Harry J. Gottlieb in Golden and Other Western Cities

Let’s take a look at a little known photographer who worked in Golden in 1904-1905.  Biographical details about Harry J. Gottleib are both limited and confusing.

Gottleib was born in New York City.  Records provide his birthdate variously as April 1874 (1900 census),  1880 (WWI draft records and 1920 census) and 1886 (1930 census).  Some of these dates are certainly unrealistic.  At around twelve years of age, Gottleib began photographing houses for an itinerant photographer.  For more than a decade, he made tintypes under the employ of a female tintypist on Coney Island.  In 1894 he married Daisy Ann Brown.  By 1900 they lived in northern Florida, where he worked as a photographer, first in Monticello and later in San Augustine.  (It is easy to confuse him with  N. I. Gottlieb, a photographer working in Ocala, FL in the 1890s, whom the press called “Artist Gottlieb.”) 

Harry J. Gottlieb, photographer. Unidentified man standing with a child sitting on a donkey, tintype, 1904 or 1905. Collection of the author.

In September 1904 Gottlieb set up a photo tent in Golden, Colorado where he worked for about a year. He specialized in photographs of babies for which he charged $5.00 for 16 stamp photos.  Very few of his Colorado photographs are extant.

After Golden, he lived briefly in Raton, New Mexico (1906), El Paso, Texas (1907-1911) and Tucson, Arizona (1911-1912).  By 1914 he resided in California, where he placed an ad in the San Francisco Examiner on March 26, 1915:  PHOTOGRAPHER: first class, all round man; wants position, or will take odd jobs and piece retouching.  H. J. Gottlieb, 1359 Golden Gate ave. In 1916 Gottlieb was back in Arizona, working in Phoenix (1916), Tempe, (1916-1919) and Williams (1919).

Gottlieb led a colorful personal life.  He married four times. He lost a custody battle over his daughter from his first marriage.  After the divorce of his third wife, Beatrice Montague “ended her own life after taking that of Hamilton W. Mannon, a motion picture executive… whose love for the beautiful girl had grown cold,” stated the Denver Post on August 7, 1927.  She left a young daughter that she had with Harry.

Harry’s Picture Place, Real Photo Postcard, ca, 1927. Hubbard Museum of the American West

Only when Gottlieb settled in Alamogordo, New Mexico in the mid-1920s, did his career flourish. He married his fourth wife, Bessie Graham, in 1924 and she joined him in the business. He continued to make portraits, but he also captured views of southeastern New Mexico’s stunning scenery, coloring them with oil paint. He open a second studio in Ruidoso, NM, where he sold postcards as well as other souvenirs.  Gottlieb’s pictures were also published in tourist brochures.  Harry Gottlieb died on August 2, 1936 of Buerger’s disease, which causes blood vessels to swell.

Special thanks to Beverly W. Brannan, former curator of photography, Library of Congress,  for proof reading this post.

John Green, a Black Photographer in Denver

When I started researching 19th century Colorado photographers several years ago, I wondered how many Black photographers worked in the state. So far, I have encountered very few.  In honor of Black history month, here is a brief glimpse into the career of John Green.

Black girl
John Green, photographer. Unidentified woman, tintype. Collection of the author.

Remarkably, John Green  worked in Denver as a photographer for more than 40 years, yet hardly any of his photographs survive today. Tracking down details his life has been complicated as  John Green is a fairly common name and official records provide inconsistent information.

Green was born circa 1854 in Canada to an Irish mother.  Census data provides conflicting information about his father’s ancestry, varying from the West Indies (1900), South America (1910) and Australia (1930).  John Green’s race is listed as mulatto in the 1910 and 1920 censuses, but as White in the 1930 census.  He may have identified as White due to the rise in Klan activity in Denver at this time.

Green first appears in Denver in the 1885 city directory as a colored photographer with his photo business at the corner of Blake and 18th Street.  The 1887 Sanborn map shows his studio was located in a  photo car, probably an old rail car.

Sanborn map, 1887
Sanborn Map, Denver 1887, Sheet 14

Green’s earliest work, tintype portraits of Black and White sitters, are found in a few public and private collections.  This in itself is unusual.  Most tintypes are unattributed.  Green carefully assembled the iron plates (not tin as the name implies)  into paper sleeves, stamped with his name and address on the back.  When the cabinet card format became popular, Green switched to that style of card mount.  

In 1889, Green photographed the Colorado House at the Capital.  This photograph is not known to be extant.  A few years later, Green moved to a permanent building at 1337 18th Street.  In 1910 he moved again, this time to 1952 Arapahoe Street.

John Green never married and I have not been able to track down any siblings.  Green died on May 24, 1930, and is buried at Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery.  Unfortunately I have not found a detailed obituary for Green.  Like many photographers of his time, his story has been lost to the past.

John Green, photographer. Western Steam Laundry, circa 1915, silver gelatin print. History Colorado, object id# 88.713.8