Historic Photograph Collections
Angelus Studio photographs, 1880s-1940s.
Collection number: PH037
Extent: 87 linear ft. (293 containers)
Provenance: The collection was acquired in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Images from the WPA historical collection were acquired in the mid 1940s.
Preferred citation: [Identification of item], Angelus Studio photographs, PH037-[image number], Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
The Angelus Studio was a professional photographic company located in Portland, Oregon. The collection includes works by George M. Weister (1862-1922) and Arthur M. Prentiss (dates undetermined) among the studio photographers; owner Fred Clark also acquired images by previous local photographers including E.J. Partridge. The Angelus Studio collection provides extraordinary documentation of the city of Portland, the Lewis & Clark Exposition of 1905, Oregon landmarks, and commercial operations including logging and fish packing.
The Angelus Studio photographs collection is composed of glass plate, nitrate, and safety negatives; original and reprinted photographs, and logbooks from the photographic studios of George M. Weister (1862-1922), Arthur M. Prentiss (dates undetermined) and the Angelus Commercial Photo Company of Portland, Oregon. The history of the company, and the relationships between the photographers represented, is complex and not yet fully understood.
George M. Weister began his photographic career in 1888 with the Partridge Photo Company of Portland, Oregon. Following the untimely death of E. J. Partridge in 1891, Weister managed the company until 1893, when he established the Weister-Meek Company. In 1895 Weister started the Weister Company, selling photographic supplies, lantern slides and cameras along with Weister's photographic services. His collection of negatives reportedly dated to 1872. See Weister's Astoria album.
Arthur M. Prentiss joined the Weister Company in 1913 as a photographer and secretary-treasurer. In 1917 Prentiss established Gifford and Prentiss, Inc. with noted Oregon photographer Benjamin A. Gifford (1859-1936). Following Weister's death in 1922 Prentiss acquired Weister's studio and collection of negatives.
Robinson lists the following employees for Weister and Prentiss:
- Adams, John Foster, photographer and printer 1914-1929
- Aldrich, Frank C., photographer and printer 1911-1923
- Brown, H. C.
- Gensler, Jacob, vice pres 1912, mngr 1913, photographer 1914.
- Hasenmayer, Max, manager 1916
- Hasenmayer, Oscar, manager 1917
In 1932 Fred N. Clark, owner of the Angelus Studio, purchased Prentiss' studio from the ailing photographer. The Angelus Commercial Photo Company had been established in Portland, Oregon around 1911, and specialized in commercial subjects. "We photograph Construction Work, Interiors and Exteriors of Buildings, Real Estate Views, Machinery, Furniture, Automobiles, Catalog Work, etc." After acquiring the Weister and Prentiss negatives, which were numbered as taken and recorded in logbooks, it appears that they were filed by subject and renumbered by the Angelus Studio.
In 1940 Zed N. Clark assisted members of the Oregon Historical Record Survey in selecting 598 images of "permanent historical value." These images were reclassified by subject and consecutively numbered for the Guide to the Angelus Studio Collection of Historic Photographs. The Angelus Studio also provided photographic services for other W.P.A. survey projects. Further research is necessary to determine the relationship between the Angelus Studio and other W.P.A. survey projects in Oregon.
In the mid-1940s the 598 images selected by the Oregon Historical Records Survey were transferred to the University of Oregon, which had sponsored the development of the Angelus Studio guide. Sometime in the late 1940s or 1950s the University acquired the remaining negatives by Weister, Prentiss, and the Angelus Commercial Photo Company from the Angelus Studio. It is not currently known whether this transfer coincided with the closing of the Angelus Studio or the death of Zed N. Clark.
In preparation for the 1993 renovation of the Knight Library, the Angelus Collection was rehoused in negative storage boxes designed specifically for glass plate and safety negatives. During this process damaged negatives were individually wrapped and relocated at the end of the collection for subsequent conservation.. Photographic negatives and images within this collection are currently housed using three separate numbering systems: the University of Oregon Special Collections numbering, the Angelus Studio category abbreviation and negative numbering, and negatives grouped by the photographer's original numbering. The collection is being reorganized into a single classification system based on the subjects identified by the WPA and the studio's numbering system. Examples of the WPA subjects: Agriculture, Amusements, Bridges, Cities, Historic, Indians, Manufacturing, Old Portland.
[Excerpted from with permission from directory of Thomas Robinson's Oregon Photographers; Biographical History and Directory 1851-1917.]
- The Call Number, (periodical, University Of Oregon Library) Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring 1963, the entire issue is about the Angelus photographs. "the photographs in this essay were drawn from the Angelus Collection, University of Oregon Library. The Angelus Studio was one of the great studios of Portland..."
- The Angelus Collection, typewritten paper in Oregon Historical Society Files, no author or date, probably from the University of Oregon. This paper has many ms. corrections and does not appear to be entirely accurate. Summary of this paper: George Weister founded the studio, and had negatives dating back to 1872. He worked as an official photographer for a railroad company. The bulk of his work was commercial photography. According to the typewritten paper, and ms notes, he died in 1918 or 1922 or 1923. Upon Weister's death (or disability) he sold his studio to Arthur Prentiss, who had worked for him since 1910. In 1932 ill health forced Prentiss to retire and he sold the business and the negatives to Fred N. Clark, who ran the studio with his wife Alma. The collection of negatives is now housed in the Special Collections division of the University of Oregon Library. The Works Progress Administration began an index of the materials in 1937 and the University completed the project later. (Please note that just before press time for this book the author has located the original employees of Angelus and the person who prepared the inventory for the WPA. I have not had a chance to fully interview these people yet, however I am hoping to include this in future editions. I should remark for posterity that I am in disagreement with most of the published information about Angelus. Fred Clark was not a photographer. The early images, which are credited to Weister, are actually the work of another photographer and are probably 1883-1886. I am hoping to clarify this in future editions. The relationship between Prentiss and Weister is much more complex.
- 1914 "Angelus Commercial Studio, The, Goodnough Bldg, Main 2014" plus display ad: "Angelus Commercial Studio. We Photograph Construction Work, Interiors and Exteriors of Buildings, Real Estate Views, Machinery, Furniture, Automobiles, Catalog Work, etc. Special Instruments for Every Requirement. Goodnough Bldg, 5th and Yamhill Main 2014" 1914 PCBD Directory
- 1916: "Angelus Commercial Studio, Commercial Photographers, Operating the Largest and Most Complete Commercial Photographic Studio on the Pacific Coast. Interior and Exterior Views of Buildings, Manufacturing and Business Establishments, Machinery, Automobiles, Scenery, Catalogue Work, Lantern Slides, Developing, Printing, Enlarging and Copying. Phone Main 2014. Goodnough Building, Fifth and Yamhill Streets, Portland, Oregon" Polk's Portland City Directory 19176. Portland; R. L. Polk & Co. 1916. pg. 1474.
- 1917: "Angelus Commercial Studio, Commercial Photographers, Operating the Largest and Most Complete Commercial Photographic Studio on the Pacific Coast. Interior and Exterior Views of Buildings, Manufacturing and Business Establishments, Machinery, Automobiles, Scenery, Catalogue Work, Lantern Slides, Developing, Printing, Enlarging and Copying. Phone Main 2014. Abington Building, Portland, Oregon" Polk's Portland City Directory 1917. Portland; R. L. Polk & Co. 1917. pg. 1469.