Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Knowledge Commons: How sharing changed the world


The first Nature Center Centennial – Yosemite Valley 1910
by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster


Primroses and Half Dome
Today all of us are familiar with nature centers. We know there will be photos, illustrations, exhibits, items we can buy that allow us to better understand the world of nature and the history that accompanies it, usually specific to that location. Nature centers came from the idea that it would be well if we understood the natural world, being a part of it. The year after next will mark the centennial of the modern nature center, an event to be celebrated. 
 
We take for granted those educational resources, familiar with their use of movies, lectures, specimens to explain to the curious the natural world. That was not the case a century ago. 
 
The first such center was located near the Yosemite Chapel next to what was once the road that turned towards the Valley wall. Now that 'road' runs through the parking lot there. There is no marker. That first nature center occupied the small space alloted to the Studio of the Three Arrows, owned by Arthur C. Pillsbury, who had always been fascinated by the world of nature and saw the need to save the wild flowers then being mowed in the meadows of Yosemite. He could have protested, gathered petitions and appealed to Congress. Instead he decided that if people could 'see' the world of nature in all of its beauty and complexity they would love it, understand their connection, and ensure its survival. 
 
Pillsbury said in his book, “Picturing Miracles of Plant and Animal Life,” published in 1937, “One of the first reactions of seeing a reel of flowers growing and opening was to instill a love for them, a realization of their life struggles so similar to ours, and to wish to do something to stop the ruthless destruction of them which was fast causing them to become extinct.”

Pillsbury had first arrived in Yosemite on his bicycle from Stanford in 1895 along with his cousin, Bernard Lane, and a friend. There, he signed the guest book at the Cosmopolitan. His trip had been motivated by a mention of the glories of the Yosemite by an acquaintance of his mother's, Susan B. Anthony. That year marked Anthony's last trip to the Yosemite, this time without her long time friend and fellow advocate for the rights of women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 
 
Dr. Harriet Foster Pillsbury had gotten her degree in medicine at the Women's Infirmary of New York in 1880, three years before she and her husband, Dr. Harlin Henry Pillsbury, moved their family to Auburn, California, where young Arthur and his brother Ernest, were raised. 
 
Arthur Pillsbury had grown up on the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In the collection of small classics that accompanied him when ever he traveled, were well worn copies of their works. 
 
Arthur's interest in nature began with cataloging plants and studying the ideas of Mendel; using the two microscopes his parents had brought with them to California. The family had also brought a massive library of books on all subjects relating to science. Yosemite was more beauty than Pillsbury had ever imagined possible. He fell in love with the place and all that he saw. 
 
Arthur had begun attending Stanford University with a major in Mechanical Engineering its first year of operation. To earn his tuition he ran a combined photography and bicycle shop near campus. While at Stanford he invented a specimen slicer for microscopic slides and the first circuit panorama camera. Each came into existence to solve a problem he had encountered. The slicer was used for his own microscope and the circuit panorama allowed him to take in the vast spaces he encountered in nature.

While in Yosemite in 1895 Pillsbury had taken photos of the wildflowers. He would later write for his book, “I had still pictures taken of the meadows taken in early days in '95 showing them covered with flowers waist high and the same meadows as they were at this time.” 
 
He had grown up hearing and reading and understanding that world through the lens of science so he used the then exploding technology of photography as his tool for helping others see as well. 
 
Conservation had become a national issue through the bully pulpit of Teddy Roosevelt and the writings of Gifford Pinchot, whose book, “The Fight for Conservation,” framed the political debate on the subject. becoming , along with Herbert Croly's, “The Promise of American Life,” two of just a few books that would frame the Age of Collectivism in America. 
 
Awakening understanding of nature itself and trusting the people to do right was different, contradicting the underlying assumptions of the New Progressivism that a cadre of leaders who 'knew best' should determine the future for everyone. 
 
