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Theodore E. Peiser Photographs of Washington State

Carson D. Boren and descendents beside the tablet memorializing him, Seattle, November 13, 1905
Carson D. Boren and descendents, 1905

Theodore E. Peiser, an early pioneer photographer, was active in Washington State from the 1880s to 1907. He documented early scenes in Seattle including pioneers, 1900 military expedition to China and the Territorial University. Unfortunately, early during his stay in Seattle, he experienced the loss of his photographic studio and equipment in the Great Fire that swept the city in June of 1889. However, some of his photographic images did survive. These and others are presented as part of the Theodore E. Peiser Photograph Collection.

Theodore E. Peiser, was born in California in 1853. Arriving in Washington State in the early 1880s, he was actively involved in the photography business in Seattle until about 1907. During his stay in Washington, he managed to capture significant scenes of the early history of Seattle and the outlying region. Among his photographs are included documentation of the faculty and students of the Territorial University, the National Guard after six days service under martial law during the Chinese riots in Seattle, the Seattle Base Ball Club in 1886, and the Camp Lawton corrals and stables for military troops departing for the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China. He also frequently photographed scenes in King County and the surrounding region such as the Port Gamble Mill, Snohomish riverfront, and Snoqualmie hop farms. His original studio on 2nd Avenue between Marion and Columbia Streets was destroyed along with his equipment and negatives in the great Fire of 1889 that swept the city's downtown district. He subsequently moved his photography studio to a number of locations in the city: 1516 1/2 Front Street (1894), 2010 Western Avenue (1901), 2406 1/2 6th Avenue (1905), and 415 Eitel Bldg. (1906).

However, in 1907 an entry in the March 10th issue of the Seattle Times reflects his situation: Broken in health, bronchitis and asthma having been left in the wake of a severe grip attack, Theo. E. Peiser, a pioneer photographer of Seattle and the city's leader in that business previous to the great fire, when he lost everything, has been brought down to actual want. There is left to him only the memories of what fortune was once his and what he might have been. Just now the only possible move, his physician tells him, that will save his life is a change of climate, and Lake County, California has been designated as the place where he should go. This will be made possible only through the sale of his photograph gallery outfit including many valuable plates, views and portraits. Among the plates are many pioneer scenes of Seattle, Peiser having come here in 1883. His is at the present time the oldest photographer in point of local service in the city. His home is at 7543 Sunnyside Avenue, this city.

He died in California on February 11, 1922.

About the Database

This database was produced as part of the Crossing Organizational Boundaries IMLS Grant. The results of this grant project are also showcased on the King County Snapshots web site. The information for the Theodore E. Peiser Collection was researched and prepared by the IMLS Grant, UW Libraries Special Collections Division, and Cataloging staff in 2002-2003. Not all the photographs from the collection were included in this database: the database consists of 140 digital images chosen from a group of approximately 205 photographic prints. The photographic prints were scanned as a 3000 pixel TIFF image in 8-bit grayscale, resized to 640 pixels in width and compressed into JPEG format using Photoshop 6.0 and its JPEG quality measurement 3. The scanned images were then linked with descriptive data using the UW CONTENTdm program. The original collection resides in the UW Libraries Special Collections Division as the Theodore E. Peiser no. 282.

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