Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941

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The Lewiston-Clarkston Improvement Company (LCIC), the third and best-known corporate name of one of the more prominent business organizations active in southeastern Washington and northern Idaho in the early 20th Century, also operated as the Lewiston Water and Power Company (1896-1905), as the Lewiston-Clarkston Company (1905-1910) and as the Clarkston Community Corporation (1940-1971). The founders of the company proposed to build a headworks dam on Asotin Creek, a mountain stream emptying into the Snake River in Southeastern Washington, divert its waters through a canal for about fifteen miles and deliver it to five-to-ten acre fruitland plots that the company proposed to sell. The company designated the irrigation project "Vineland" and located it at the base of a 2000 foot canyon, on a "bench" inside a bend of the Snake River opposite Lewiston, Idaho. Near the center of the project, laid out on land acquired by the company in 1895, the company located a new town, at first known as Lewiston, then as Concord after Concord, Massachusetts, and finally and permanently as Clarkston in 1900. Additionally, the promoters intended to use the waters of Asotin Creek to generate electricity to sell in the new project and in the older city of Lewiston.

From the description of Homes and gardens, Clarkston, Washington, 1910?. (Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State). WorldCat record id: 162157597

Asahel Curtis (1874-1941) was a professional photographer in Seattle for forty years. The younger brother of photographer Edward S. Curtis, Asahel joined his brother in his photography studio around 1892. In 1897, he went to Alaska to photograph the Klondike gold rush. After returning from Alaska, he served as staff photographer for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer for a short time. He started his own company, the Asahel Curtis Photo Company in 1920. He lived and worked in Seattle but had interests throughout Washington, including developing an apple orchard near Yakima. He served on the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the State Tax Commission, and the Washington Irrigation Institute. He was also an avid mountain climber and served on the Rainier National Park advisory committee. Curtis died in 1941 at the age of sixty-seven.

From the guide to the Edison School, Asahel Curtis Lantern Slides, circa 1920, (Central Washington University Archives and Special Collections)

Asahel Curtis (1874-1941) was a photographer and photoengraver in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Alaska. He was the owner and operator of the Asahel Curtis Photo Co.

From the description of Asahel Curtis photographs of the West, circa 1890s-1930s. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 368066222

As early as 1918, settlers in the central Washington area dreamed of a big dam that could be used to irrigate their lands. The Columbia Basin Survey Commission was the first organization to study the conceivability of a dam on the Columbia River. In 1919 the Washington State Legislature created the Columbia Basin Survey Commission and appropriated $100,000 for its work. In 1933 the state legislature created the Columbia Basin Commission to replace the Survey Commission and to secure the construction of the Columbia Basin Project. In 1935 the Grand Coulee Dam was adopted and approved by Congress and by 1941 the Dam had been completed and began to generate electricity. The Columbia Basin Commission was reconstituted by the State Legislature in 1943 to enable the state to take a more active role in the development of the land and irrigation projects incidental to the completion of the dam. The Commission continued until 1967 when it and its parent agency became defunct.

From the description of Washington State Library's collection of the Columbia Basin Commission's glass negatives of the Grand Coulee Dam by Asahel Curtis, circa 1935-1941. (Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State). WorldCat record id: 243480384

Photographer, conservationist, and Seattle civic leader.

Born in Minnesota in 1874, Asahel Curtis was one of Seattle's best-known photographers. The Curtis family settled in the Puget Sound area in 1888, and Asahel went to work in his older brother Edward's Seattle photo studio in 1894. In 1897 Asahel Curtis traveled to the Yukon to photograph the gold rush, and in 1911 he opened his own studio in Seattle. Curtis took portraits and promotional photos for various clients, but he was better known for his high-quality photos of the Washington landscape. A dedicated regional booster, he served on both the Highway Committee and the Northwest Development Committee of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and also participated in organizations such as the Washington State Good Roads Association, the Washington Irrigation Institute (as president), and the March-Curtis "Know Your State" Bureau (as executive). An avid mountain climber and founding member of the Mountaineers, Curtis chaired the Mt. Rainier National Park Advisory Board from 1911 to 1936. He died in 1941.

From the description of Asahel Curtis papers, 1898-1941. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 49515963

Asahel Curtis was the most prominent Seattle photographer of the early twentieth century, as well as a noted outdoorsman and regional booster. Born in Minnesota in 1874, he moved to Washington Territory in 1888. Asahel's brother, Edward, supported the family by opening a photography studio in Seattle, and Asahel went to work for him in 1894. In 1897, the brothers agreed that Asahel should go to the Yukon and document the Klondike Gold Rush. Asahel remained there for two years, alternately taking pictures and working a small and largely unproductive claim. The brothers parted ways after a bitter disagreement over the rights to Asahel's Yukon photos, which Edward had published under his own name. Edward later became nationally recognized for his twenty-volume series of photos of Native Americans. Asahel also enjoyed a successful career as a photographer, although he did not receive the acclaim that Edward did. He married Florence Carney in 1902 and opened his own studio in 1911. He was hired by a number of local companies, organizations, and wealthy individuals to take portraits and promotional photos. Asahel became more widely known for his high-quality images of the Washington landscape that were published nationally.

