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The Hand Colored Images of William James Harris

11 min read
The Hand Colored Images of William James Harris

Interest in early 20th c. hand-coloured photos by “Harris” has been increasing in current decades, especially in Harris’s Florida scenes. However I will wager that most collectors do not even know Harris’s first title, let by itself nearly anything about his history.

We had no information and facts on Harris ourselves right up until several decades ago when we stated Harris in a earlier post and questioned readers to offer us with any acknowledged data. As a consequence we acquired an write-up on Harris postcards, and an write-up that experienced been released on Harris by the St. Augustine Historic Modern society in 1991, each of which lose sizeable gentle on the hand-colored pictures vocation of William James Harris.

William James Harris (1868-1940) was born on October 12, 1868 in Herefordshire, England. His household emigrated to The united states in 1870, settling in the Wilkes Barre, PA space. Recognised in his youth as the two “Will” and “Willie“, by age 20 he apprenticed under a area photographer. Inside of a single calendar year he was equipped to start off his initially pictures enterprise whilst dwelling with his moms and dads and running his 1st studio inside of their home.

In 1890, the 22 yr aged Harris moved with his relatives to W. Pittston, PA in which, though he ongoing functioning a studio in his parents property, he also commenced his career as a touring photographer. During the early 1890’s, he put in considerable time photographing coal miners and mining functions in eastern Pennsylvania’s coal regions. Shortly thereafter he began using the railroads to transportation him, and his images gear, to the mountains, lakes, cities, and wherever else he resolved to just take his digital camera. Cupboard photographs sold by Harris all over this time outlined his tackle 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 began the initial of several subsequent promotional feats. One of the focal details of the 1893 Columbia Exposition was the initial-ever introduction of George Ferris’s excellent “Ferris Wheel“. And it was Harris who was the very first to photograph it. He envisioned that by climbing on a roof approximately the exact same top as the Ferris Wheel’s centre shaft, he would be equipped to develop a look at whereby the curves of the wheel had been not distorted vertically by point of view. This photograph was so amazing that Harris donated 2000 of them to the Ferris Wheel Organization, every of which involved his name and deal with, which assisted to make an early name for the young photographer.

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

Shortly immediately after Maude’s loss of life, Harris and some buddies opened a tourist enterprise in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, providing shots of Buck Hill Falls, the Delaware Water Hole, and other area points of interest to visitors and local inhabitants. Although running from the “Harris Gallery” his expert services also incorporated cupboard playing cards and tin-style photographs,. This transportable studio at the time yet again served as an exceptional marketing feat mainly because it enabled him to both equally promote his small business, and procedure his photographic get the job done, wherever he went.

All-around 1901, Harris married a second time, producing Marion E. Briant the 2nd Mrs. Harris. With each other they had two small children, a daughter (Ruth) and a son (Carver). This relationship lasted right until about 1920. Just after the divorce, Marion Harris returned to her Dover, NJ residence with Ruth, leaving Carver with his father.

Shortly thereafter, Harris married Ella Anderson, his third and closing relationship.

Lake Hopatcong: It was in 1898 that Harris moved to a area that would play a crucial position in his lifetime…Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Found in northern New Jersey, it is 9 miles of coastline and coves make it New Jersey’s premier lake and at the flip of the century, Lake Hopatcong experienced develop into a summer months mecca for the wealthy and famous. Conveniently found to nearby New York city, Lake Hopatcong provided an easy summer months getaway from the city warmth and many summer time “cottages“, which in quite a few occasions ended up more like mansions, started springing up all around the lake. Harris quickly regarded the need for his photographic companies right here throughout the summer months months.

Attractive sunsets grew to become the Harris trademark while doing work on Lake Hopatcong and he was farsighted more than enough to established himself up on a part of the lake that was identified as owning the greatest sunsets. And remaining the great promoter that he was, Harris started advertising and marketing his studio as providing the finest sunset images on the lake. Shortly visitors commenced flocking to his studio for their personal and family photos on Lake Hopatcong.

In an additional go of public relations genius, Harris designed his possess own “Floating Studio” in the summer months of 1899. Replacing his land-centered moveable studio, this floating studio was actually a houseboat specifically outfitted as a photographic studio. Termed the “Harris Photograph Float“, this 16’x50′ floating studio was capable of traveling all over the lake, and even experienced a distinctive porch for his well-known sunset photos. Although other photographers were also functioning all-around the lake, Harris’ floating studio and his reward for promotional influence gave him a competitive edge more than the other photographers and he controlled a sizeable part of the lake’s pictures enterprise. However, in 1903 Harris’ floating studio sprang a knothole leak and sank, getting with it significantly of Harris’ photographic devices.

