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Treasures of the Archives: Asahel Curtis Photographs at the State Archives

Dairy herd and dairy barn in the Yakima Valley by Asahel Curtis. Conservation Department, Planning and Development Division, Lantern Slide Shows, 1908-1939, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

Dairy herd and dairy barn in the Yakima Valley by Asahel Curtis. Conservation Department, Planning and Development Division, Lantern Slide Shows, 1908-1939, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

Washington State photographer Asahel Curtis (1874–1941) has long been overshadowed by his older and more famous brother, Edward. Recently, however, Asahel (which the family pronounced A-shul) is getting his due. A new biography, Developing the Pacific Northwest: The Life and Work of Asahel Curtis by William H. Wilson reveals Asahel Curtis as an important artist in his own right, as well as an advocate of national parks and better roads.

The Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, has 152 photographs attributed to Asahel Curtis, including some of the best and most interesting. He was responsible for many of the images in the Conservation Department, Planning and Development Division, Lantern Slide Shows collection, which features 256 glass lantern slides taken all over the state between 1908 and 1939. These slides were used to promote tourism and economic development and are beautifully hand-painted. A keyword search for “Asahel” in our photograph collections will also reveal stunning images of recreation in our national parks, Seattle’s early waterfront, turn-of-the-century industry near Spokane, and American Indians cutting up a whale at Neah Bay. We even have his marriage certificate from 1902.