University of Oregon

Historic Photograph Collections

Henry J. Biddle photographs, c.1860s-1925

Henry J. Biddle in Eastern Oregon, 1920s. PH181-06Image shown: One of Biddle's automobile expeditions in Eastern Oregon, 1922-1925. Henry J. Biddle photograph collection, from album PH181-06, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299. All rights reserved.

Collection number: PH181

Extent: 1.5 linear ft. (9 containers)


Henry J. Biddle (1862-1928) was an engineer and an amateur botanist. Seven albums document his expeditions, by auto and by pack train, in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Alaskan wilderness areas. Another album and assorted prints document the Columbia Gorge landmark of Beacon Rock that belonged to Biddle, and his construction of a hiking trail up its steep terrain.

Preferred citation: [Identification of item], Henry J. Biddle photographs, PH181-[item number], Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.

Biographical Sketch

Henry Jonathan Biddle was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1862. He was a member of the prominent Biddle family of Philadelphia, and the son of Maj. Henry J. Biddle (1817-1862), who died the year Henry was born, from wounds suffered in the Battle of Newmarket Crossroads. Maj. Biddle's widow, Mary Deborah Baird Biddle (?-1900), endowed a college in his memory in Charlotte, North Carolina. (The institution endures but was later renamed Johnson C. Smith University; a Biddle Hall still stands on campus.)

Biddle was the youngest of five children. Oldest brother Jonathan Williams Biddle (1855-1877) was a lieutenant in Company K, 7th Cavalry and was killed in the conflict against the Nez Perce in 1877. Spencer Fullerton Baird Biddle (-1887), the third child, served in the Navy. Henry had two sisters, Lydia Macfunn Biddle (-1896) and Christine Williams Biddle. In 1887 he married Helene Rudolf in Germany. The couple produced two children, Rebecca Baird Biddle (1888-?) and Spencer Biddle (1890-). Spencer accompanied his father on some of the expeditions.

The Biddle family became prominent during the Revolutionary War, and have been active in banking, statesmanship, and military service. Two noted relatives of Henry may have helped to inspire him. Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844) served as the primary editor for the first edition of the journals of Lewis & Clark. Spencer Fullerton Baird (1797-1887), namesake of Henry's brother, was a naturalist and prolific ornithologist mentored by Audubon. At the age of 27 he was appointed assistant secretary of the nascent Smithsonian Institution, and then Secretary (director) 1878-1887.

Henry J. Biddle was educated at Sheffield School and Yale University, and received a degree in geology in 1885 from the Kaiserlich Bergakademie in Freiburg, Germany. Trained as a mining engineer and geologist, he was also a naturalist and a botanist, and worked for the Smithsonian for a time. In the 1880s he was employed with the US Geological Survey in the Southeast and the Northwest. In 1881 he was informally attached to John Wesley Powell's survey of the Zuni Pueblos. Biddle settled in the Northwest, first in Lakeview and then in Portland, Oregon, finally establishing an estate near Vancouver.

In 1912 he retired to pursue botanical studies and promote conservation. He was a friend and traveling companion of Louis Forniquet Henderson (1853-1952), professor of botany at the University of Oregon 1893-1906 and curator of the UO Herbarium. Biddle also traveled with noted Portlanders, physician Rodney Glisan and botanist Martin Gorman (1853-1926). Biddle toured in Alaska and throughout the mountains and deserts of the Northwest. He may also have been involved in establishing Crater Lake as a national monument.

