Arthur C. Pillsbury, Photographer


Arthur Clarence Pillsbury was best known for his work of landscapes of Yosemite National Park, photos of the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco, and time lapse photography of flowers.  He was born in 1870 and attended Stanford University.  His love of nature and of design came together as a nature photographer and inventor.  In 1906 his started the Pillsbury Picture Company and photographed the San Francisco Earthquake the next month.  The photograph below show the "Ruins near St. Joseph's Church, Copyright 1906.  Pillsbury Picture Company."


A few years back I was offered the opportunity to purchase a collection of cards that previously I had only found a few, fleet photographs by Arthur C. Pillsbury.  The purchase was a significant, and as a father of 4 children nearing university years I had to think twice before leaping.  The card collection was of Arthur C. Pillsbury's photographs of the Great White Fleet.  (Hears where it gets interesting.)  The Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation and Wikipedia do not indicate that he was with the fleet taking photographs!  "Arthur C. Pillsbury photographed the White Fleet both from on-board some of the vessels and as the Fleet made its entry into San Francisco Bay on May 6, 1908."  After this are shown cards in San Francisco Bay.  That's it.  Except, the collection that I found had cards with photographs from as early as Rio de Janeiro!   

the earthquake of 1906

On April 18th, 1906, two years before the fleet's arrival, one of the largest earthquakes of all time hit San Francisco.  The quake ruptured 296 miles of the northern most portion of hte San Andreas fault.  The earthquake struck at 5:12 am in the morning causing more than 700 deaths.  At left is a photograph that Authur made of the remains of the City Hall.  "City Hall Ruins  Pillsbury Picture Company, No. 7631 


The below cards are those that I can identify from his time in South America.  My best guess is that he departed California on the USS Buffalo and headed south to meet the fleet.  Buffalo was probably assigned to bring stores to the fleet and could have left as early as December 1907.  There is one card from Rio and other cards from the bullfight in Lima and target practice in Magdalena Bay.





These photographs are from a crossing the line ceremony that occurred around January 15th and 16th.  The ship that I believe this is on is the USS Maine.




This collection of photographs show target practice in Madelina Bay.  The first card show the structures ashore.  The last card above, from the Pillsbury Picture Company shows battle targets #0028 and is canceled in Santa Cruz on May 2, 1908.  This would indicate that Arthur was busy with the fleet long before San Francisco.  



Onboard the Buffalo the crew was entertained by a bear who seemed to have the run of the ship.  It was not uncommon for ships to have pets of all kinds onboard to entertain the crew.




This is a key card of the collection.  Posted on April 6, 1908, on a Pillsbury Card of Bridal Veil Meadows from his wife:

"4990 Dover Dr. Oakland.  Just to show you I am home in Oakland.  And this will be my address unless you nave notice in the near future. Arthur went south to get pictures of the Fleet and picked me up on his return trip.  Love to all, yours truly, H. F. Pillsbury"

The Fleet did not leave Magdalena Bay until April 11th and arrived in San Diego on April 14th.  His wife was back in Oakland on April 6th.



H. R. Jackson #37

This is an interesting card.  It is of the fleet steaming north from Magdalena Bay and entering California waters.  The photographer is H. R. Jackson and it is #37.  Since many of the earlier cards were also numbered in two digits, maybe Arthur hired, or purchased photographs from another to sell in his series of the fleet arrival in California.  This card used in 1909 from a sailor in Japan on the USS Vermont to a friend back home.




This was a unique card for Arthur Pillsbury.  It is done by a different publisher and adds a little decoration to his work.  The card shows fleet ships in the background at sunset and is copyrights to 1908.





All of the marine views I am sending you taken at Magdalena Bay Lower California.  Dear Mother, On deck as usual + enjoying very good health, and sincerely you can report as formally, no news of interest, Love, Lee.


The next group of cards are  from San Francisco Bay.  Arthur was certainly busy in the bay.  He took multiple shots of the ships coming through Golden Gate (before we had a bridge) and many of the ships at anchor.







This group of cards are sailors that Arthur took photographs of probably while they were in San Francisco.  It also includes the Oakland BBQ that many in the fleet attended after the parade.


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