Hartsook Photographers Image of Pacific Electric Conductor (1920s)

Gift of Bobby McDearmon, Mount Lowe Preservation Society Collection

Gift of Bobby McDearmon, Mount Lowe Preservation Society Collection

Unknown PE conductor’s cabinet photo from the 1920s, taken by Hartsook Photographers with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Porterville, Bakersfield, Oakland, Visalia, Sacramento, Pasadena and Pomona. The card measures 6×11 inches. The cabinet photo was graciously donated by Bobby McDearmon.

Gift of Bobby McDearmon, Mount Lowe Preservation Society Collection

More on Hartsook Photographers, from Wikipedia:

Fred Hartsook was born on 26 October 1876 in Marion, Indiana to John Hartsook and Abbie, née Gorham. He was born into a family of photographers and studio owners, his father and two uncles were all successful in the business and his grandfather had been the first photographer to open a studio in Virginia. According to a 1921 profile by John S. McGroarty, “the first Hartsooks [took] up the profession when it was in the infancy of development with the old daguerrotype and the first wet plate processes.”[1]

After graduating from high school at age sixteen Hartsook was apprenticed by his uncle as a civil engineer, but spent most of his time in his father’s studio. He moved to Salt Lake City, Utah and married Florence Newcomb, 12 September 1901. Flossie came from a family of photographers. She operated her own studio in Vernal, Utah in 1906. Flossie served as Fred’s assistant for their traveling photographic studio throughout the Utah territory. They had one daughter; Frances born 25 June 1902. Fred and family then set out to establish themselves in California, arriving sometime after 1906.[1] Initially, Hartsook operated as an “itinerant shutterbug, [wandering] all over the state, his team of mules pulling a homemade darkroom.”[2] Later he opened two studios, in Santa Ana and Santa Barbara, but eventually closed them in order to open a studio on 636 South Broadway in Los Angeles.[1]

Hartsook’s success as a photographer and studio owner allowed him to expand into other cities along the Pacific Coast, including San Francisco and Oakland. In 1921, McGroarty gives the number of studios as 20 and describes it as the “largest photographic business in the world”.[1] Bill Robertson, director of the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services, cited by KPCC in 2009, mentions 30 studios.[2]

Even if the bulk of the business came from everyday studio portraiture, Hartsook gained prominence through his celebrity clients, which included silent era Hollywood actors such as Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and Carlyle Blackwell, other celebrities such as pilot Charles Lindbergh, entrepreneur Henry Ford, and opera singer Geraldine Farrar, and politicians like House leaders Champ Clark and Joseph Gurney Cannon.[3] McGroarty describes a 40-minute sitting with President Woodrow Wilson in September 1919 as “the first formal sitting since Mr. Wilson became president.”[1] Also in 1919, Fred Hartsook married Bess Hesby, who in 1915 was “Miss Liberty” at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. They honeymooned in a cabin six miles (10 km) south of Garberville in the redwood forest of Humboldt County, California.

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  • MoMo

    Hello, I am seeking someone who is familiar with any Fred Hartsook work. I have a
    newly discoverd (wonderful) portrait and I really could use some help…but cannot find anyone who is an expert on his work. Do you have any ideas?
    720 253 8349

  • Bob Peppermuller

    Wow to find this here. I live on Otsego between Hartsook and Hesby here in North Hollywood. Across the the street from me was the Hartsook ranch where Fred Hartsook raised prized Holsteins.(Magnolia/Vineland/Lankershim triangle)
    I wish I could give you more info on his work but all I know is his historical presence in North Hollywood. Some of us have a 90% confidence his ranch house still exists here in North Hollywood (aka Lankershim).

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Gift of Cyndia Williams and Old Towne Antiques (San Dimas), Mount Lowe Preservation Society Collection