Asahel Curtis had a deep appreciation of Mt. Rainier and for several decades he directed both his appreciation for scenic beauty and efforts at regional boosterism into the development of Mt. Rainier National Park. Curtis was a founding member of the Mountaineers, a mountain-climbing group which also promoted the preservation of wilderness areas. Curtis was active in the affairs of the club for the first several years after its founding in 1906. He led the Mountaineers on climbs of Mt. Rainier and organized a committee within the club on Mt. Rainier National Park. However, his involvement in the Seattle-Tacoma Rainier National Park Committee (later the Rainier National Park Advisory Board) strained his relations with the group. The committee, which Curtis chaired from 1912 to 1936, was formed by community business interests to exploit the park's tourism potential. Curtis, through the committee, sought to promote accessibility to the park and to increase tourism by building roads. His opposition to the expansion of Olympic National Park in the late 1930s led to a further deterioration of relations with the Mountaineers. It also caused a rift between Curtis and his fellow Mt. Rainier boosters and effectively ended his involement in park affairs.

Curtis's advocacy was not limited to the development of Mt. Rainier National Park. While serving as the offical photographer for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, he also chaired its Development Committee and its Highway Committee for many years. His interests reached beyond the Puget Sound region. Curtis owned a small orchard in Ellensburg, and he believed that the landscape of Central Washington could be improved by building irrigation projects to turn the arid region into cropland. The Washington Irrigation Association thus chose Curtis to be its president in the 1920s. He also participated in the affairs of the Washington State Good Roads Association, serving as its president in 1932 and 1933. Asahel Curtis died in 1941.

