Thursday, September 21, 2006

Spring 2006 Volume 2 Number 1

In this issue: Converting disaster to environmental progress

The First Nature Movies: Studio of the Three Arrows

Things that will be happening

Acquire a piece of history

You can purchase a remastered copy of the original of this picture. For information contact us at:

The Centennial of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

Converting disaster to environmental progress

That anniversary of the Quake and Fire that completely changed San Francisco passed last April 18th with parties and commemorations. Ancient survivors of the event, delighted to be lifted from lives of obscurity, waxed eloquent in the spotlight. However, although the reasons that the Quake and subsequent Fire are now well known and documented very little was said about those root causes.

For Arthur C. Pillsbury the Earthquake and its aftermath was life changing.

The morning of April 18th was a memorable one. The earth quake shook me out of bed. It did some light damage to the house. I grabbed my cameras and started for San Francisco. Fortunately I had saved my press badge when I left the Examiner and knowing all the police in the city I could go everywhere. That Wednesday I covered the entire city, making 5 X 7 Graflex views and panoramas of the burning city. ”

On that first day Pillsbury shot over 70 snap shots and two panoramas, one from the top of the Merchants Exchange Building covering the wholesale section just at noon, and one from the top of the St. Francis Hotel showing almost the entire city in flames.

It was these photos that went out to newspapers all over the world because the destructive might of the Earthquake and Fire had shattered the other facilities that photographers used to develop their film. At the Pillsbury home in Oakland there was running water. Faced with the problem of continuing supplies, Pillsbury sent buyers out to towns as far as 500 miles away to meet the demand for the images. Over the next weeks prints from a single negative of one of the panoramas taken that first day would bring in from $500.00 to $700.00 a day. The photos would also appear in the new San Francisco Magazine, the lay out of images catching the despair and desolation coming on the heels of the erupting inferno.

The panorama negatives measured 44 inches in length and could be blown up to lengths greater than nine feet, showing incredible detail.

At the end of the first day, Pillsbury left his panorama camera, a large and unwieldy mechanism, in the cloak room of the St. Francis Hotel and that night and it was consumed along with the hotel. The film had gone with him, tucked in the pocket of his jacket. The shots taken with the Graflax camera included a shot of the Palace and Grand Hotels coming down, drenched in flame, caught as it seemed to dissolve before your eyes. He reported in his autobiography that the heat was so intense that while taking the picture it scorched the lens making the balsum run and so spoiling the photo. The bellows soon dropped to pieces, he said.

Included in the hundreds of images made by Pillsbury over the next few weeks were scenes filled with destruction, shock, and courage, showing the City as it continued to burn and the people as they struggled to survive and then began the long, slow, painful process of rebuilding. While taking photos and following the course of the struggle to stop the fire Pillsbury also found time to ensure that friends and acquaintances were safe. Some he sent on to his home in Oakland, where many camped out for weeks afterwards. Among these was the woman he would marry. Dragging the single trunk they had been able to save from her home in San Francisco to the ferry proved to be a one way trip for the lady. The two were married six weeks later in a small ceremony attended by both families from several parts of California.

While San Francisco survived many residents did not; some families were never reunited and never learned the fate of their loved ones. Ranging all over the City, and never far from the most intense action, Pillsbury saw acts of violence perpetrated by the military brought in to provide security. He was the incompetence of those entrusted to use dynamite to create fire breaks, instead spreading the conflagration. Those hours impacted everyone who lived through them; each carried away with them into the remainder of their lives lessons learned about human nature and the nature of the universe.

Life had taught a lesson; what we believe is solid and to be relied on can change in the blink of a moment. For Arthur C. Pillsbury it had been a real learning experience.

The First Nature Movies: Studio of the Three Arrows

Arthur C. Pillsbury had begun showing nature films, the first ever made, in 1909, advertising them on post cards then given away at such locations as El Portal. Those first films showed the wonders of Yosemite, and the wind moving through the seas of grasses that filled the meadows with Half Dome and Yosemite's other wonders in the background.

