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About this collection

The Asahel Curtis collection, consisting of 50,000 glass plate and nitrate negatives and prints, is a broad visual record of the early twentieth century in the Pacific Northwest. The images capture the beauty of the natural environment, agricultural and industrial development of the region, the growth of towns and cities and the people who lived through it all.

Curtis began his career in 1897 when he went to the Klondike to record the dramatic struggle of the miners during the Gold Rush. After leaving Alaska in 1900, he spent a short time as a photographer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer before he entered photographic partnerships with William P. Romans and later Walter Miller in Seattle.

In 1920 Curtis started the Asahel Curtis Photo Company advertising "photographs of every kind, taken anywhere in the Northwest." He was one of the original founders of the Washington State Good Roads Association and participated in the activities of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. In 1906 he purchased a tract of land near Yakima where he planted an apple orchard. He did extensive photographic work for the railroads and land development companies and was elected president of the Washington Irrigation Institute. An avid mountain climber, Asahel was one of the founders of the Mountaineers, a Northwest group devoted to climbing and exploring the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.

Until his death in 1941 he amassed a photographic collection that remains unrivaled as the most far ranging visual record of Washington State for the first half of the twentieth century.