand-colored shots of William James Harris.