Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Views of Yosemite by George Fiske,
Date: ca. 1880-1890
Collection Number: BANC PIC 19xx.066--ALB
1 album (68 photographic prints); 15 x 23 cm.
68 digital objects
The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley.
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Information for Researchers
Collection stored off-site. Advance notice required for use.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted
in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library
as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must
also be obtained by the reader.
Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted
to research and educational purposes.
[Identification of item],
Views of Yosemite by George Fiske,
BANC PIC 19xx.066--ALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Digital Representations Available
The Bancroft Library has extensive holdings of Fiske's work. Search under his name in the on-line catalog for additional collections.
George Fiske was born October 22, 1835, in Amherst, New Hampshire, and raised on the family's farm. In 1858, at the age of
22, he moved west to Sacramento, California, where he worked as a banking clerk for his half-brother Thomas Fiske, of Thomas
Fiske & Co. Located in the same building as the bank was the Vance & Weed Photographic Gallery, owned by Robert H. Vance and
managed by Charles Leander Weed, the first photographer of Yosemite Valley. In the years following his move to California,
it is likely that Fiske received a good amount of photographic training --though where and by whom is not certain --for in
1864 he surfaced as a freelance photographer in San Francisco. In 1868, after a brief hiatus from photography spent farming
in the Santa Clara Valley, Fiske returned to San Francisco and became an assistant to Carleton E. Watkins. During the next
few years he was employed as a photographer for Thomas Houseworth & Co., and worked with Eadweard Muybridge photographing
the Yosemite Valley. In a one-year span between 1872 and 1873, Fiske lost his mother, father and half-brother James, and married
his first wife, Elmira ("Myra") F. Morrill. In 1874 Fiske returned to work for Watkins. The following year Watkins went bankrupt,
causing another hiatus in Fiske's career. In 1879, after resuming his photographic practice in San Francisco, Fiske moved
to the Yosemite Valley, becoming its first year-round resident photographer. While at Yosemite, where he lived for nearly
the remainder of his life, Fiske became the close friend of Galen Clark, established a long-running though modest photographic
concession of landscape views and custom tourist portraits, and ceaselessly photographed the many features of the Valley and
In 1884 Fiske began to receive the recognition due his work. Upon viewing Fiske's prints on exhibition at the New Orleans
World's Fair, the influential
Philadelphia Photographer critic Edward L Wilson described his work as "gems of photographic art" that "place Mr. Fiske in the front rank." That same
year, Fiske sent a selection of his photographs to London for the inspection of John Ruskin, who replied, "It is impossible
to choose subjects more fitly, or to do better work." Despite this and posthumous praise from the likes of Beaumont Newhall
and Ansel Adams, Fiske is yet to be widely recognized as a prominent figure in the history of photography.
In 1896, Myra Fiske died of cancer. The following year George Fiske married Caroline ("Carrie") Paull. In 1904 a fire destroyed
Fiske's house and studio, as well as two cameras, two lenses, three quarters of his glass-plate negatives, and a large portion
of his stock of prints. (A 1943 fire destroyed the remainder of Fiske's glass-plate negatives.) After the deaths of Galen
Clark in 1910 and his wife Carrie in 1917, Fiske become very despondent. In 1918, facing dim business prospects and suffering
intensely from a brain tumor, George Fiske committed suicide. He was buried next to Galen Clark in Yosemite's Pioneer Cemetery.
(Sources: Paul Hickman,
The Life and Photographic Works of George Fiske, 1835-1918 (M.A. Thesis, Arizona State University, 1979); Paul Hickman and Terence Pitts,
George Fiske, Yosemite Photographer (Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Press; Tucson: University of Arizona, Center for Creative Photography, 1980).)
Scope and Content
The Views of Yosemite album contains 68 photographic prints taken by George Fiske, likely in the 1880s. The photographs are
mainly of Yosemite Valley in the winter. Views include Black Spring, domes from Columbia Rock, Inspiration Point, El Capitan
Bridge, and Grizzly Peak. The album also includes a photograph of a burro-drawn sled bearing an advertisement for Fiske's
landscape photography business. Many of the photographs in the album are uncaptioned.