Biographical Note

Scope and Content

Digital Content/Other Formats

Restrictions on Access

Restrictions on Use

Acquisition Info

Processing Info

Separated Material

Bibliography

Related Material

Inventory   [ + ]

Subject Terms


Guide to the Asahel Curtis Papers
1898, 1908-1941



Accession No.: 4058-002, 4058-003, 4058-004
Creator: Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941 , creator
Title: Asahel Curtis Papers
Date Span: 1898, 1908-1941
Quantity: 8.46 cubic ft. (20 boxes)
4 microfilm reels ; 35 mm.
Languages: Collection materials are in English.
Asahel Curtis. Special Collections, UW Libraries, UW19571z

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.



Biographical Note

Asahel Curtis was the most prominent Seattle photographer of the early twentieth century, as well as a noted outdoorsman and regional booster. Born in Minnesota in 1874, he moved to Washington Territory in 1888. Asahel's brother, Edward, supported the family by opening a photography studio in Seattle, and Asahel went to work for him in 1894. In 1897, the brothers agreed that Asahel should go to the Yukon and document the Klondike Gold Rush. Asahel remained there for two years, alternately taking pictures and working a small and largely unproductive claim. The brothers parted ways after a bitter disagreement over the rights to Asahel's Yukon photos, which Edward had published under his own name. Edward later became nationally recognized for his twenty-volume series of photos of Native Americans. Asahel also enjoyed a successful career as a photographer, although he did not receive the acclaim that Edward did. He married Florence Carney in 1902 and opened his own studio in 1911. He was hired by a number of local companies, organizations, and wealthy individuals to take portraits and promotional photos. Asahel became more widely known for his high-quality images of the Washington landscape that were published nationally.

Asahel Curtis had a deep appreciation of Mt. Rainier and for several decades he directed both his appreciation for scenic beauty and efforts at regional boosterism into the development of Mt. Rainier National Park. Curtis was a founding member of the Mountaineers, a mountain-climbing group which also promoted the preservation of wilderness areas. Curtis was active in the affairs of the club for the first several years after its founding in 1906. He led the Mountaineers on climbs of Mt. Rainier and organized a committee within the club on Mt. Rainier National Park. However, his involvement in the Seattle-Tacoma Rainier National Park Committee (later the Rainier National Park Advisory Board) strained his relations with the group. The committee, which Curtis chaired from 1912 to 1936, was formed by community business interests to exploit the park's tourism potential. Curtis, through the committee, sought to promote accessibility to the park and to increase tourism by building roads. His opposition to the expansion of Olympic National Park in the late 1930s led to a further deterioration of relations with the Mountaineers. It also caused a rift between Curtis and his fellow Mt. Rainier boosters and effectively ended his involement in park affairs.

Curtis's advocacy was not limited to the development of Mt. Rainier National Park. While serving as the offical photographer for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, he also chaired its Development Committee and its Highway Committee for many years. His interests reached beyond the Puget Sound region. Curtis owned a small orchard in Ellensburg, and he believed that the landscape of Central Washington could be improved by building irrigation projects to turn the arid region into cropland. The Washington Irrigation Association thus chose Curtis to be its president in the 1920s. He also participated in the affairs of the Washington State Good Roads Association, serving as its president in 1932 and 1933. Asahel Curtis died in 1941.

Scope and Content

The Asahel Curtis Papers are comprised of three accessions. Accession no. 4058-3, a single box that dates from ca. 1909 to 1932, includes speeches, writings, letters, clippings, and a stock certificate. The speeches and writings promote highway building and access to scenic attractions in Washington, especially Mt. Rainier National Park. Many of the writings were published.

The bulk of the Asahel Curtis Papers are in Accession no. 4058-4 covering the years 1898 to 1941. The accession is comprised primarily of Curtis's correspondence from 1908 to 1941. The correspondence documents Curtis's work as a civic leader and businessman. Most letters concern his activities as a regional booster in the various groups in which he served. Many others are simply correspondence with patrons who ordered photos. Curtis almost never discussed his photographic philosophy or techniques in his letters. Many letters regarding the administration of Mt. Rainier National Park were pasted into the seven Mt. Rainier scrapbooks also included in the accession. The inventory of this accession is accompanied by an extensive name index of the individuals and organizations represented in the general correspondence, but the letters in the Mt. Rainier scrapbooks are not indexed. The scrapbook letters, which range from 1911 to 1921, are largely, but not entirely, in chronological order. While the years 1910-1911 and 1913-1920 are sparsely represented in the general correspondence, the years 1913-1915 and 1918-1920 are extensively documented by the scrapbooks. The scrapbooks also contain a few scattered newspaper clippings about the park. Three other scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings but no correspondence. The subject of one is Mt. Rainier (1924), another covers the Olympic Peninsula (1924), and the third scrapbook documents Frederick Cook's expedition to the North Pole (1908-1910). This accession also contains a diary of Curtis's trip to the Yukon in 1898 and financial records from 1932-1940.

