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Arthur Churchill Warner Photographs of Washington State and Alaska, ca. 1884-1945

Washington Hotel demolition during the Denny Hill regrade
Denny Hill regrade

Arriving in Seattle in the 1880s, Arthur Churchill Warner engaged in photographing views of Seattle for the tourist trade. These included conventional street scenes, the ships on Elliot Bay, and the mills along the waterfront. In 1888, he joined a Mt. Rainier climbing expedition and was the first to use a camera to record the summiting of the highest peak in Washington State. He had a brief three year stay in Alaska and the Yukon, documenting the Gold Rush of 1898-1900, before returning to the Pacific Northwest to continue his photographic career. His images have left us with a lasting visual impression of the early days of Seattle and its regional history.

A. C. Warner was born in Granby, Massachusetts in 1864, his youth spent in Minnesota where he studied photography. He soon found the job that took him to the Far West in 1886, as a staff photographer for the Northern Pacific Railway. Settling in Seattle, Warner soon formed a short-lived partnership with one Davis, working jointly to make and sell some fairly conventional views of Seattle, the ships on Elliot Bay, and the mills along the waterfront. The two men hoped such views would sell to tourist and businessmen who visited from California or the East.

In 1888, he was engaged by John Muir to join a Mt. Rainier climbing expedition as a working member of a small party that would also include Major Edward S. Ingraham, the Californian artist William Keith, a young scientist named Charles V. Piper, Henry Loomis, Norman O. Booth, Daniel Waldo Bass, young Joe Stampfler and John Hays who tended the horses, the indespensible guides Indian Henry and Philemon Beecher Van Trump. This is the first historic use of a camera at the summit of the mountain. His personal account of this ascent was published in "The Mountaineer" (1956).

Woodland Park entrance gate
Woodland Park entrance gate

The camera used for this adventure, was manufactured by the Eastman Dry Plate Company. It held 5x8 inch sensitized glass plates in either a vertical or horizontal position. Owing to the fact that it does not have a mechanical shutter, the photographer was obliged to remove the lens cap, estimate the exposure time needed, and then stop the exposure by recapping the lens. The camera remains with the UW Libraries Special Collections Division. Unfortunately, many of the original negatives appear to have been lost, perhaps as a result of the devastating fire of 1889 not ten months after the Rainier photographs of August 1888.

After Warner married Edith Randolph, the daughter of the well-to-do Captain Simon Peter Randolph in 1890, he formed a business partnership with his father-in-law. S.P. Randolph may have furnished the necessary capital and Warner the essential camera and legwork for an adventure in Gold Rush photography in Alaska. In the summers of 1898, 1899 and 1900, Warner went to Alaska as a prospector, a packer and a photographer. The cartouche on the reverse of his Alaskan cabinet mounts provides a Seattle address and gives indication that the Alaskan specialty of Warner was in views of Skagway, Dyea and the Chilkoot Pass. But the separation from his wife and children caused much unhappiness and after 1900 Warner remained in Seattle to pursue several lines of work - as a photographer for the publisher Lowman and Hanford, as a confectioner with a shop in the Seattle Hotel on Second Ave., and as a sales agent for the landscape paintings and photographs of Albert Henry Barnes of Tacoma who died in 1920. After Barnes death, Warner became more active in his own photographic enterprises, continuing until his death in 1943. He pioneered in microphotography in Washington State and made the first microfilm of public records in the Pierce County Court House in 1921. In 1925 he commenced the Warner Projection Company and found a ready market for art deco projection slides to be used with cartoons and the lyrics of popular songs which might be projected on the theater screen so that audiences could join the pipe organist's rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home" or "You can bring Rose with the Turned Up Nose (But Don't Bring Lulu)". In addition, together with his wife, Warner presented illustrated lectures on the wild flowers of western Washington. He made the photographs and Mrs. Warner tinted the glass slides by hand in those days before color photography. (Courtesy Robert Monroe)

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 Arthur Churchill Warner Photograph Database 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 387 digital images chosen from a group of approximately 1200 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 Arthur Churchill Warner Collection no. 273.

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