This became the first confrontation between the knowledge commons, the network, which today in the age of the Internet, we see as allowing individuals to cooperate through persuasion and consensus, and the rigid, top down approach typified by government and corporations. Over the next century the steady increase in human knowledge and the parallel growth of control through the alliance of government and corporations would compromise the very survival of humankind. It was a conflict between individualism and collectivism, open information sources and closed sources. This conflict in organizational structure would define the entire 20th Century. 
 
Today we recognize that sharing knowledge is an essential aspect of freedom. Then, the view that people should know only what made them useful, interchangable cogs, was ascendant and fashionable. 
 
It was a war of ideas that has only recently been decided. 
 
On May 13, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered the opening address, "Conservation as a National Duty," at the outset of a three-day meeting billed as the Governors' Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources. He explained to the attendees that "the occasion for the meeting lies in the fact that the natural resources of our country are in danger of exhaustion if we permit the old wasteful methods of exploiting them longer to continue." The conference propelled conservation issues into the forefront of public consciousness and stimulated a large number of private and state-level conservation initiatives. A new role for government was being forged, one that would prove useful to corporations. 
 
The past was filled with incidents of individuals abusing the environment, but it was nothing to what corporations, with the cooperation of government, would do in the coming years.
Writers such as John Muir were moved by the real and present problems in the Yosemite caused by, “cattlemen, shepherds and land speculators.”

An article from American Park Network reports on Muir's thinking, “One summer, with his trusty mule Brownie, he had traveled extensively in the Sierra Nevada to study the threatened territory. He was exhilarated each time he encountered an alpine meadow of wildflowers but also wondered if their kind would survive to witness the 20th century. His arguments for preserving them included their value as watersheds for the water-dependent San Joaquin Valley agricultural industry. Muir worked ceaselessly to keep Yosemite intact and in its original state. Among his many notable accomplishments, Muir was a charter member and the first president of the Sierra Club which was formed in 1892 to secure federal protection for the Yosemite region. He died on December 24, 1914, at the age of 76. “

Seeing a problem Muir had looked for a solution. But he did so without understanding that the means adopted will mold the future. The 20th Century would be marked by solutions using government to coerce outcomes instead of relying on the use of consensus and persuasion as the tools appropriate to a free people. Muir loved nature but his solutions were based on the idea that only with the intervention of force wielded by government could nature be protected. 
 
The opposite theory that drove a lifetime of inventions for Arthur C. Pillsbury was the observed fact that if people could 'see' the world as it was, with its processes and beauty made visible for them, they would connect to that reality and be moved to understanding and so wish to protect what they saw. 
 
To accomplish the preservation of the wild flowers and open nature to understanding Pillsbury made the first nature movie, built the first lapse-time camera to for plants in 1912, the first microscopic motion picture camera in 1927, the first X-ray motion picture camera and the first Underwater Motion Picture Cameras in 1929 and 1930. He then declined to patent them so that they would always be available to extend our understanding. 
 
Instead of following the usual practices of inventors in his day Arthur C. Pillsbury dedicated all of his cameras to the extension of human understanding. His book, “Picturing Miracles of Plant and Animal Life,” published by Lippincott in 1937 is essentially a manual on how to build your own cameras and achieve the same results. 
 
By do doing he employed action to make a statement about the profit he most valued from his life.
An explosion of understanding resulted. In the first half of the 20th Century insights flowing from the reality of the world of nature provided new approaches in medicine, physics, and every other discipline. Today we talk about the idea that there should be a commons in knowledge, unbound by the limits of individual ownership. Sometimes philosophy is something you live instead of something you just write and talk about. 
 
Ideas adopted by individuals are passed by example and through the flow of our life experiences. Through that steady adoption of ideas through families, educators, and the day to day exchanges of life we compile our culture. 
 
The first nature films were shown on the porch of the Studio in the evenings, starting by 1910. The flickering images were the backdrop to his lecture on the habits of the flowers found in the meadows. This venture into providing a new perspective on the living world would soon be followed by more, using the photography to provide a visceral understanding and appreciation. It helped but still the mowing continued. 
 
He had seen the first lapse-time camera slow down motion at Berkeley. He decided that the same idea could be applied to bringing the motion of the flowers into a human frame of reference. He also realized that the attention span of most people was limited.