The films serves as the visual aids for the narrative Pillsbury provided. He had long been fascinated by the whole of nature. As a young boy growing up in Auburn, California, he had raised exotic chickens, cross breeding them and keeping charts on the resulting off spring while selling eggs and breeding stock to friends and neighbors. The family had come to Auburn from Brooklyn, New York, where they had lived while Arthur's mother, Harriet Foster Pillsbury, completed her education as a physician at the Women's Infirmary in what is not the Village.

Before that they had lived first in Medford, MA where Arthur was born, the last of four children, and second son. It was in the fields around Medford and during the family's trips to the Old Homestead in Sandown, New Hampshire, that Arthur first began studying botany when he was very young.

The Old Homestead had stood at the edge of Sandown since the towns inception in 1756. Benjamin Pillsbury had been born in Amesbury, MA, eldest son to Caleb Pillsbury and chosen to set off for what was then the wilderness. The Pillsbury Homestead included a lake, known now as Angle Pond but then as the Angly to the family. Here, in the old white house raised by Benjamin, Arthur ranged over the Angly and studied the plants native to the area. The old house was full of books by early naturalists that had been used by generations of the family. So the wild flowers of Yosemite became another page in his life long love of nature, so sharing that knowledge with others came naturally to him.

He understood that most people were not blessed with a family who took such knowledge for granted extended and so the lectures on the world of nature found in Yosemite combined his own interests; nature and making a living in a place that had fascinated him since his first trip there in 1895.

Each year more films were added to his library so that the same films need not be shown but could be varied.

Soon after his purchase of the Studio of the Three Arrows Pillsbury noticed something. The meadows were changing. At that point in time the meadows were being mowed to provide fodder for the horses oforthe Cavalry, who were still in Yosemite as its caretakers and stewards.

Each year Pillsbury noticed that the number of species of flowers in those meadows was diminishing. If Muir had been focusing on the issue of the preservation of these fragile life forms he would have begun a petition campaign to Congress. But Muir was then completely focused on stopping the building of a dam in the Hetch Hetchy. The wild flowers had no protector. So Pillsbury undertook to let the wild flowers speak for themselves.

In 1912 he invented the first lapse-time motion picture camera calibrated to show the dance of a wild flower as it raises its head to the sun. He first showed this to those in charge of the cutting. The cutting stopped without a single petition being signed. Then the Studio of the Three Arrows airy porch became the first theater in the world where the public would see wild flowers in their own time and at their own speed.

The Studio of the Three Arrows was located in front of the Yosemite Chapel and slightly towards Sentinel Bridge until 1924 when Pillsbury moved to the new location now known as Yosemite Village.

Upcoming Events:

Thanks to Marilynn Guske for her sharing of Pillsbury postcards!

Thanks to The summer newsletter will include the article on Florance, the great-aunt of Kathy Stewart. Florance taught in Alhambra, CA and knew the Pillsburys at Berkeley where she went to school in the 19teens.

Thanks to Jeanette Hyden for the story of "THE ROAD WINDS OUT INTO THE SUNSHINE" photograph that has been in her family for so long and to her daughter for photographing it so that we could see the jpeg.

Please continue to send in your stories about your Pillsbury Photo Experiences!

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Winter 2005 Volume 1 Number 4

Editor: Melinda Pillsbury-Foster


online store:

In this issue:

Inside Story Post Cards

The Tour of Old Village

Insight from scans sent! Thanks to Marilynn Guske

Inside Story Post Cards: Revisiting an old friend with new life.

Postcards for the 21st Century

From the outside an Inside Story Post Card looks much like one of those post cards produced in huge numbers by the Pillsbury Picture Company, Inc. through most of the first part of the Twentieth Century. There is a photo on the front and the back includes the time honored graphic of the Wawona Tree. Now you can see the small car coming through the tree – and if you eyes were truly great you might be able to see the smile on the face of the driver, who is Arthur F. Pillsbury, the youngest son of AC.

