The Huntington Library’s over 700,000 photographs date from the 1850s to the present and include outstanding examples of a wide variety of print and negative processes and photographic formats. While the collections are strongest in historical, documentary, and commercial photography, they also contain fine art photography within the core geographies and subjects.
The principal regional focus is California and the American West. The great western surveys of the nineteenth century are represented in works by Timothy O’Sullivan, William Henry Jackson, John Hillers, and William Bell. Iconic railroad volumes include The Great West Illustrated (1869) and Across the Continent on the Union Pacific Railroad (1869). The Frederick Monsen collection of nearly 400 photographs documents southwestern Native American communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Huntington is one of the world’s great repositories for the work of Carleton E. Watkins, a boyhood friend of Collis P. Huntington, uncle of the Library’s founder. There are also significant bodies of work by Edward Curtis, Alfred A. Hart, F. Jay Haynes, Carl Moon, Eadweard Muybridge, and Adam Clark Vroman. The photographic collections are unparalleled in their documentation of greater Los Angeles’s transition from pastoral landscape to thriving metropolis. The archives of the C. C. Pierce and “Dick” Whittington studios are amplified by thousands of images from amateur practitioners.
Topical strengths include the American Civil War, with George Barnard, Andrew Russell, Mathew Brady, Timothy O’Sullivan, and Alexander Gardner all represented in depth. “Grand Tours” of the nineteenth century are another well-documented subject. The 70 volumes of over 5,000 photographs collected and made by Lady Annie Brassey offer superb examples of travel photography.
The Huntington also possesses rich holdings of photographically illustrated books. Most noteworthy among these are the earliest such volume, William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature (1844–1846), and George Fardon’s San Francisco Album (1856), the first to depict an American city.