“I realized that a scene had to be very dramatic to to hold the interest for over 30 seconds,” Pillsbury wrote in his book; he went on to explain how he had thought out each step in the motion picture process he originated. 
 
When he began work on the lapse-time camera to record the life story of plants, the idea of spending time preserving wild flowers was not on the horizon for those who then thought of themselves as Conservationists. The year was 1912 and the Sierra Club, lead by John Muir, who loved and wrote about flowers himself, was focused on the problem of the Hetch-Hetchy that would keep him busy until his death. Arthur had gotten to know John Muir in the late 1800s, photographing him in Alaska, Yosemite and for the magazine, Camera Craft, in 1900. 

Muir chose Pillsbury's photos for his last book, "The Yosemite," in 1911.
 
The mowing of the meadows was ended after one showing of his first film in 1912. Pillsbury's approach had worked immediately. 
 
You could characterize the work of Arthur C. Pillsbury as the last gasp of individualism, struggling to survive the deluge of collectivism that was then over taking America. Or you could see him as the first to see that technology could bring forth understanding that would, one mind at time, change the world.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Ansel Adams & A. C. Pillsbury - Discovered Insights

First in a Series


Presented by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster and Charlotte Kieltyka


The photo below, taken at the home of Arthur C. Pillsbury in Oakland, California around 1918-20, is from my Aunt Grace's album. She predeceased my father, Dr. Arthur F. Pillsbury, by several years, dying August 12, 1979. Aunt Grace, like others at the Studio of the Three Arrows, usually did not bother to take her own photos. It was easier to print those she wanted out of the thousands stored there for use in a system which was both numeric and descriptive. 
 
Exactly like these, which held nitrate film and were purchased by Rick Norsigian along with the glass negatives he found at a garage sale in Fresno, California in 2000.  Leroy Radonovich told me Pillsbury was the only photographer of that era in Yosemite, Leroy's area specialization, who had a collection numbering more than a few hundred images.  As you see, the numbers here are 8033, Seagull; 8072, Yosemite from Meadow; 8013, Valley View Yos; 8104, Gates of the Valley; 8087, Tuolumne Canyon from Glacier Point; 8067, Overhanging Rock & Half Dome Schap; 8052, Yosemite from Camp Ahwanee (sp); 8057, Yosemite Fall from river; 8066, Three Brothers morning; Monterey Point V.D. neg; 8108, Happy Illes.  The spelling is atrocious, which points to Pillsbury as the writer.  
 
Family photos in the archive were supposed to have the identifying number stamped on the back, when printed.

The archive in Yosemite included family photos of the kids growing up there and photos from the workshops which Pillsbury was putting on from the time his son, my father, Arthur F. Pillsbury, was around 12 - 14. This photo would have been at the Oakland lab facility, in the smaller collection as well as in Grace's album. There is no number on the reverse but Grace signed her name. In this shot Arthur F. is around 16.

Ansel Adams appears in the photo below. He also appears in photos from photographic workshops given by Arthur C. Pillsbury from the period.

These pages place Ansel Adams through family photos, photos available through the Harry Pidgeon Collection located in Fresno, California, and images from the estate of Mildred Clemens during the shadowy period from 1916 - 1927 which is only lightly touched on in the Adams Autobiography, "Ansel Adams, an Autobiography," written by Ansel Adams and Mary Street Alinder, published by Little, Brown and Company, 1985, hard cover edition, paperback edition, 1996. Pillsbury is barely mentioned in the Adams autobiography, receiving not even a place in the book's index.

Did Adams know Arthur C. Pillsbury? Why yes, very well, according to this letter written by Ansel Adams in 1978.


   For the rest of the story go HERE.

Friday, November 14, 2014

No. 123 – November 13, 2014 – A Mystery and Photographer George Fiske




by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster




Everyone knew George was not well and was experiencing intense pain. Hoping for his recovery they were saddened when he shot himself on October 20, 1918.