Major correspondents of accession 4058-4 include Homer T. Bone, Clarence Cleveland Dill, Lindley Hoag Hadley, Knute Hill, Samuel B. Hill, Wesley Livsey Jones, Clarence Daniel Martin, Edmond Stephen Meany, Lewis Baxter Schwellenbach, Monrad C. Wallgren, Marion Anthony Zioncheck, the Rainier National Park Advisory Board, the Rainier National Park Company, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, the Yakima Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. National Park Service.

Accession 4058-2 is comprised of microfilm copies of the seven volumes of Mt. Rainier scrapbooks in Accession 4058-4.

Digital Content/Other Formats

The microfilm copy (Accession 4058-2) of the Mt. Rainier scrapbooks, vol. 1-7, may be obtained through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

The collection is open to all users.

Restrictions on Use

Asahel Curtis's literary rights were not transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Photocopies of Curtis's Mt. Rainier scrapbooks, vol. 1-7, in Accession 4058-4 must be made from the microfilm copy in Accession 4058-2.

Acquisition Info

Curtis's papers and scrapbooks were acquired by the University of Washington Libraries from the Asahel Curtis Studio in 1942.

Processing Info

Accessions. 4058 and 4058-2 were merged in May 1998 to form Accession 4058-4, but the microfilm copy of the Mt. Rainier scrapbooks remains under Accession 4058-2.

Accession 4058-2 was filmed from the originals at the University of Washington Libraries.

Separated Material

Photographs were transferred to the Asahel Curtis Photo Company Collection, PH Coll 482, in the division.

Bibliography

Sucher, David (ed.), The Asahel Curtis Sampler: Photographs of Puget Sound Past (Seattle, Puget Sound Access, 1973). Frederick, Richard and Engerman, Jeanne, Asahel Curtis : Photographs of the Great Northwest (Tacoma, Washington State Historical Society, 1983). Satterfield, Archie, Seattle: An Asahel Curtis Portfolio (San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1985).

Related Material

The Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma holds a large collection of Curtis's photographs.

The records of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce are housed at the Seattle Public Library.

The records of Mt. Rainier National Park are divided between two locations: the National Archives and Records Administration's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle) facility and the Mt. Rainier National Park headquarters in Ashford, Washington.


Inventory

  
Accession No. 4058-004
1898, 1908-1941
7.89 cubic ft.
Box/FolderDate
General Correspondence
General Notes: View the Name Index to General Correspondence.
1/1-619081908
1/7-1419091909
1/1519101910
1/16-1719111911
1/18-2519121912
1/2619131913
1/2719141914
1/2819151915
1/2919161916
1/3019171917
1/3119181918
1/3219191919
1/3319201920
1/34-3919211921
2/1-819221922
2/9-1619231923
2/17-2919241924
2/30-3/919251925
3/10-4019261926
Box
419271927
Box/Folder
5/1-3119281928
5/32-6/3519291929
7/1-8/1419301930
8/15-9/1019311931
9/11-10/319321932
10/4-2119331933
10/22-11/419341934
11/5-1719351935
11/18-2719361936
11/28-3019371937
11/31-3719381938
12/1-519391939
12/16-1319401940
12/14-1519411941
12/16Diary - Northwest Territory, 1. vol. 1898
12/17Report - Roy Thompson 1914
Scope and Content: "Report on Possible Rainier Park Cross-Mountain Road from Paradise Park to Yakima County Through Rainier Pass; Belt Highway Around Mountain and Carbon River Mountain Road."
Scrapbooks
Box
13Mt. Rainier, vol. 1 (September 1911-June 1912) and vol. 2 (June 1912-January 1913)1911-1913
14Mt. Rainier, vol. 3 (January 1913 - April 1913) and vol. 4 (April 1913-October 1913)1913
15Mt. Rainier, vol. 5 (October 1913-December 1914) and vol. 7 (November 1918-December 1920)1913-1920
16Mt. Rainier, vol. 6 (January 1915-May 1916)1915-1916
17Mt. Rainier Clippings 1924
18Olympic Peninsula Clippings 1924
18Frederick A. Cook Expedition to the North Pole 1908-1910
Scope and Content: Photos and clippings pasted into an order log.
Financial Records
19Ledgers, 2 vols. 1932-1935, 1936-1940

