Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

The 'Harry Pidgeon' Collection at the Madden Library

The Story You Will Not Get at the Madden Library
by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

The photos you will see below were sent to the Madden Library from the Yosemite Historical Museum, according to Leroy Radanovich, who told me this during a phone call.  They were identified as the work of Harry Pidgeon, a former student of Arthur C. Pillsbury (AC), who attended workshops AC gave.  Pidgeon attended these in 1918 or 1919, at the same time as Earl Brooks and Ansel Adams. 

However, as you look at the faces in these carefully staged portraits you see these could not be Pidgeon's work because there are many with the same individuals, including Stephen Mather, Don Tresidder, Ansel Adams, and a professional impersonator of Sir Lauder, an entertainment celebrity whose act was openly reprised by others.  In this case, the impersonator is Jack Scott, who was playing in California during the summer of 1927.  SEE CLIPPING  The other individuals posing are almost all officially associated with National Park Service, and they came to Yosemite for a specific event.  This had to have been the Opening for the Ahwahnee Hotel on July 1927. 

From the time he was appointed by Stephen Mather as Official Photographer of Yosemite in 1915, a move Mather made to persuade Pillsbury to show his films widely across the US as Mather pursued his goal for ratification of the National Park Service, Pillsbury served in that capacity.  

I had first contacted Leroy around 1992 for the purpose of ordering reprints of photos from the Yosemite Museum.  Leroy, not an NPS employee, was in charge of the photo archive and handled such orders.  The Yosemite Museum had supplied me with his phone number.  Over the years, I had many conversations with Leroy.  Eventually, he and I met in person, briefly.  Through others, I learned Michael Adams, the son of Ansel and Virginia, was one of his closest friends.  I brought this up during one of my conversations with Leroy after 2000 and he confirmed this without hesitation.  After carrying out years of research I did not expect anyone not closely connected to the interests of the National Park Service to be in the position occupied by Leroy.  

It was also clear that the entire Adams family knew how Ansel Adams had become so singularly identified with Yosemite.  Since this had been not only the source of their income and provided them with entirely unearned regard from the world at large it was not surprising they cooperatively continued the cover-up begun by Stephen Mather and carried on by Horace Albright.  Mather had left Albright stock in the company which had been YP&CC at the time of his death in 1933.  I worked on the assumption each member of the family knew Ansel's fame came about as part of the cover-up needed after he stole the entire collection of negatives from Grandfather's studio in Yosemite and then committed the arson which destroyed this evidence.  


  #1: Full View (note the neatly folded coat & hat in rt. corner of photo)

  #2: Close-up View of Group (note bagpiper & positioning of each individual)  

No. 4

  #3: All figures seem to be centered around (A) – who appears to be ...                          #4: Stephen Mather  

No. 6

No. 5

No. 7

S. Mather (note same high indented forehead in each photo)            Compare #1, 3, 6 and 7
            Mather has neatly removed his hat and coat for the photo shoot.  

No. 8

Now consider Person of Interest (B) – standing next to “central” figure (A) – refer to diagram #3

“Person of Interest” (B) is Ansel Adams:
Adams played around with facial hair during the 1920's while he was employed by Arthur C. Pillsbury as a Dog's Body and janitor at the Pillsbury Picture Studio, first at the Old Village and then at the much larger and more elaborate facility at New Village in 1924.  The career surge experienced by Adams began before he removed the photo collection from the Pillsbury Studio. 


No. 11

No. 9

No. 10

  ​All of these photographs of Ansel Adams are from the same Henry Madden Library – including the following photo that actually identifies him as A. Adams:  

No. 12

No. 13

  Source Web pages for Ansel Adams photos from Henry Madden Library           
#9: Grover Cleveland – Item # 12a.102
#10: Bagpipes on the tree &link: Item # 12e.124
#11: At the Cutout #1 – Item # 13b.160
# 12 & #13: California Tree - Item # 12d.147
 Note that these numbers are no longer valid and are here to illustrate what happened with unfolding events.  The nature of the photos wrongly attributed to Harry Pidgeon, actually taken by Arthur C. Pillsbury, was brought to their attention and to the attention of Leroy Radanovich.  The photos were abruptly pulled and were not available online for some time.  Today, March 31, 2019, they are again on the site and again attributed to Harry Pidgeon.  We will soon supply the new links if the photos do not again disappear, which they may well do.  

  “Person of Interest” (C) - standing just below Ansel Adams (B) is Don Tresidder  

                                                                                             from Wikipedia                                                    Don Tresidder - Aviator

And while “Person of Interest” (D) remains unidentified, he does bear a striking resemblance to the young man just in back of him (C).

Appropriately, the next “Person of Interest” is under Mather (A) - Horace Albright (E):

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

            Ranger Albright                                  Horace Albright                 #19:“morph” of #18 & .... (E  

        Horace Albright admits in his book, Creating the National Park Service - The Missing Years," in Chapter 13, Troubling Times, 1916 , Mather is emotionally unstable.  As you read the beginning of this chapter, written near Albright's life, Albright admits he committed a felony, failing to report the facts to Secretary of the Interior, Lane, instead covering for Mather, who he correctly identifies the crime Mather is committing is self-dealing.  This section also reveals the calloused disregard of both men for the failing health of David Curry.  Curry's health problems were caused by the pressure intentionally put on him by Mather in his drive to steal the equity created by the Curry Company, first by forcing Curry out, and then, after David Curry's death, by maligning his son, Foster Curry.  
         David Curry, Foster's grandson, said, for publication, no one ever accused Foster of inappropriate behavior of any kind - except Washington B. Lewis, Superintendent, who Albright knew would do or say anything he was asked to do for Mather.  

Horace Albright (right) with friend - 1915

No. 20

“Person of Interest” (F) is Washington B. Lewis: 1st Superintendent of Yosemite 1916  

Photo of Mather and Lewis – 1925 (same hat in both photos)

No. 22

                                                                                                        William E. Colby by Ansel Adams

Colby joined the Sierra Club in 1898, the year of his graduation from law school. He served as the club's representative in the Yosemite Valley area. In 1900, he became the club's secretary, and served (bar two years) in that post until 1946. He also served as a director of the club for 49 years.

Colby was a pioneer in the Sierra Club's outing program, and led his High Trips to the Yosemite area from 1901 to 1929; he also led the 1928 High Trip to the Canadian Rockies, and at the end of that trip was given a heartfelt fireside tribute by his fellow hikers, who included 26-year-old photographer Ansel Adams.      - And the story continues.....

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