His still existing collection of glass negatives was acquired by Curry Company, soon to be the Yosemite Park and Curry Company, YP & CC in 1923. Most of his collection had been lost in a fire which destroyed his studio and cameras in 1904.

As a photographer Fiske, had earned the esteem of the international community who had viewed the haunting beauty of his work.

One of these photos, among the most famous, was titled, “Half Dome on Christmas Morning.” The image was titled, “The Domes of Yosemite in Winter,” when it appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1902.

The image shows Half Dome, draped in snow with winter closed in around it. The image is haunting in its poignant power, the stillness of the moment sinks into the mind as you view it. It is also unmistakable. Mountains do not change. The configuration of snow and leaves in the foreground are never the same. A later image would have revealed human artifacts.

The glass plates remaining in Fiske's depleted collection when he died was sold to Curry Company. In the early 30's the collection of Julius Theodore Boysen, another early Yosemite photographer, also acquired by Curry, was stored with it. But in 1934 a fire enveloped the barn and these early images were lost. At least we thought so. Now, the jury is out on this question.

Caches of glass plates and early film have been surfacing.

Rick Norsigian, a house painter from Fresno bought a box of negatives at a garage sale. Looking through the box he was was astonished at the beauty of the images, mostly of Yosemite. Hoping they were by Ansel Adams he launched an effort to have them recognized by the Adams family, which ended in a settlement with the Adams estate in 2010.

The same year a Fiske, undoubtedly the famous Half Dome on Christmas Morning image surfaced from the stored work of another, nearly unknown, photographer. J. M. Garrison. The image came with the accounting for sale of the image, for use as a post card, by the Yosemite Park & Curry Co., dated December 10, 1958.

It is a mystery now resolving into answers, piece by piece. Expect the unexpected and remember George Fiske.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

SPECIAL - Real History that changed the world.


Glimpses into the world of Arthur C. Pillsbury – Unexpected Connections through Time. 

THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR,
WASHINGTON
March 22, 1926

President Calvin Coolidge
First Lady, Grace Coolidge
My Dear Mr. Pillsbury:
The Washington Star said that -
Nothing has stood out more distinctly than the dinner given by Dr. Work a week ago at the Willard. The guests numbered about 70, and the dinner being followed by colored pictures showing the life of a flower from its first seeding until it bloomed into full-grown beauty and then dropped its petals.”
Mrs. Coolidge was profoundly impressed with the Pictures.
Please allow me to express my personal appreciation of your courtesy in this connection.
                           With assurance of personal regards, I remain,
                                                                                       Very truly yours,
                                                                                       HERBERT WORK.”

March 18, 1926.
Dear Mr. Pillsbury:
Secretary Work has received so much commendation of your picture shown at his dinner for the President that he is now very anxious to have you repeat this showing at his formal dinner for the British Ambassador on April 7 and has asked me to get in touch with you and see if you could be in Washington for this date.
                                                                                           Sincerely yours,
                                                                                           (Signed) STEPHEN T. MATHER,
                                                                                           Director.”


 
Willard Hotel
The dinner and program were by invitation only. Seventy people were present for the event at the Willard Hotel, located at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave, just down the street from the White House.

The term “lobbyist” was coined in the Willard's lobby by Ulysses S. Grant.

Secretary of the Interior, Dr. Hubert A. Work gave the dinner and, looking for something special, followed a suggestion from Stephen Mather, then returned from another one of his emotional breakdowns, and carrying on, as usual, as Director of the new National Parks Service.

Mather had suggested his best choice for something not to be forgotten was to engage Arthur C. Pillsbury to give a lecture and show show his films. Pillsbury was also the Official Photographer for Yosemite and had been granted a long term concession in the Park because his speaking tours had been of enormous assistance to Mather in making the Parks profitable. Pillsbury had done the same for the Sierra Club, along with photographing their High Trips for twenty years.

One detail which escaped history is whether or not Mather, himself, was at the event.

But those attending went away with heads reeling. Grace Coolidge was quoted as saying, “she was profoundly impressed with the Pictures.”

