George Benjamin Wittick – Photographer

George Benjamin Wittick was born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Illinois, and then out west in 1878 to pursue frontier photography. He served in the Civil War for the union using the name “Benjamin Wallace” in Company A of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry and Company D of the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry, from 1862 to 1865. He first worked for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroads before establishing his first photography studio in Gallup, New Mexico.

George Benjamin Wittick
George Benjamin Wittick

During his career, he photographed many subjects to include the railroad; southwestern landscapes such as Canyon de Chelly, the Navajo Reservation, and Pueblo scenes; and the Native peoples mostly the Apache, Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. Wittik was the first person to photograph the Hopi Snake Dance. An elder warned him at the time that he would die from a snake bite for witnessing the ceremony and not being an initiated member.

His photographs from this event brought the Hopi religious ritual great attention. 

George Benjamin Wittick - Self Portrait
George Benjamin Wittick – Self Portrait

He carried with him a collection of props for his photographs to include rifles, pistols, blankets, pottery, and more. Most of his photographs were taken outside using the natural sunlight against backdrops.

Geronimo (Goyathlay, 1820–1909), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887 - Photograph George Benjamin Wittick
Geronimo (Goyathlay, 1820–1909), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887 – Photograph George Benjamin Wittick

Billy The Kid

Easily, Wittick’s most famous photograph is of Henry McCarty, AKA Billy the Kidd, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The image is the only known image of the outlaw to be identified by those who knew him. The image It shows the outlaw dressed in a rumpled hat and ragged clothes, which include a bulky sweater. He’s is holding a Winchester carbine on his right side and a Colt revolver holstered on his left side. Two of these tintypes were produced. One is given to Paulita Maxwell, the kids girlfriend, and the other to friend Dan Dedrick. The last time this original is auctioned, it sold to William Koch for 2.3 million dollars.

Henry McCarty - AKA Billy the Kid - Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 1879 - 80 Tintype by George Benjamin Wittick
Henry McCarty – AKA Billy the Kid – Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 1879 – 80 Tintype by George Benjamin Wittick

It was taken by a traveling photographer who came through Fort Sumner [New Mexico] in 1880. Billy posed for it standing in the street near old Beaver Smith’s saloon. I never liked the picture. I don’t think it does Billy justice. It makes him look rough and uncouth. The expression of his face was really boyish and very pleasant. He may have worn such clothes as appear in the picture out on the range, but in Fort Sumner he was careful of his personal appearance and dressed neatly and in good taste.

Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo, the Kid’s girlfriend – 1920’s

In 1900, he established his last studio at Fort Wingate. In 1903. he decided to return to visit the Hopi Snake Dance. As a gesture of friendship towards the Hopu, he captured a rattlesnake to bring to as a gift. While handling the snake, he is bitten on the thumb on August 8, 1903 and died three weeks later at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, just as the Hopi elder had predicted many years earlier.

References

James Crysanthus Phelan – Rhyolite Shopkeeper

James Crysanthus Phelan
James Crysanthus Phelan

James Crysanthus Phelan was a business man and early pioneer of the desert southwest, who like many others followed the boom towns west. Early in his life, he owned a series of butcher shops in various towns throughout the south west, including Rhyolite. It is believed that his butcher shop was located on Golden Street across the street from the Cook Bank Building and near the Porter Brothers Store.

Biography

The automobile garage owned by James C. Phelan, and named after him, is cleverly planned, well built, and managed according to up-to-date methods. Mr. Phelan’s father, who was an honored veteran of the Union Army in our Civil War, is D. F. Phelan, and he is still living at Los Angeles.

Prior to casting his lot in the Golden State, he was a pioneer in Colorado. Mrs. Phelan, who was Annie Donahue before her marriage, is deceased. Born in the Centennial State on October 25, 1867, James C. Phelan was educated at the public schools in Colorado and New Mexico, and also, as he likes to put it, in ” the great school of experience.”

As a young man, he ventured in both the grocery and butcher business, having a store when only nineteen years of age, at Albuquerque, N. M. For fourteen years, too, his business at Williams, Arizona, was one of the most progressive and profitable establishments in that town. On September 9, 1893, Mr. Phelan was married to Miss Myrtie Dickinson, and this union was blessed with three boys and four girls, viz : Mary M., Chris E., Roy N., Jimmie J., Ruth E., Bernice L., and Leoma C, all of whom were educated in the public schools of Fresno, the two eldest studied at Heald’s Business College, while Roy N., is a student at the University of California at Berkeley.

Cook Bank Building, Rhyolite Nevada, Photo marked 1908 and "Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society"
Cook Bank Building, Rhyolite Nevada, Photo marked 1908 and “Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society”

Mr. Phelan has accepted the doctrines of the Christian Scientists, socially he finds recreation in the circles of the Woodmen of the World, the Knights of Pythias, and the Young Men’s Christian Association. In May, 1916, he built the finest and most complete auto establishment in California, spending $90,000 upon the same. He then became agent, for the San Joaquin Valley, of the Maxwell, Mitchell and Marmon automobiles, and the Kleiber and Maxwell Trucks. He employs from forty to fifty men to man the several departments, each of which is complete in itself.

When he first came to California, in 1905, he worked for three years on the Fresno ranch ; and then, getting into the automobile business in a modest way, he has made success after success. Mr. Phelan sold out in August. 1919. Mr. Phelan is a stanch Democrat, but always something more than a political partisan. In advocating and working for good roads, for example, his public-spiritedness has been particularly shown.

References

Raven ( Corvus corax )

The Raven ( Corvus corax ) is one of eight subspecies of Ravens distributed throughout the world. Also known as western or northern raven, this large black bird is a member of the Corvidae family of birds which also contains crows, jays and magpies. This bird is a rather large and features solid black feathers which offers a dramatic and ominous appearance.

Raven ( Corvus corax ) sitting on a coral fence at the Grand Canyon Western Ranch.
Raven ( Corvus corax ) sitting on a coral fence at the Grand Canyon Western Ranch.

The raven is a large bird, known to average 25 inches in length and 2.6 pounds in weight and heaviest of the passerine or perching birds. This species is renowned for its intelligence and commonly used to test animal problem solving ability. This species has a world wide distribution and can thrive in a large variety of climates. The bird is an opportunistic omnivore finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion insects, grains, berries, fruit, small animals, other birds, and food waste. The are common features around campgrounds for the food sources left by human activity.

The raven has a long history with man in culture, literature and superstition. Many Native American tribes cultures regard the bird as a trickster or a cosmic messenger. Edgar Allen Poe’s infamous poem forever linked this bird with ominous overtones and symbolism for in western culture. The National Football Team even has a football team named for this special mischievous bird.

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyCorvidae
Genus Corvus
Speciescorax

References

Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )

The Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) is a common character found in the forests of the western half of the United States. The bird is an opportunistic omnivore and closely related to the Blue Jay. The Stellars Jay has a black crested head and a vibrant blue body which is commonly about between eleven and twelve inches long. This bird has a lot of variations depending on location.

Stellar's Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California
A Stellar’s Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California
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Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatium)

A member of the mustard family, the Western Wallflower ( Erysimum capitatium ) is a brightly colored yellow flower which is quite common across the western United States, including Arizona, Utah and Nevada.. In European countries, the wallflower earned its name from a habit of growing on… you guess it, walls. More specifically stone, masonry or wooden fences. The name was transposed to the American species despite the fact the plants have no preference for walls.

Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatium)
Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatium)
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