In 1915 Henry Biddle reputedly paid $1 to acquire Castle Rock from Charles E. Ladd. Both men were concerned that this landmark on the Columbia Gorge, first described by Lewis & Clark in 1805 as Beacon Rock, be preserved from developers. Biddle helped convince the United States Board of Geographic Names to restore the name in 1916. An avid hiker and engineer, Biddle designed and constructed a trail to the top of the rock between October 1915 and April 1918. Biddle Butte is a nearby landmark, also owned by and named for Biddle. (Reproduction of 1916 article about trip to Biddle's Butte.) Henry Biddle died in 1928, and his children gave Beacon Rock to the state of Washington as a public park in 1932.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of eight albums of prints, generally arranged by subject, six Biddle family photographs, and 42 loose images of Beacon Rock. The albums were compiled by Biddle and some are annotated. The albums are individually boxed; the loose prints are in Box 9. The collection is notable for documenting spectacular wilderness areas of the Northwest in the early 1900s, for use of an automobile for touring in the rugged landscape, and for construction of the Beacon Rock path. Most of the photographs are by Biddle; five by Weister showing a climbing party appear in the Beacon Rock album. Notable family images are a portrait of Maj. Henry J. Biddle (1817-1862) and one of Lt. Jonathan Williams Biddle (1855-1877) in uniform, Mary D. Biddle, and an unidentified male Biddle from the 19th century.

  • PH181-01: The Invasion of Salem. [Album of military encampment in Salem, including dinner in a tent and campfire scenes. Biddle is an officer. "Compliments of the artist."] Date: 1897. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Oregon-Salem, Marion County
  • PH181-02: [Album of automobile trip through Eastern Oregon, with scenes of Columbia Gorge and Crater Lake. "Postal Souvenirs" binding.] Date: 1910 c.. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Oregon
  • PH181-03: [Album of views of Biddle homes (int. & ext.) in Washington; Columbia Gorge; early Portland; mine; and construction of Biddle's Butte road (clipping enclosed.) Edgewood estate at Chadds Ford, PA & Lakeview.] Date: 1897. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Pacific Northwest
  • PH181-04: [Album of hunting trip to Alaska (Wrangell, Stikeen River, Telegraph Harbor) with hunting camps, bag of moose and caribou, and scenery. "Souvenir Postals" binder.] Date: 1912. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Alaska
  • PH181-05: [Album of scenic views of Three-Finger Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Warm Springs, Ketchum, Wasco Lake, Suttle Lake, Blue Lake.] Date: 1919-1921. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Pacific Northwest
  • PH181-06: Mt. St. Helens, 1922. [Album of scenic images of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood landscape, Three Sisters, hikers and camping, Palm Springs, Merrill Lake.] Date: 1922-1925. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Pacific Northwest
  • PH181-07: [Album of scenic views of Crater Lake and vicinity, and Palm Springs desert with saguaro cacti. Some images duplicated in other albums.] Date: 1922-1925. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Pacific Northwest
  • PH181-08: [Album of postcards and photos of Beacon Rock, including construction of Biddle's engineered hiking path to top. Five Weister photos show group climbing, probably Mazamas.] Date: 1917. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Columbia Gorge-Beacon Rock
  • PH181-09: [Biddle family photos, including Civil War General Henry J. Biddle, and 7th Cavalry officer J. Williams Biddle, and three views of sculptured bust of a young girl.] Date: 1917. By: Multiple photographers. Loc: Unknown
  • PH181-10: [Three views of Beacon Rock with Biddle's inked marks showing route of hiking path he constructed to summit, and envelope with his naotes and diagram.] Date: 1917. By: Biddle, Henry J. (1863-1928). Loc: Columbia Gorge-Beacon Rock
  • PH181-11: [39 images of Beacon Rock and Biddle's hiking trail. Many are duplicates of images in the album; three are commercial colored postcards. One view from Oregon side of river by Broc.] Date: 1917. By: Multiple photographers. Loc: Columbia Gorge-Beacon Rock

Related materials

The papers of Henry J. Biddle and the Biddle and Baird families are housed in Special Collections' Manuscripts, Ax 645. The collection includes logs of Biddle's botanical expeditions in 1907-1923 and 1927. See "The procession of botanists in Oregon" for a brief history of Oregon botanists and information about our botanical collections.

The Biddle family is extensive and has been influential since the Revolutionary War. Major collections of Biddle papers are held by the University of Delaware at and by Swarthmore.


Publication rights: Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish images must be submitted to the Photographs Curator of Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Access restrictions: None.

Provenance: The collection was donated by Mrs. Spencer Biddle 1970-1971.

Processed by: Normandy S. Helmer

Date Completed: October 2005

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