Looking back it is hard to imagine the impact on how you view the world when you suddenly see something you think you understand, differently.  MORE

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Volume 4. No. 2 Spring - Summer 2009

The Knowledge Commons: How sharing changed the world
The first Nature Center Centennial – Yosemite Valley 1910
by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Today all of us are familiar with nature centers. We know there will be photos, illustrations, exhibits, items we can buy that allow us to better understand the world of nature and the history that accompanies it, usually specific to that location. Nature centers came from the idea that it would be well if we understood the natural world, being a part of it. The year after next will mark the centennial of the modern nature center, an event to be celebrated.
We take for granted those educational resources, familiar with their use of movies, lectures, specimens to explain to the curious the natural world. That was not the case a century ago.
The first such center was located near the Yosemite Chapel next to what was once the road that turned towards the Valley wall. Now that 'road' runs through the parking lot there. There is no marker. That first nature center occupied the small space alloted to the Studio of the Three Arrows, owned by Arthur C. Pillsbury, who had always been fascinated by the world of nature and saw the need to save the wild flowers then being mowed in the meadows of Yosemite. He could have protested, gathered petitions and appealed to Congress. Instead he decided that if people could 'see' the world of nature in all of its beauty and complexity they would love it, understand their connection, and ensure its survival.
Pillsbury said in his book, “Picturing Miracles of Plant and Animal Life,” published in 1937, “One of the first reactions of seeing a reel of flowers growing and opening was to instill a love for them, a realization of their life struggles so similar to ours, and to wish to do something to stop the ruthless destruction of them which was fast causing them to become extinct.”
Pillsbury had first arrived in Yosemite on his bicycle from Stanford in 1895 along with his cousin, Bernard Lane, and a friend. There, he signed the guest book at the Cosmopolitan. His trip had been motivated by a mention of the glories of the Yosemite by an acquaintance of his mother's, Susan B. Anthony. That year marked Anthony's last trip to the Yosemite, this time without her long time friend and fellow advocate for the rights of women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Dr. Harriet Foster Pillsbury had gotten her degree in medicine at the Women's Infirmary of New York in 1880, three years before she and her husband, Dr. Harlin Henry Pillsbury, moved their family to Auburn, California, where young Arthur and his brother Ernest, were raised.
Arthur Pillsbury had grown up on the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In the collection of small classics that accompanied him when ever he traveled, were well worn copies of their works.
Arthur's interest in nature began with cataloging plants and studying the ideas of Mendel; using the two microscopes his parents had brought with them to California. The family had also brought a massive library of books on all subjects relating to science. Yosemite was more beauty than Pillsbury had ever imagined possible. He fell in love with the place and all that he saw.
Arthur had begun attending Stanford University with a major in Mechanical Engineering its first year of operation. To earn his tuition he ran a combined photography and bicycle shop near campus. While at Stanford he invented a specimen slicer for microscopic slides and the first circuit panorama camera. Each came into existence to solve a problem he had encountered. The slicer was used for his own microscope and the circuit panorama allowed him to take in the vast spaces he encountered in nature.
While in Yosemite in 1895 Pillsbury had taken photos of the wildflowers. He would later write for his book, “I had still pictures taken of the meadows taken in early days in '95 showing them covered with flowers waist high and the same meadows as they were at this time.”
He had grown up hearing and reading and understanding that world through the lens of science so he used the then exploding technology of photography as his tool for helping others see as well.
Conservation had become a national issue through the bully pulpit of Teddy Roosevelt and the writings of Gifford Pinchot, whose book, “The Fight for Conservation,” framed the political debate on the subject. becoming , along with Herbert Croly's, “The Promise of American Life,” two of just a few books that would frame the Age of Collectivism in America.
Awakening understanding of nature itself and trusting the people to do right was different, contradicting the underlying assumptions of the New Progressivism that a cadre of leaders who 'knew best' should determine the future for everyone.
This became the first confrontation between the knowledge commons, the network, which today in the age of the Internet, we see as allowing individuals to cooperate through persuasion and consensus, and the rigid, top down approach typified by government and corporations. Over the next century the steady increase in human knowledge and the parallel growth of control through the alliance of government and corporations would compromise the very survival of humankind. It was a conflict between individualism and collectivism, open information sources and closed sources. This conflict in organizational structure would define the entire 20th Century.
Today we recognize that sharing knowledge is an essential aspect of freedom. Then, the view that people should know only what made them useful, interchangable cogs, was ascendant and fashionable.
It was a war of ideas that has only recently been decided.
