Saving a Glimpse of Old California

Hometown Heroes, People
on July 22, 2001

Call him a one-man photo archives.

In 1970 when Pat Hathaway, 22, returned to Pacific Grove, Calif., after military service, he learned that the widow of local photographer Lewis Josselyn of Carmel was about to destroy her late husbands lifework.

Josselyn, who had come to the Monterey area in 1914, had some 5,000 5-by-7 negatives documenting its history. Included were images of Carmel Mission (and all other California Missions); the construction of Bixby Creek Bridge in 1932; Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast; and famous Carmel poet Robinson Jeffers, taken in 1929.

Unbelievably, at the time Mrs. Josselyn approached me, the local museums and libraries said the large format glass negatives were obsolete, says Hathaway. Because she couldnt store or maintain the collection herself, she was going to throw it away because she couldnt give it away.

A passionate photographer since age 12, Hathaway was horrified that the peninsula was about to lose its visual history. When he offered to take the collection, Mrs. Josselyn thought he was merely saving her a run to the dump.

At first she didnt understand that I wanted to save the collection, Hathaway says. When she did, I legalized the transaction by giving her $1.

After storing the collection in a spare bedroom, Hathaway rented a studio in Pacific Grove, then searched for a large-format enlarger capable of printing old glass plates and negatives. Friends asking for copies of the photographs indicated to Hathaway that his avocation might be marketable. He soon opened California Views: Historical Photographs Archives, which now numbers more than 80,000 historical images of California, with over 27,500 cataloged in a database.

Today, many images of Monterey, Cannery Row, Carmel, and Big Sur found in books and magazines come from Hathaways collection, as do collections at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas (author John Steinbeck lived in and wrote about the area), Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Pacific Wharf in Disneys new California Adventure.

Many images are one of a kind, for which I possess the original glass plates, film negatives, original prints, and postcards, he says. I personally print and mount the images from the collection.

Hathaway, 53, is equally driven to preserve the legacy of local photographers. When he once spotted a credit given to a photographer who hadnt even been born when the photo was taken, Hathaway became interested in authenticating old photographs. Using a 1924 telephone book among other sources, he tracked descendants of local photographers, ultimately adding those picture takers to his archives. With the work of more than 1,000 19th- and 20th-century photographers now archived, Hathaway is able to ensure that proper credit is given where its due.

Photographers are the keepers of our history, but they seldom get acknowledgment, he explains. With my database, I can authenticate images so the right photographers get credit. Its given me great joy to meet historically important people and their descendants along the way and share my photographs with them.

One of those was world-renowned photographer Ansel Adams, who donated photographs of old California to Hathaways collection. Another was Jacques Cousteaus son, who needed some photography for a story on Monterey Bay.

Also a talented photographer, Hathaway continues to record the peninsulas history for future generations. His workand that of the early photographers hes collectedserve as a resource for historians, scholars, writers, and teachers from around the country.

Hathaways passion for preserving the past is born of love rather than financial gain. I feel more like a museum than a business, he says. People come to me wanting free information and photos assuming that a foundation or a museum sponsors me. Im not.