From the guide to the Asahel Curtis Papers, 1898, 1908-1941, (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941. Homes and gardens, Clarkston, Washington, 1910?. Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State
creatorOf Burlington Northern Railroad Company,. Burlington Northern Railroad photograph albums, ca. 1905-1935. Museum of History and Industry
referencedIn Harlan Thomas architectural work photograph collection, circa 1910-1940 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Burlington Northern Railroad Company photograph albums, circa 1905-1935 Museum of History & Industry Sophie Frye Bass Library
referencedIn Seattle Chamber of Commerce Photograph Collection, Sept. 22-27, 1908, Oct. 16-23, 1920 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Automobile Club of Southern California Collection of Photographs and Negatives, 1898-1982, bulk 1920s-1930s The Huntington Library
creatorOf Oregon State University. Extension Service. Extension Service photographs, 1900-2007 (bulk 1920-1996). Oregon State University Libraries
creatorOf Lien, Carsten. Carsten Lien Olympic National Park photograph collection, 1941-1982 [graphic]. University of Washington Libraries
creatorOf Keleher, William Aloysius, 1886-1972. William A. Keleher Pictorial Collection, 1840-1970 (bulk 1880-1950) [picture] University of New Mexico-Main Campus
referencedIn Photographs of Ezra Meeker, ca. 1880-1928 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Darwin Meisnest Photograph Collection, 1907-1927 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Curtis family. Curtis family papers, 1695-1912 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Columbia Basin Irrigation League. Columbia Basin Irrigation League's collection of photographs on an inspection tour, 1927?. Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State
creatorOf Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941. Princess Angeline photograph and postcard collection [graphic], circa 1870-1958 (bulk 1870-1896). University of Washington Libraries
creatorOf Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Seattle Chamber of Commerce photograph collection, 1908-1920 [graphic]. University of Washington Libraries
referencedIn Lulu Fairbanks Mountaineers trips album, 1912-1917 Museum of History & Industry Sophie Frye Bass Library
creatorOf Mountaineers (Society). Mountaineers album collection, 1907-1914. Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State
referencedIn The, Book of SOYP, Photograph Collection, ca. 1921-1936 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
creatorOf Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941. The Book of SOYP photograph collection, ca. 1921-1936 [graphic]. University of Washington Libraries
creatorOf Edison School, Asahel Curtis Lantern Slides, circa 1920 Central Washington University Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Michael Cirelli collection on Northwest photography, 1865-2000, 1890s-1910s Museum of History & Industry Sophie Frye Bass Library
creatorOf Fairbanks, Lulu M., 1888-1968. Lulu Fairbanks Mountaineers trips album, 1912-1917. Museum of History and Industry
creatorOf Curtis, Asahel. Albert Bacon Fall Photograph Collection [picture]. University of New Mexico-Main Campus
referencedIn Carsten Lien Olympic National Park Photograph Collection, 1941-1982 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Extension Service Photographs, 1900-2007, 1920-1996 Oregon State University Libraries University Archives
referencedIn Clarence Leroy Andrews papers, 1900-1948 University of Oregon Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Asahel Curtis Papers, 1898, 1908-1941 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn William A. Keleher Pictorial Collection, 1840-1970, 1880-1950 The University of New Mexico, University Libraries, Center for SouthwestResearch
creatorOf Washington State Library. Washington State Library's collection of photographs by Asahel Curtis and other Washington state photographers, circa 1920-circa1940, circa 1935. Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State
creatorOf Meisnest, Darwin. Darwin Meisnest photograph collection, 1907-1927 [graphic]. University of Washington Libraries
creatorOf Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941. Asahel Curtis photographs of the West, circa 1890s-1930s. Harold B. Lee Library
creatorOf Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941. Washington State Library's collection of the Columbia Basin Commission's glass negatives of the Grand Coulee Dam by Asahel Curtis, circa 1935-1941. Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State
creatorOf Curtis, Asahel, 1874-1941. Asahel Curtis papers, 1898-1941. University of Washington Libraries
referencedIn Walter H. Tiedeman collection of photographs and other material, 1896-1927, 1914-1924 Museum of History & Industry Sophie Frye Bass Library
creatorOf Automobile Club of Southern California,. Automobile Club of Southern California Collection of Photographs and Negatives, 1898-1982 (bulk 1920s-1930s) Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf McCarley, Laura. Laura McCarley photograph collection [graphic], ca. 1898-1900. Alaska state library
referencedIn Albert Bacon Fall Photograph Collection, 1890-1929 The University of New Mexico, University Libraries, Center for SouthwestResearch
creatorOf Bedayan, Torcom. Sierra Club pictorial miscellany [graphic]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Darwin Meisnest Photograph Collection, 1907-1927 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Andrews, Clarence Leroy, 1862-1948 person
associatedWith Automobile Club of Southern California, corporateBody
associatedWith Burlington Northern Railroad Company, corporateBody
associatedWith Cirelli, Michael, 1944-2002 person
associatedWith Columbia Basin Commission (Wash.) corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia Basin Irrigation League. corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia Basin Survey Commission (Wash.) corporateBody
associatedWith Curtis family. family
associatedWith Eastman Kodak Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Edison Training School (Ellensburg, Wash.) corporateBody
associatedWith Fairbanks, Lulu M., 1888-1968. person
associatedWith Fall, Albert B. (Albert Bacon), 1861-1944 person
associatedWith Keleher, William Aloysius, 1886-1972 person
associatedWith Lewiston-Clarkston Improvement Company corporateBody
associatedWith Lien, Carsten. person
associatedWith McCarley, Laura. person
associatedWith Meisnest, Darwin person
associatedWith Meisnest, Darwin. person
associatedWith Mountaineers (Society) corporateBody
associatedWith Oregon State University. Extension Service. corporateBody
associatedWith Seattle Chamber of Commerce. corporateBody
associatedWith Tiedeman, Walter H.. person
associatedWith Washington State Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Washington State Library. Manuscripts Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Washington State Normal School (Ellensburg, Wash.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Washington (State)--Seattle
Klondike River Valley (Yukon)
Yellowstone National Park
Seattle (Wash.)
Washington (State)
Dawson (Yukon)
Rainier, Mount (Wash.)
Seattle (Wash.)
Ellensburg (Wash.)
Olympic Peninsula (Wash.)
Lewiston (Idaho)
Klondike River Valley (Yukon)
Olympic National Park (Wash.)
Mount Rainier National Park (Wash.)
Rainier, Mount (Wash.)
Mount Rainier National Park (Wash.)
Columbia River Valley
Dawson (Yukon)
Olympic National Park (Wash.)
Clarkston (Wash.)
Olympic Peninsula (Wash.)
Columbia River
Grand Coulee Dam (Wash.)
Seattle (Wash.)
Washington (State)
Subject
Business, Industry, and Labor
City planning
City promotion
City promotion
Diaries
Education (Elementary)
Electric power transmission
Elementary and Secondary Education
Expeditions and Adventure
Flood control
Land use
National parks and reserves
National parks and reserves
Outdoor recreation
Outdoor recreation
Pacific Northwest History
Photographers
Photographers
Place marketing
Place marketing
Regionalism
Road planning
Roads
Scrapbooks
Seattle
Sports and Recreation
Washington (State)
Wilderness areas
Wilderness areas
Occupation
Educators
Photographers
Activity

Person

Birth 1874

Death 1941

Americans

English

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