On May 13, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered the opening address, "Conservation as a National Duty," at the outset of a three-day meeting billed as the Governors' Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources. He explained to the attendees that "the occasion for the meeting lies in the fact that the natural resources of our country are in danger of exhaustion if we permit the old wasteful methods of exploiting them longer to continue." The conference propelled conservation issues into the forefront of public consciousness and stimulated a large number of private and state-level conservation initiatives. A new role for government was being forged, one that would prove useful to corporations.
The past was filled with incidents of individuals abusing the environment, but it was nothing to what corporations, with the cooperation of government, would do in the coming years.
Writers such as John Muir were moved by the real and present problems in the Yosemite caused by, “cattlemen, shepherds and land speculators.”
An article from American Park Network reports on Muir's thinking, “One summer, with his trusty mule Brownie, he had traveled extensively in the Sierra Nevada to study the threatened territory. He was exhilarated each time he encountered an alpine meadow of wildflowers but also wondered if their kind would survive to witness the 20th century. His arguments for preserving them included their value as watersheds for the water-dependent San Joaquin Valley agricultural industry. Muir worked ceaselessly to keep Yosemite intact and in its original state. Among his many notable accomplishments, Muir was a charter member and the first president of the Sierra Club which was formed in 1892 to secure federal protection for the Yosemite region. He died on December 24, 1914, at the age of 76. “
Seeing a problem Muir had looked for a solution. But he did so without understanding that the means adopted will mold the future. The 20th Century would be marked by solutions using government to coerce outcomes instead of relying on the use of consensus and persuasion as the tools appropriate to a free people. Muir loved nature but his solutions were based on the idea that only with the intervention of force wielded by government could nature be protected.
The opposite theory that drove a lifetime of inventions for Arthur C. Pillsbury was the observed fact that if people could 'see' the world as it was, with its processes and beauty made visible for them, they would connect to that reality and be moved to understanding and so wish to protect what they saw.
To accomplish the preservation of the wild flowers and open nature to understanding Pillsbury made the first nature movie, built the first lapse-time camera to for plants in 1912, the first microscopic motion picture camera in 1927, the first X-ray motion picture camera and the first Underwater Motion Picture Cameras in 1929 and 1930. He then declined to patent them so that they would always be available to extend our understanding.
Instead of following the usual practices of inventors in his day Arthur C. Pillsbury dedicated all of his cameras to the extension of human understanding. His book, “Picturing Miracles of Plant and Animal Life,” published by Lippincott in 1937 is essentially a manual on how to build your own cameras and achieve the same results.
By do doing he employed action to make a statement about the profit he most valued from his life.
An explosion of understanding resulted. In the first half of the 20th Century insights flowing from the reality of the world of nature provided new approaches in medicine, physics, and every other discipline. Today we talk about the idea that there should be a commons in knowledge, unbound by the limits of individual ownership. Sometimes philosophy is something you live instead of something you just write and talk about.
Ideas adopted by individuals are passed by example and through the flow of our life experiences. Through that steady adoption of ideas through families, educators, and the day to day exchanges of life we compile our culture.
The first nature films were shown on the porch of the Studio in the evenings, starting by 1910. The flickering images were the backdrop to his lecture on the habits of the flowers found in the meadows. This venture into providing a new perspective on the living world would soon be followed by more, using the photography to provide a visceral understanding and appreciation. It helped but still the mowing continued.
He had seen the first lapse-time camera slow down motion at Berkeley. He decided that the same idea could be applied to bringing the motion of the flowers into a human frame of reference. He also realized that the attention span of most people was limited.
I realized that a scene had to be very dramatic to to hold the interest for over 30 seconds,” Pillsbury wrote in his book; he went on to explain how he had thought out each step in the motion picture process he originated.
When he began work on the lapse-time camera to record the life story of plants, the idea of spending time preserving wild flowers was not on the horizon for those who then thought of themselves as Conservationists. The year was 1912 and the Sierra Club, lead by John Muir, who loved and wrote about flowers himself, was focused on the problem of the Hetch-Hetchy that would keep him busy until his death. Arthur had gotten to know John Muir in the late 1800s, photographing him in Yosemite and for the magazine, Camera Craft, in 1900.
The mowing of the meadows was ended after one showing of his first film in 1912. Pillsbury's approach had worked immediately.
You could characterize the work of Arthur C. Pillsbury as the last gasp of individualism, struggling to survive the deluge of collectivism that was then over taking America. Or you could see him as the first to see that technology could bring forth understanding that would, one mind at time, change the world.
Celebrate the Studio of the Three Arrows, April 1, 2010.