But something new has been added to this generation of post cards.

The Inside Story ties the image to the stories the image can't tell you about itself. The Post Card opens up to reveal a place that allows you to write a brief message, though less brief that the space provided by the previous cards. But when you flip up that page you find the short stories that provides you with the inside story on the front photo along with other photos, where we could fit one in.

The idea for the Inside Story Post Card was born when I was visiting Patrick Horsbrugh, the originator of Environics, and an early environmentalist who lives in South Bend, Indiana. I offered Patrick a copy of one of the many Pillsbury images the Pillsbury Picture Company is reissuing but instead Patrick wanted something smaller but deeper. He had enjoyed hearing about the picture and he wanted to remember the stories I had told him.

Patrick is now in the process of donating much of his extensive collection of art and books to institutions and so he did not want another print to take up space on his walls, he wanted the stories I had told him about one image he had lingered over after breakfast one morning. I offered him a book, Tour of Old Yosemite, that has most of those stories written down.. Too much to store, he said, looking at me in the expectation I would find a solution, and just the right solution.

The image Patrick had enjoyed so much was the close up of a Snow Plant taken in 1910 in Yosemite and tinted for use as a specimen card. The stories told that morning linked the image to the death of President Warren G. Harding, marketing, my father, and AC's continuing attempts at preservation. Patrick wanted to be able to share the stories with his friends just as I had relayed them to him. So I left South Bend thinking about how to accomplish that while not adding to the burden of things Patrick was giving away.

The idea came to me while inventorying postcards for the AC Pillsbury Archives. I started playing with two pieces of paper and winnowed it down to one, using every possible surface. The card as I designed it also gave me a way to solve some other problems that had been exercising my mind.

Everyone of us has had the sad and exasperating experience of peering at old photos, including post cards, and wishing we knew the stories behind the photos. A picture is worth a thousands words but it will not tell you the name of the people smiling into the camera or what happened to the little girl with the sad look on her face. That is where Inside Story Post Cards come in. In this way we can include many more stories and so deepen our understanding of history.

History, properly understood, is countless threads of story that weave together into complex and interesting patterns. But in real life most of those threads are ignored; the only ones visible to us are those that most of us already know. So we all know about George Washington crossing the Delaware but few know that the young man who was left holding his horse died of exposure and the statues of a young black man that once stood in front of houses were originally a memorial to him that marked safe houses on the Underground Railroad. Later generations took these statues to be a racist slur, the former associations lost in time.

George Washington was, to say the least, a well known public figure. Stories can tie us together in unexpected ways. They can explain things we did not even know we cared about.

And history is all of the stories, not just a few. The proliferation of historical societies across the country have worked at making local history live for new generations and Inside Story Post Cards are a handy way to extend that work, making it more accessible to all of us.

A book is a costly project but a card with short stories and a photo on the front to beckon the eye and introduce the topic is easy and can be kept in print for ever; it is inexpensive to produce and is easily stored.

It solves problems and has many uses.

Right now we are designing Inside Story Post Cards that on just one or two pieces of paper can take you though the whole life span of the Yosemite Chapel, showing its different faces through the years. Stories that are too short for a book can easily be fitted into an Inside Story Post Card. Components of one longer story can be fitted into cards that are then grouped as a set.

For instance, the story of a young woman named Virginia at the beginning of World War II who went to work in a factory in Los Angeles that produced air planes. The factory was in West Los Angeles and concealed by netting that made it look like a park. Her particular job was to fit needed pattern pieces onto scrap metal so that these pieces could be cut, recycled into smaller parts for the planes that were stored as they were completed in the field next to the factory that was disguised by the netting. Her training was in teaching so she had never imagined that she would be doing this kind of work. But her country was at war and she was determined to do what ever needed doing so that the war wound be won. Her younger brother went into the Navy; Virgina went to work in a factory.

