ANSEL ADAMS GRANDPARENTS AMBROTYPE CALIFORNIA, GOLD RUSH, RIVERBOAT c. 1857
ANSEL ADAMS GRANDPARENTS AMBROTYPE CALIFORNIA, GOLD RUSH, RIVERBOAT c. 1857:
[SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, ANSEL ADAMS, VIGILANCE COMMITTEE, GOLD RUSH, S.S. CENTRAL AMERICA,R.H. VANCE PHOTOGRAPHER]
Quarter-plate ambrotype of William James Adams & Cassandra (Hills) AdamsTHE PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS OF THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHER, ANSEL ADAMS.
This image is a quarter-plate ambrotype in a well worn and chipped thermoplastic case. TheRobert H. Vanceimage is in very good condition with about average craquelure to the back varnish and a few small spots of flaking loss. The glass is in excellent condition and is uncracked. The image is otherwise sharp and detailed with the rose tinting on their cheeks and lips still easily discernible. The Robert Vance embossed velvet pillow facing the image is in excellent condition. Overall, the image is in very good condition and presents quite well.
Later life likenesses of William and Cassandra Adams are fortunately accessible through the genealogical reference‘The Descendants of William James Adams and Cassandra Hills Adams’(Salinas, 1999) authored by the daughter of Ansel Adams (who is also their family historian), Anne Adams Helms. Although the later life exemplars of William & Cassandra in Helms’ text clearly confirmed the identification of the ambrotype, Mrs. Helms also concurred the image was indeed her great-grandparents after viewing it. (We’ve included copies of the later life examples – from Mrs. Helms text - for comparison in the last two images attached to the sale. If any buyer have a shred of doubt remaining, compare William’s left ear in the ambrotype to the later life example from the genealogical reference.). As such, we 100% guarantee the attribution as stated, in perpetuity.
William James Adamswas born on August 1, 1829 in Thomaston Maine. His mother died less than a year after he was born, and after his father remarried, that union produced 9 half siblings.
Refusing to follow in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter and after a curious demand to by his stepmother to wear his sister’s underwear, William left home at 20. By 1849-50 young Adams was a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi for William McClellan of New Orleans. William left New York for Panama in late 1851 and made his way to San Diego California by April 1852.
As many in Californians did, Adams endeavored to try mining in Cold Spring, Placer County but soon found the grocery and dry goods business to be more lucrative and reliable than the diggings. He succeeded in the grocery business but it was twice struck by the fires which regularly ravaged San Francisco area. Realizing everything was made of wood, he decided to take on the lumber business. It was also during this time that Adams being an established businessman and likely feeling a sense of civic duty, became one of the 1,000 San Francisco men of note who formed the Second Committee of Vigilance.By late 1856, the lumber firm of Adams, Blinn & Company was well established in the lumber trade. That same year William went back to Maine for a visit where he met the recent young widowCassandra (Hills) McIntyre (1839 – 1918). On January 13, 1857 they were married in Lincoln County Maine.The couple travelled back to California and began their family.
The Adams’ first child wasWilliam Louis Adams(11/3/1859) followed bySarah Louise Adams(1/9/1864).
Their last childCharles Hitchcock Adams(5/25/1868) was born at Lick House in San Francisco. After Charles graduated from the University of California about 1890, he was already working for his father as a bookkeeper and worked to maximize a use for the immense amounts of sawdust generated by his father’s lumber mills by patenting a process of making alcohol from the waste product. Soon afterwards it would seem Charles met a young and popular Nevadan,Olive Braypossibly in San Francisco or perhaps during a prospecting trip to Carson City.By 1896, Charles and Olive were married and settled in San Francisco.
Following a miscarriage in 1897, Charles and Olive were expecting by 1901 and on February 20, 1902 unbeknownst to his parents at the time a ‘photography earthquake’ would hit San Francisco with the birth of their son,Ansel Easton Adams.
The art of the frozen image would never be the same....
In sum, we feel this is one of the better collecting opportunities currently available for serious private collectors and institutions in the genre of 19thcentury historical portraits, cased imagery and historical photography in general.
THIS IS THE OLDEST EXTANT IMAGE OF A DIRECT DESCENDANT / FAMILY MEMBER OF ANSEL ADAMS.
This image effectively represents and crosses over the collecting genres of :
·Gold Rush & California Pioneers
·Robert H. Vance portraits (rare in commerce)
·The obvious familial association to Ansel Adams
·Documented Riverboat pilots
·San Francisco Vigilance Committee Members
·The advanced Ansel Adams printcollector who wants an item that sets their collection apartfrom others…
Succinctly, this is a rare image representing the beginning of the Adams’ Family in California andarguably the earliest photographic image related to the life of the world’s most famous photographer.
Offered atslightly less than half the price of a lower end Adam landscape print(of which dozens exist in some respects), one can have the earliest family photo associated with the most well known photographer in the history of photography.
A rare collecting opportunity.
This image was acquired (with a number of other related images) at public sale after having been donated to a charitable organization indirectly by descendants ofLouise Adams Easton, aunt of world renowned photographer, Ansel Adams. As additional evidence of provenance, we also own Louise Adams Easton's D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) membership certificate which we acquired with the images.
We welcome any questions regarding provenance and inquiries regarding other Easton (S.S. Central America survivors) and Adams family photos we own.
Thanks for viewing our sale and please email any questions -
Mary Street Alinder 'ANSEL ADAMS - A BIOGRAPHY ; Revised and Updated Edition' (Bloomsbury, 2014)
Ansel Adams'ANSEL ADAMS - An Autobiography'(Little, Brown, 1985)
Anne Adams Helms'THE DESCENDANTS OF WILLIAM JAMES ADAMS AND CASSANDRA HILLS ADAMS'(Salinas, 1999)