DTDB Special – Vol. Nine No. 4 – Centennials Keep On Coming



Remember those mesmerizing nature films for family audiences? Walt Disney was making them in the 1950s and '60s. Baby boomers grew up on them two generations after Arthur C. Pillsbury launched the revolution.


The one other person who claims to have done the first work using lapse-time with flowers bases the claim on work done on these films. That is Dr. John Nash Ott, who was born in 1909, the year Pillsbury showed the first nature film. The first lapse-time movie showing flowers lifting their faces to the sun was shown before Ott was three years old.

By the time young Ott was in school Pillsbury's movies of plants had been shown at most major universities and to the National Geographic Society in Washington D. C. And not to rain on Ott's parade, but Pillsbury's first special effect was to insert himself, inside a cell dividing, as he lectured. That was 1927.  

Centennial Moment, along with the first Microscopic Motion Picture Camera. Pillsbury strongly believed technologies which extended human understanding should not be patented.  Leading by example he did not patent his own such inventions and published instructions on how to build them yourself.  Pillsbury called this Knowledge Commons.  Today we say Open Source.    

 Dr. Ott has gone unchallenged on his claims for a long time even though Pillsbury films were shown in movie theaters, by others who purchased them for their own presentations over the years, and on every major university campus, and to garden clubs and town hall forums. His films were also widely purchased by schools and in some places were still in use in the 1960s.

How could this happen? Now we approach the reason the Dog Did Not Bark.

Pillsbury's youngest son discovered something odd was happening during one of his trips to Yosemite with his children in the Valley in the 1970s. He said in a letter written to Steve Harrison, a National Park Services employee, written to Harrison on February 9, 1978, “On one of those trips I was told by an employee of Best's Studio that he believed there was a strong effort to play down Uncle's role in the development of Yosemite.” In the letter Dr. Pillsbury goes on to note, “this is certainly true in books like, “Yosemite and It's Innkeepers.”

Pillsbury's daughter, Melinda Pillsbury-Foster had several experiences of the same kind while in Yosemite. During a viewing of items in the Yosemite Archive with the Yosemite Curator she was looking through an album of photos showing the building of the Glacier Point Hotel from 1916 – 1917. She commented these photos looked like Pillsbury. The Curator pointed to one of these and said there was no printing. Flipping the album over in her hand she pointed to the label on the back of the whole album which read, “Produced by the Pillsbury Picture Company.” The album had been there for several generations by then.

Later, she was told this was policy. Pillsbury was not to be mentioned.

Arthur C. Pillsbury had been a one man promotion team through his films, shown widely in multiple venues across the country, as noted previously. His motive for this was not whole-hearted support for the Park concept but with the idea since this was going to happen the Parks should at least be centers for increasing public understanding of nature.  

This was a different kind of activism, one which used making a profit to achieve the goal.  Pillsbury said in his book, Picturing Miracles of Plant and Animal life,"To see a flower blossoming, its life so like our own, awakens in us a love for the flower, its life so like our own, and the wish to preserve it."  

To this purpose he applied his innovative powers and edge technologies, developed with this in mind.  