When the field was full planes filled with pilots would start arriving one morning. More and more would come in throughout the day, staying at the factory. The people who worked there would be invited up to talk to them as the young men ate doughnuts and waited for night to come. Then, one by one hundreds of planes would take off into the night. The next morning, when Virginia came to work, the field would be bare. Sometimes when planes went down and the reports said what kind, the people working there would know it was one of theirs.

The war ended and life went on.

Miss Virginia went on to teach school for over fifty years. Nearly every child in her small town over that 50 years had her as a teacher. Every Halloween people from elderly to teenagers come by to see her and sit around and remember.

Today she runs th historical society in that same small town and through her work there has met some of the hundreds of people who were brought together to build those planes that, at the time, she never knew. Now she does.

Virginia is not someone about whom history books are written, but she made history, none the less.

There are several Inside Story Post Cards that Miss Virginia's stories can fill. Her stories and others demonstrate much more about who we are as Americans than you will learn from most history books.

The study of history should teach us about ourselves.

Inside Story Post Cards can be kept in plastic sleeves in a loose leaf notebook, both sides visible as you leaf through the book. It is like a book that has no covers; it is a book that can grow.

This is history outside the usual limits that can link us up in unexpected ways.

The cards about Yosemite that are now finished are titled:

The Snow Plant and the President's

The Curry Wedding, June 17, 1920

The First Aeroplane into Yosemite – May 27, 1919

The Four Graces of Yosemite – 1909

The Sentinel Hotel – 1907; the Grand Old Lady of Yosemite

Girls in Pants! 1916

Indian Mary takes a ride

The Trials of Winkey

Making the Primroses Blush under Half Dome

George Sterling - The Poet from Sag Harbor

Coming soon!

Teddy Roosevelt and the Grizzly Giant

Two Kids who loved Yosemite, Galen Clark and George Fiske

Indian Field Days and the Potato Race – 1916

What Foley told you about Yosemite

And a set:

A Tour of Old Village in five parts

If you want to order cards send an check to:

Pillsbury Picture Company, Inc.

27 W. Anapamu No. 255

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Regular cards are $3.00 each, including postage.

If you would like First Issue Inside Story Post Cards they come with a certificate and short comment on how the cards came into being. They are enclosed in a clear envelope with hand numbered certificate and sell for $5.00 each. There are 200 of each and only 200 will be issued. When they are gone, they are gone.

If you would like Inside Story Post Cards for your own historical society or museum contact us at:

e-mail to:

The Tour of Old Village

The Tour of Old Village took place as scheduled on October 21 Around 30 people gathered inside the Chapel before we began the walk through the sites where the original Village of Yosemite stood until the late 1920s when it moved to its present location.

People came from Orange County, Santa Barbara, and elsewhere for the event.

Tom Bopp was along and took photos, capturing the stories shared by some of the old timers who joined us for the occasion. (I think Tom Bopp is Inside Story material.)

The Tour began at The Ship Stone, which is a large rock that at some time in the distant past fell from the heights above to embed itself in the meadow near the Wall of the Valley. The original road into the Valley ran just to the Wall side of the Ship Stone, which got its name from the Children of Arthur C. Pillsbury, who pretended it into a galleon and a ship of war and other exciting vehicles. My father, Arthur F. Pillsbury, lost his fear of heights on the Ship Stone when he was eight years old before beginning to climb the Valley walls themselves.

Our Tour rambled up along the road past each building the visitor to Yosemite would have seen in the year 1913. We closed our eyes and imagined what we would have been wearing in those years that were not so far removed from Queen Victoria. Women were reminded that they would have been in skirts and probably heavily strapped in with a corset.