But he quickly recovered from this catastrophe and went on to continue on a almost 40-calendar year connection with Lake Hopatcong. Harris ongoing his summer time visits to the lake until eventually as late as 1939, when he was in his 60’s and his photographic vocation began winding down.

St. Augustine, Florida: In 1898 Harris moved to St. Augustine, Florida where he opened the “Acme Look at Corporation“. Harris’s Florida photographic services incorporated the sale of cameras and tools, no cost photographic instructions to amateur photographers, the use of his darkroom, as perfectly as qualified photographic services to regional inhabitants or checking out travellers. He also misplaced no time in photographing the attractive sights in St. Augustine and the bordering Florida countryside.

Harris immediately fell in adore with St. Augustine and to a more substantial extent, practically all of Florida. Between 1898 and 1940 Harris started a photographic job that most of us would aspire to reach right now…summers along the shorelines of gorgeous Lake Hopatcong, NJ… and winters in heat and sunny St. Augustine, FL.

St. Augustine provided a range of photographic topics that appealed to Florida’s escalating vacationer trade such as the Fountain of Youth, the Oldest Dwelling in The usa, Ft. Marion, Metropolis Gates, and The Outdated Slave Market, amid some others.

In 1912 Harris started a extensive, and at times controversial, connection with the St. Augustine Historic Society. Serving as its business manager and head curator, Harris was instrumental both of those in recruiting new members to the Historic Society as effectively as marketing both equally the history and heritage of St. Augustine. Though on his observe, particular users began to dispute some of the Historic Society’s unsubstantiated promises…was the “Oldest House in The usa” essentially as previous as claimed?. Was the “Old Slave Market place” really a “Slave Current market” or was it merely a “General public Create Current market“.. The “…very well, they could have been…” responses by selected location company people today satisfied resistance from other historic purists, and some alterations in St. Augustine’s historic statements resulted.

Regardless of the controversy, Harris’s association with the St. Augustine Historic Society lasted until eventually his loss of life in 1940 and all the while, Harris ongoing to advertise his St. Augustine postcard and pictures enterprise.

Harris Postcards: It was in 1893 when browsing the Columbia Exposition that Harris saw a glimpse of the next coming development…postcards. By 1898 Congress passed a legislation authorizing the manufacture and use of “Non-public Mailing Cards” and what started as a trickle soon exploded into a large business. And Harris was in a excellent position to make his share of the business enterprise. The phone was not nevertheless commonplace and postcards soon turned a key signifies of casual communication. In 1901 Harris was selling a grouping of 30 Lake Hopatcong views that were being capable of getting inserted into a letter, so converting them into postcards was a somewhat easy task. Rapidly converting a great deal of his current inventory into postcards and incorporating new views each 12 months, Harris quickly had actually hundreds of Lake Hopatcong postcard sights and grew to become acknowledged all over Lake Hopatcong as “Harris, the Postcard Male“. Any one wishing to mail a private concept about their distinctive trip or vacation on Lake Hopatcong typically did it working with a Harris postcard. In 1909 on your own Harris statements to have bought in excess of 200,000 Lake Hopatcong postcards and projected even much more for 1910.

As his postcard small business grew, he expanded into the memento and novelty industry, providing paperweights, cups, extravagant holders, and other assorted picket and birch bark novelties, all with the name “Lake Hopatcong” on them. Even though such a souvenir small business was popular in St. Augustine and other spots, Harris was one of the initial to start off these types of a company at Lake Hopatcong.

As the postcard craze started to wind down close to 1915, Harris had been viewing from a distance the achievements of Wallace Nutting in Massachusetts and soon determined to enter the industry of hand-colored images himself. With his qualifications, it was a organic.

Hand-Coloured Photographs: Harris’s earliest try with hand-colored photos came when he initially hand-tinted his Lake Hopatcong postcards. Immediately after doing the job in black & white for many yrs, starting all-around 1905 Harris assumed that the additional color could lead to enhanced revenue. But he also shortly figured out that the included expenditure of hand-coloring his postcards led to a increased device price tag, and ultimately to decreased product sales. Ultimately Harris went the route of so numerous other postcard photographers of possessing his postcards developed in colour on huge-operate color printing presses.

