William and Grace on the shores of Lake Tahoe, 1915. (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
Unidentified gentlemen having a drink at the Cal-Neva Lodge, 1935 (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
Grace at the Bijou Inn, 1920 (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
San Francisco's Cliff House in 1906. (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
San Francisco City Hall after the 1906 earthquake (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
The Cliff House Burning in 1907. (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
Emerald Bay and Mount Tallac, Lake Tahoe, 1935. (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
Eagle Falls, Lake Tahoe, 1920 (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
Enchilada vendor in Mexico City, 1938. (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)
Snow on Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, 1932. (California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08)

Keeping you current

Cache of Newly Digitized Travel Photographs Will Transport You to 1900s California

Travelers William and Grace McCarthy really got around, and in nearly 3,000 photos, they captured a unique view of San Francisco, Tahoe and Yosemite

smithsonian.com

In 1996, Audrey Fullerton-Samora of Sacramento gave the state of California a rather sweet gift. She donated the State Archives 3,000 photographs taken by her great aunt and uncle William and Grace McCarthy who toured around the state in the early 1900s taking photos. As Alyssa Pereira at SFGate reports, the California Secretary of State recently digitized the photos and put them online, letting modern armchair tourists get a look at some of our favorite tourist attractions in the early days.

“While most of us do not leave the house without a camera on our smartphone now, William and Grace documented California during a much different time,” Alex Padilla, California's secretary of state, says in a press release. “As early adopters of automobile travel and personal photography, the McCarthy’s embodied California’s pioneering spirit. Their photo collection captures the landmarks and events that defined California, and beyond, during the early 2oth century. These clear, high-quality photos are some of the true gems of the State Archives, I’m proud of the hard work of our staff to ensure that they will be easily accessible to a global audience.”

According to the photography collection, the images were stored in 11 albums and chronicle the travels of the couple who lived primarily in San Francisco, where William was an armament expert for the U.S. war department. Not only did they chronicle tourist sites like Mount Shasta, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, their images chronicle San Francisco before and after the catastrophic 1906 earthquake, the fire that destroyed the Cliff House in 1907, the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and even a 1938 journey along the newly completed Pan American Highway into Mexico.

Earlier this year, some of the McCarthy’s photos were shown on Google’s Arts and Culture platform in a story called “California Memoirs.” Pereira points out that some of the most interesting unreleased photos in the collection include the areas around Lake Tahoe from trips between 1905 and 1938, showing points of interest including Emerald Bay, Eagles Fall and classic turn of the century lodgings like the Bijou Inn and Cal-Neva Lodge.

Taken as a whole, the unique archive also tells a story of transition in the Golden State—from the time people visited the area via train and horse-drawn wagons to the slow but steady supremacy of the automobile.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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