As we walked along,entering what were in 1913, the busy streets of a small but vibrant village, we walked the place where the warehouse that became a Masonic Hall had been and heard from a former member of that Lodge. We looked at the original location for the blacksmith shop that now resides in Pioneer Village at Wawona.

A little further along we paused to see if we could capture the scent of bread, newly taken from the oven, in front of the Degnan Bakery and Restaurant; we imagined cinnamon rolls and looked across the street to the Post Office, which was busy because the mail was the usual way most people communicated with their friends and family in 1913. We peeked into the Grocery Store to see the variety of supplies carried both for those who lived and worked in the Village and for the visitors they served.

The next steps, north towards Sentinel Bridge took us past Artist's Row, and the studios of Best. Boysen, and the the home place of the Foley Guide, that Bible for the visitor to Yosemite also used to advertise in by concessionaires.

We in turn visited each building, adding the memories of old timers to those those of myself as guide. Old Timers paced out locations, remembering and laughing at what they had forgotten.

We ended up several hours later back in the parking lot of the Yosemite Chapel, our sponsors for the day, and enjoyed lunch together, continuing to talk about the place that no longer is – except in our memories.

We ate lunch on the site of the Studio of the Three Arrows, the Old Village home of the Pillsbury Family. We gathered and looked at pictures that illustrated how the Studio looked when the first nature film was run there for visitors on the porch in the evening after night had fallen. I personally looked for the footprint of the Studio itself, imagining the corner shelf where those first lapse-time movies of plants were taken. Dad's tent, where he spent every summer from the time he was seven until he went away to college, was just behind the Chapel; a location covered now by the new office occupied by Brent and Faith Moore.

Next time, and there will be a next time, we intend to do more to bring the Old Village to life. Perhaps a miniature replica; perhaps temporary buildings occupying the old footprints of the buildings. Or maybe next time we will come in costume. Now that would be interesting.

If the year were 1913, who would you be? We have time – think about it!

Thanks to Ray Duarte, the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation archivist, who came and brought with him the two tallish stacks of images blown up to help us imagine our way back in time and to Connie, Ray's wife, who always helps with these endeavors and to all of the Old Timers, some of them not so old, who came and contributed their wonderful memories of past joys, friendships, and insights. And to everyone else – thanks for being there. You made the day for me.

Innovations in Advertising

I really love it when people send me scans of old post cards. And sometimes what is best is not the formal production photos; all of the Yosemite photographers produced those, but the unusual things that give me insights that help me make connections that had puzzled me.

Marilynn Guske contacted me about a card she has in her collection. In the course of the exchange she sent it on to me and when I opened the file it made me laugh.

As you can see, the card is from 1910, the same year that AC took the first ship to ship photos at the San Dominguez Air Show in Los Angeles. The card is a cheerful advertisement for the motion pictures of nature that AC was using to increase his market share as a concessionaire in Yosemite. Competition for the few thousand tourists who came through the Valley was fierce in those early days and AC was always the first to see how innovations could help him improve his position.

The card is laid out with text saying, “Dear________________

Am just eating dinner now after a delightful trip. This evening we visit the Pillsbury Studio, who also have the Three Arrows Studio in Yosemite, and later will enjoy an open air Stereopticon Show.

The Motion Picture Show by Pillsbury in Yosemite is a wonderful treat. Will write more tomorrow.” (and the sender, relieved of the need to think of anything else to say, then signed it.)

In the Spring issue I will quote from some of the letters written to the Park Service complaining about the innovations AC employed from other concessionaires demanding he be stopped!

The card was a give away, provided to the visitors at the Del Portal who were on their way into the Valley. They could read it and get the message and then send it on to a friend or family member, letting them know they had arrived safely. The front of the card is a standard production post card of the Del Portal, probably familiar to all of you.

Marilynn actually sent two scans from advertising cards and the second one also told a story that, if I had known it at the time, I might have included in the Inside Story Post Card for the First Aeroplane into Yosemite.