Snow Plant, for Identification and suitable for framing.
The Pillsbury Studio sold flower identification cards, books, and provides lectures on the world of nature which were entirely factual but presented in ways which arrested attention and emotionally engaged the tourist.

No one filled auditoriums with the kind of lectures provided today by the National Park Service. Pillsbury could, and did. His intention was to expand this to include the world of the microscopic for every kind of life and the dynamics of the systems which support and sustain our world. He was determined this happen.

In 1926 Steven Mather, the first Director of the National Park System, refused to let Pillsbury publicize his films and lectures in the Valley. People came anyway, despite the fact Mather had heavily advertised professors he had brought in from Berkeley to lecture. Those events were largely unattended. Pillsbury's studio was always packed, doing six times the total business of all other photographic concessionaires together.

The Dog just opened his eyes. More coming.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Dog That Didn't Bark Special – Vol. Nine, No. Three - Centennials Which Should Have Happened



The first ever nature movie. 

In 1909 no one realized how important this use of film would become, most people were into drama, battles, love scenes, comedy. Pillsbury had different priorities. He seamlessly applied this newly born medium to the problem of helping people fall in love with nature.

How many of us had our empathy and interest arrested by a nature movie? Awakened to the sameness of all life through this medium? It boggles the mind. Films take you there without having to step into the wilderness.

Announcements were made for a Centennial event to take place at the Yosemite Chapel, the building closest to the original location for the Studio of the Three Arrows in 1909 where that film was shown. 

Left - Post Office, Store, Sentinel Hotel, just visible in distance, Right - Gazebo for films, Pillsbury Studio
 
I was there and lead a walk through the location of Old Village.  Afterward, we ate lunch on tables set up at the Yosemite Chapel. 

This is Dad, Dr. Arthur F. Pillsbury, on Winkey.  In the background is his tent, behind the Chapel.
 
The Studio was in front of, but to the bridge side of the Chapel. Across the road running along the Valley wall which then lead into Yosemite Valley, turning to meet the street lined with small businesses and the Sentinel Hotel.  My Dad's tent always stood in back of the Chapel, near the wall.  Today that space is covered by their extended office space. 

Now you can see it more closely.

One paper published it, The Porterville Recorder. The National Park Service maintained a stoic silence.

In the announcement the fact Ansel Adams was mentored by Pillsbury was mentioned. Ansel worked for Pillsbury and also took photography classes from him, as did Harry Pidgeon and Earl Brooks.

My father, Dr. Arthur Francis Pillsbury, Director of the Water Resources Center for the University of California System, recalled to me tripping over Adams, along with other photography students, as he operated the mass production post card machine before the Studio moved to New Village in 1924. Aunt Grace recalled the same thing from her own point of view, as her duties were generally serving customers. Aunt Grace reported this to me in 1972. Aunt Grace married Arthur Young on 13 Oct. 1923 in Oakland in the same room where this picture was taken. 

Ansel Adams, front, not smiling

Larger Image, Ansel Adams
 
Ansel came to parties for photography students and kids who worked at the studio at Pillsbury's home in Berkeley during the winter months.

Disappointed his youngest son, my dad, had determined on college and a career in engineering, Pillsbury began using Ansel Adams more frequently as an assistant and developer.

The new studio was the first to be built in New Village in 1924. 





The auditorium held 350 people and was usually full, standing room only. 

 
Interior of the Pillsbury Studio, entrance to Auditorium is hp the steps on each side of the fireplace.

Using his revenue from the drastically lower cost of production them made possible with the mass production photo-postcard machine and his income from the Studio Grandfather funded a new technology. Pillsbury had a life long passion for nature and spent that life sharing his passion with people around the world.

His next invention was the microscopic motion picture camera

Seeing cells dividing happened first because of Pillsbury. This invention provided the needed insights in multiple disciplines, including medicine, to help them move to another level of knowledge. And because he paid for the development himself Pillsbury was able to keep his inventions, and how to build them, available to everyone.  He called it Knowledge Commons.  Today we say Open Source. 

We are going to make that Centennial happen.