As component of his New Jersey summer months-Florida wintertime cycles, Harris began taken new pictures with the intention of hand-coloring them for re-sale. His best promoting pics before long came to be from the New York Adirondack Location (especially Ausable Chasm) and Florida (especially The Singing Tower), while his northeastern photos arrived from in the course of a 4-state area and his Florida pics came from during the entire Miami-St. Augustine extend.

Before long, “Harris Pics” started to replace “Harris the Postcard Person” as his principal resource of cash flow. In accordance to his son Carver…”what cash he had, he created from coloured pics“. And apparently he created more than enough money to obtain homes in Florida and New Jersey, an imposing car, a residence-vehicle, and numerous launches and speedboats (which enabled him to get all around Lake Hopatcong faster than ever).

Like Wallace Nutting shots, Harris photographs were normally hand-colored pictures, tipped onto a linen-type matboard, and signed with the “Harris” name decrease appropriate, and title decrease left, commonly signed in pencil. Most Harris photos were being matted, while a fair amount were being “near-framed” and signed instantly on the photograph with out any matting. And rather typically you will however locate an initial “Harris” label both on the matboard back again or on the backing paper.

Nonetheless Harris pics carry several refined differences involving Nutting and some of the major Nutting-Like photographers:
• Most Harris images have been rectangular sights, with the length usually staying additional than twice the width (or vice versa).
• Harris only sold Exterior (outdoor) views. He never ever marketed Colonial Inside scenes.
• You will only see the name “Harris” signed on the photograph, hardly ever “W.J.‘ or any other variation of his initially or middle names. There is also by no means any point out of Harris’s initial or middle title on any of his photograph labels.
• Despite the fact that the “Harris” identify is commonly published parallel underneath the image, sometimes you will see the “Harris” identify penned at a 45 diploma angle.
• Though far more unconventional, it is not unheard of for the Harris title to be lessen remaining and the title to be reduced right.
• Most Harris signatures are signed in pencil

And probably most diverse from Nutting, several Harris pictures are hand-colored “photogravures” relatively than hand-coloured images. Even though his earliest scenes were being developed on photographic paper, some of his later and most effective-marketing views have been reproduced in larger sized black & white quantities utilizing the photogravure printing method, and then independently hand-colored. While Nutting had nearly 100 colorists at his peak, Harris hardly ever experienced much more than 5 men and women coloring his shots at any provided time.

One particular fascinating story about Harris photos relates to quite a few of his photos that function a egret standing in the Florida drinking water. Seemingly for the sake of simplicity, Harris carried a “stuffed” egret as component of his photographic devices, presumably simply because it was easier to shoot a even now fowl for outcome alternatively than a dwell, uncontrollable bird. He was also regarded to carry a stuffed alligator for influence as nicely.

Not amazingly, Harris was commonly his individual finest salesman and his photographic expeditions also grew to become revenue outings as effectively. When he went into the countryside to shoot new pictures, he normally stopped at several artwork and gift retailers alongside the way to get hold of new wholesale and retail orders for his image company. It was estimated that much more than 70 stores on both coasts of Florida on your own carried Harris’s hand-coloured images. Many lodges utilized Harris shots on their walls to promote the beauties of early 20th c. Florida, and it is believed that Harris would commonly require much more than 25,000 images for every time just to satisfy the need of his Florida gross sales stores.

And as the Florida period would end Harris would pack motor vehicle, head back north, and get started the cycle all around once more at New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong.

The Ultimate Yrs: William James Harris died on August 2, 1940 soon after struggling through a lengthy sickness and was buried in his adopted city of St. Augustine. While not as effectively identified as Wallace Nutting or some of Nutting’s other contemporaries, Harris did obtain a appreciable amount of fame. He savored a sensible fiscal success in his picked out photographic subject, he loved the vacation and function in between the northeast in the summer months and Florida in the wintertime months, he experienced a varied family lifestyle, he formulated a sturdy bond with his adopted metropolis of St. Augustine, FL, and his photographic operates unquestionably aided to popularize Florida far more than any other photographer of his time.

And now more than at any time, collectors of hand-coloured photography are actively seeking the attractive hand-colored photographs of William James Harris.

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