The other side of this card is the interesting image of a girl dressed like an American Indian holding an American Flag and standing out on Overhanging Rock. I have seen the post card without this advertising and note on many occasions and it looks like my Aunt Grace. The card was originally made in a flood of patriotic fervor at the beginning of WWI while AC was attempting with his usual energy to join the corp of much younger men who were floating in balloons over enemy lines in France taking photos of enemy placements. The life expectancy was very short, sort of like being a forward observer in Vietnam.

The war was over too soon for AC to finish using up all of the cards that he printed so in the usual thrifty New England fashion he continued to use them until they were gone. This one, with hand written invitation to a motion picture showing of, “Birds, flowers and trees.” on September 22, 1921.

AC's attempts to become dead in France are chronicled on the Inside Story Post Card.

That is all for the Winter. See you next year and have a wonderful and completely Pillsbury Christmas.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fall 2005 Volume 1 Number 3

Editor: Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Url for online store:

The following article is the flyer that will accompany the newly reissued panoramas memorializing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

A Short History of

the Pillsbury Picture Company

Founded by A. C. Pillsbury, March 1906

Refounded, March 2004

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

The Pillsbury Picture Company went through several incarnations during and before its formal founding less than four weeks before the tremors of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire destroyed that city.

Arthur Clarence Pillsbury started his first business while still a student at Stanford. He had followed his older brother, Ernest Sargent, to that institution as students in the first and second classes while the University was still under construction.

The Pillsbury Family had settled in Auburn, California in 1883 and the mother, Dr. Harriet Foster Pillsbury started a medical practice. Her husband, Dr. Harlin Henry Pillsbury, focused on putting in a fruit ranch, assisted by the boys.

The first business A. C. started himself was a shop that supplied the needs of students and residents for two edge technologies, bicycles and cameras. The business stood near the small hospital run by Drs. Harriet and Harlin and also supplied their living quarters.

While still at Stanford A. C. invented a specimen slicer to produce slides for a microscope. He traveled around campus on the motorcycle he built in his shop, the first in California. He was rarely without a camera in his hands and sold copies of his photos in his shop. These included the solios, small contact photos pasted onto embossed cardboard, that held the images of such events as the first fraternity Rush as well as views of the newly constructed buildings on campus.

His final invention while on campus was the first circuit panorama camera. He produced the plans and showed it to his senior adviser who told him it could not work. A. C. built it anyway. It worked. He quit school and took the camera, along with his father, to the Yukon, producing the panorama images familiar to many of the opening of the mining towns and trails filled with hopeful miners hiking towards them.

The miners in the raw new towns were delighted to pay in gold dust for panorama photos of those towns and themselves. A. C. accomplished this by taking a canoe from the headwaters of the Yukon to the ocean, photographing this hive of human activity along the way while enjoying the wilderness and living off the land. Dr. Harlin had staying in Anchorage to fine tune his chess playing. A. C. developed the photos in the portable dark room he installed in his canoe.

In 1900, after two years of adventures that included ship wrecks and gaping chasms in errant glaciers, he spent time photographing Washington State and then headed south to Los Angeles. His brother Ernest was now a practicing physician in Los Angeles. A. C. helped build and install the solar heating system in the new Pillsbury home that stood at the corner of what is now Hollywood Blvd and North Las Palmas. Then, Hollywoodland was a residential neighborhood with large homes surrounded by large properties. Drs. Harriet and Harlin had settled in, attending the First Congregationalist Church in Los Angeles and visiting with family in Redlands and Tahoe. The automobile had become a family fixture in 1900 when Dr. Ernest purchased his first Locomobile.

During this period A. C. photographed much of the South West from the deserts to the Grand Canyon, to Catalina. By 1900 he had a catalog of images that included 1000 panoramas.

In 1903 A. C. headed back to San Francisco to a job on the San Francisco Examiner as a photojournalist. He quit that job to found the Pillsbury Picture Company. They toasted the event in orange juice because the family was White Feather, meaning that they supported voluntary abstinence from alcohol.

