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Kinsey Brothers Photographs of the Lumber Industry and the Pacific Northwest, ca. 1890-1945

Darius Kinsey

Cedar stump house, Edgecomb, Washington, 1901
Cedar stump house, Edgecomb, Washington, 1901

Darius Kinsey was the most important and prolific photographer of logging activities in the Pacific Northwest. This collection of selection of images from the Libraries' collection illustrate all aspects of logging and lumbering from the turn of the century until the 1940s.

Darius Kinsey was a pioneer artist active as a photographer in the Northwest from the late 19th century to 1940. He was born in Missouri in 1869. Arriving in Snoqualmie, Washington at the age of 20, he went into the hotel and mercantile business, but soon after became intrigued with the art of photography. After learning the photography trade, he was hired by the Seattle and Lake Shore Railroad Co. and spent the next five years taking views along its line. At the same time, he started his pictorial documentation of life in the logging camps, photographing every aspect of logging in the Pacific Northwest. In 1896 he married Tabitha May Pritts and a year later started a studio in Sedro-Woolley. He depended on portraiture to earn a living, but also continued to photograph scenic views. Tabitha served as her husband's assistant, working in a darkroom at home, processing negatives received from the field and sending the finished photographic prints back to the logging sites.

According to the History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties Illustrated: "Darius Kinsey, the popular photographer of Sedro-Woolley, learned the art before the Skagit county communities had developed sufficiently to warrant the establishment of a gallery, but as soon as the population increased enough to make it profitable, he entered the business which he and Mrs. Kinsey have successfully conducted ever since... Mrs. Kinsey is also a photographer and takes charge of the office. Mr. Kinsey's camera is said to be the largest in the state of Washington and he is especially skillful in scenic work. He is in great demand for outside photography, while at the same time he and Mrs. Kinsey have the reputation of conducting one of the best galleries north of Seattle."

At the end of 1906, he decided to move his studio to Seattle to focus exclusively on logging documentation. In 1940, he broke several ribs in a fall from a stump which ended his photographic career. He died five years later in 1945.

Often using an 11x14 Eastman View camera, he photographed the entire logging process: early mornings in logging camps; the fallers posed with their axes, cross-cut saws and springboards; buckers crosscutting fallen timber; loading operations with steam donkey engines and ginpoles; logging railroads hauling their loads to Northwest mills. His images form a visual history of logging: from skid road logging with horses and sleds at the turn of the century to Diamond-T logging trucks and highlead logging operations in the 1920s. Not all his images document of logging activities. Some of his more poetic images of forest scenes are entitled: "Sunlight and shadows of towering fir trees", and, "Sunbeams filtering through shadow draped trees to the ground".

Clark Kinsey

Donkey engine with crew

Clark Kinsey's work as a photographer documented a vital aspect of the Pacific Northwest's economic and industrial history. Raised near Snoqualmie, Washington, Clark first practiced photography in the early 1890's with his brothers Darius and Clarence. During the Yukon Gold Rush, Clark and Clarence operated a studio in Grand Forks, where they remained for several years. About 1906, Clark returned to Seattle to operate a contracting business throughout the Northwest until shortly before World War I. From that time he returned to photography and spent the rest of his career documenting the logging and milling camps and other forest related activities in Washington, Oregon, California, and British Columbia. He was said to be the official photographer for the West Coast Lumberman's Association, and it is believed that he made approximately 50,000 negatives until his retirement in 1945. The images presented here comprise only a part of his life's work as a photographer.

About the Database

Only a fraction of Clark Kinsey's negatives survived. Produced on unstable nitro-cellulose film stock, the images were subject to rapid deterioration. The surviving negatives, 10,000 in number, representing the period from 1914 to 1945, were presented by Clark Kinsey's family to the University of Washington Libraries in 1968. The continued preservation of the negatives had become a critical issue by 1980, when combined efforts by local timber companies and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission assured salvage. The Weyerhaeuser Company gathered a consortium of concerned individuals and corporate groups to provide matching funds to an outright grant by NHPRC. The negative collection was edited for content and quality, and some 5,200 were selected for printing and filming. Master prints, safety film copy negatives and a detailed collection checklist and guide were the end products of this project. Because of the continuing importance of this collection, in 2003, the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections Division requested funding through a Friends Grant to provide more detailed access to selected images from this collection through a digitization project using the Contentdm software. This project was completed in the Fall of 2003. 1095 images were selected, digitized, researched and cataloged. Additional images were added as part of the Olympic Peninsula Community Museum project funded by a 2003 National Leadership Grant for Library and Museum Collaboration. These successive projects secure for posterity the continued preservation and accessibility of one of the regions most important photographers.

Selection, research and descriptive metadata for Clark Kinsey's photographs were completed by Kristin Kinsey, Kathy Stice, Katherine Donaldson, and grant staff in 2003-2013.

The information for Darius Kinsey's photographs was researched and prepared by the UW Libraries Special Collections Division and Cataloging staff in 1999. Not all the photographs from the collection were included in this database: the database consists of 130 digital images chosen from a group of approximately 151 photographic prints.

The images were scanned in grayscale using a Microtek Scanmaker 9600L and saved in .jpg format. Some manipulation of the images was done to present the clearest possible digital image. The scanned images were then linked with descriptive data using the CONTENTdm Software. The original collection resides in the UW Libraries Special Collections Division as the Darius Kinsey Collection PH Coll 126 and the Clark Kinsey Photographs Collection PH Coll 516.

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