  
Accession No. 4058-003
0.21 cubic ft.
Box/FolderDate
1/1Outgoing Letters
1/1Speeches And Writings
1/1Re Mt. Rainier
1/2 Argus [Mt. Rainier National Park] Nov. 12, 1911
1/2 Highways n.d.
1/2Rainier [for] Washington Motorist
General Notes: 2 copies.
1/2 Rainier National Park Development by Asahel Curtis - Chairman - Rainier National Park Advisory Board n.d.
1/2 Shall the National Park Be Made Accessible? n.d.
1/2Rainier Park Lectures Illustrated by 120 Colored Slides by Asahel Curtis n.d.
General Notes: 2 copies.
1/2Untitled n.d.
Re The Mountaineers
1/3[Letter on Mountaineering] Nov. 15, 1909
1/3The Mountaineers in the Olympic Peninsula n.d.
1/3 Mountaineers to Climb Rainier by a New Route n.d.
Re Olympic National Park - Olympic National Peninsula
1/4The Proposed Mount Olympus National Park n.d.
General Notes: 2 copies.
1/4Through the Olympics by Pack Train n.d.
1/4[Untitled for the] Aberdeen World n.d.
1/4Untitled n.d.
Re: Washington State Development
1/5Land Settlement n.d.
1/5Untitled [for] Bellingham State Chamber Feb. 25, 1932
1/5Untitled n.d.
1/5[Radio Address] Minneapolis Feb. 5, 1925
1/5Address of Asahel Curtis at Grade and Pack Conference Spokane, Washington March 1927
General Notes: 6 copies.
Re: Washington State Roads and Highways
1/6Address n.d.
1/6Protection of the Highways Aug. 27, 1918
1/6Roads Journal of Commerce Annual Review Jan. 1932
1/6Washington's New Cross-State Highwy [for] Christmas, Argus n.d.
1/6To the Congress of the United States n.d.
1/6Untitled for Christmas, Argus n.d.
Speeches and Writings of Others
1/7Gillie, H. G., Development of Our Natural Resources Sept. 17, 1934
1/7Gillie, H. G., State Development June 1, 1934
1/7Milk War File Lent to Smith Oct. 26, 1929
1/7Seattle Chamber of Commerce n.d.
1/7Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Brief of Reclamation Conference Held with Dr. Elwood Mead July 13, 1928
1/7Webber, Carl E. n.d.
1/7Untitled n.d.
1/8Stock Certificate 1929
1/9Clippings

  
Accession No. 4058-002
0.36 cu. ft.
ReelDate
Microfilm
1Mt. Rainier Scrapbooks, vol. 1-5 , positives1911-1914
2Mt. Rainier Scrapbooks, vol. 6-7, positives1915-1920
3Mt. Rainier Scrapbooks, vol. 1-5, positives, set 21911-1914
4Mt. Rainier Scrapbooks, vol. 6-7, positives, set 21915-1920

Subject Terms

Personal Names:
Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941--Archives.
Organizations:
Mountaineers (Society)
Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
Subjects:
City promotion--Washington (State)--Seattle.
Land use--Washington (State)--Planning.
National parks and reserves--Washington (State)
Outdoor recreation--Washington (State)
Photographers--Washington (State)--Seattle--Archives.
Place marketing--Washington (State)
Regionalism--Northwest, Pacific.
Roads--Washington (State)--Planning.
Wilderness areas--Washington (State)--Recreational use.
Geographic Names:
Dawson (Yukon)--Description and travel.
Klondike River Valley (Yukon)--Gold discoveries.
Mount Rainier National Park (Wash.)
Olympic National Park (Wash.)
Olympic Peninsula (Wash.)
Rainier, Mount (Wash.)
Seattle (Wash.)
Washington (State)
Genre Headings:
Diaries.
Scrapbooks.
Last modified: May 27, 2005
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