On the morning of April 18, 1906 A. C. grabbed his camera before he hit the floor. Moments later he had possessed himself of a graaflax camera and his panorama. He was on his way to the City.

In the aftermath of the Quake A. C. married, took a honeymoon that included a tour of all of California, and purchased, for the second time, a studio in Yosemite. His first bride, a fellow student at Stanford, had left him because he had purchased a studio in Yosemite with Julius Boysen in 1897, two years after his first visit to Yosemite by bicycle from San Francisco. He sold his share to Boysen and, heartbroken, headed to the Yukon. Now he had returned.

In 1906 he also photographed all of the Missions in California and took panoramas throughout the state, showing the changes since those he had taken in 1900.

Throughout the period of 1900 – 1903 he was often back in Yosemite and always with his camera in hand. There he photographed Theodore Roosevelt during the President's trip there in 1903.

The next four years would be his 'artistic period.' The photos he produced in this period show that he along with producing prodigious numbers of images that reflected his background as a photojournalist he also was thinking about the artistic effects that he could produce with his camera. Sunshine through Redwoods, and other images reflect amazing depth, capturing strong emotional tones. He also began producing and selling d'orotones, photos backed in gold that had an almost holographic sheen and intensity.

With shops in Yosemite and in San Francisco he had time to consider other issues. Edge technology continued to call. In 1909 he used a balloon he named, The Fairy to photograph the ongoing rebuilding of San Francisco. During this process the balloon, which had been tethered from a tug in the harbor ripped free. Holding on like grim death to his camera he was catapulted into the sky. The afternoon papers reported him lost but he returned, muddied but with film mostly intact. In 1910 he took the first ship to ship photos from the same balloon at the San Dominguez Air Show in Los Angeles. As he so often did, he wrote an article, illustrating it himself with the photos. This article appeared in Sunset Magazine.

In 1911, after a life of extraordinary invention and adventure he became a father three times over when in the aftermath of the death of his brother, Dr. Ernest and his sister-in-law in an auto accident, he adopted their three children, ages 12 – 6.

His wife, AEtheline had agreed to this only if the children spent six months of the year in Yosemite. So for the on the kids were expected to finish essential school work and be ready to go to Yosemite as soon as the Studio opened. When they returned school was already in session. The Studio of the Three Arrows became their real home.

In 1912 A. C. made and showed the first nature film at the Studio of the Three Arrows in Yosemite. Young Arthur F., then seven, years old, had helped identify figures for the timing device that A. C. made to develop the first lapse-time motion picture camera. A. C. had been watching the wild flowers disappear and he was determined to allow people to see and understand why that should not happen. The showing took place on the porch of the Three Arrows in Old Village. Over the years he worked on developing better cameras to improve the process. As had been the case in the previous generation, the whole family worked together.

The kids were lonely the first year, missing their friends. So A. C. invited the friends to come up and stay at the studio, living and working in the compound that then stood clustered near the Yosemite Chapel. It became a School in the sense that many things, from photography to art to history, to edge technology were studied and explored along with the heights and delights of Yosemite.

In 1924 the Studio of the Three Arrows moved to New Village. In the next decades A. C. would continue to invent and lecture. His goal was to provide the tools that extended the sight of humanity beyond its boundaries. He succeeded. His inventions would provide the tools that scientists still use today.

The children grew up, had children of their own, and remembered.

List of inventions after 1920.

1922 – Patents first mass producing photo postcard machine

1927 – Finishes invention and construction of first microscopic notion picture camera

1929 – First X-ray motion picture camera

1929 – Patents film advancer for motion picture camera

1930 – First underwater motion picture camera

1942 – Identifies process of osmosis in plants

You are invited on a

Tour of Yosemite's Old Village

Friday, October 21, 2005 – 10:00AM

Starting in the Parking Lot of the Yosemite Chapel

The Tour will meet up in the parking lot and then we will walk over to the place where my Dad said he used as the 'landmark' that told him they had almost arrived. The road into the Village used to run along the Bridal Veil Wall of the Valley and not as it does today through what used to be Lower Village.

I am not going to tell you everything I will tell you on the Tour because then what would be the point of having it? This is just to let you know when, where, and what so no one gets misplaced.

Old Village holds a lot of fascination for folks partly because it isn't there anymore. But also parts of Yosemite's history lived themselves out there and never moved on to the site of the New Village. George Fiske, a well loved and respected Yosemite photographer, died in Old Village. Others who never knew the New Village included John Muir and Galen Clark, both champions of the whole of Yosemite whose names have rightfully gone down in history for their staunch work on behalf of what is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

What we will be doing is taking a nice slow walk along the old road, up through the Village, and along the one street, that for most of the time Old Village existed was packed dirt. Then we will end up back at the Chapel and there will be some things to look at. If you would like to bring your lunch some of us will be eating together there afterwards. Questions are welcomed, and I very much hope that others with knowledge about Old Village will get in touch with me in advance so that their knowledge can be added to what I know. It is always more interesting that way. My phone number and e-mail address are at the bottom of the page.

I am not old enough to remember Old Village myself. Quite. But my Dad told me about growing up there and the stories fascinated me as a child and teenager. I am sure we will all have a good time. Thanks to the Yosemite Chapel, Brent and Faith, for the idea and for sponsoring the event. Look forward to seeing you there!

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

For information contact:

Visit the Website at:

Image: AC Newsletter:

The Real Yosemite. A Book with more stories than have been told.

When I first picked up the book it was with a sense of duty. I had set myself the task of creating a time line to subsume all of the events that related to the life and career of my grandfather, A. C. Pillsbury and this was another one of the many projects that had filled his life. It was a book that was assembled at home, including a few photos and some text and dusty little illustrations. I opened the book up and pressed it down on the flatbed scanner. I am a person who focuses on the words. Those I had read. The Legend of the Lost Arrow was very familiar to me; I had hear it from my father as a small girl in several versions. This one was different, more like the original I had read in a book by Galen Clark only a few years ago.

The image resolved on the screen of my computer. It was a donkey. I smiled. The stories about Winkey were legion. I marked the jpeg for remastering and scanned again.

As I worked my way through the book, not really thinking about what I was seeing, I thought about the stories Father had told me about his boyhood in Yosemite. The evenings had been filled with camaraderie. When he was little the legends and stories of Yosemite had filled their minds and morphed into stories that, as an adult, I had recognized were a weaving of the original Miwok folk traditions and drawn from classical mythology and added to family stories and even events then in motion.

Father's eyes had twinkled when he told me some of the stories. Those were usually the best.

I had finished marking every image and begun to stand up when suddenly my mind caught on a smudged mark. I sat down again.

I had to look for it. Then I had to blow it up to several times the original size.

There it was. The familiar logo for the Studio of the Three Arrows on the tiny photographic plate the cameraman that, now that I looked at him, was clearly AC.

He was photographing four figures on horseback. In 1909 mounting up and riding out was de rigeur for a vacation in Yosemite. Two of the figures were women and the other man is obscured. But one was clearly a man, and not just any man; a ranger. His face was clearly drawn from life. I put that one in a special folder and proceeded through the other illustrations.

In the end I was able to identify several of the figures as people who were well known in Yosemite at the time. I am not going to put names on them here. I am going to let you do that. So here is one for now. Happy guessing!


The winter edition of the newsletter will have the article on The Real Yosemite, the book published by AC on 1909 featuring illustrations with a witty edge to them.

Kathy Stewart, who so generously donated the album she inherited from her Great-Aunt Florance is assembling information on Florance. Florance was a teacher who lived and worked in Alhambra, California. Her story promises to be intriguing.