May 092024
 

American photographer Sumner W Matteson has not received the attention he deserves for the thousands of outstanding images of landscapes and people in the US, Cuba and Mexico he took at the start of the twentieth century.

Sumner Warren Matteson Jr was born on 15 September 1867 in Decorah, Iowa, and died in Mexico City on 27 Oct 1920. Following his death, the American Consulate in Mexico City curtly reported: “ASSETS: Miscellaneous articles of clothing of no intrinsic value. Given away and destroyed. Suitcase.” Matheson had only just celebrated his 53rd birthday.

German-Mexican photographer Hugo Brehme (1882-1954), based in Mexico City, had seen some of Matheson’s work and bought some of Matteson’s Mexican negatives from his estate. Brehme later printed some of them under his own copyright, sometimes with a note that the negatives were the work of Matteson.

Sumner W Matheson. 1907. Native craft near outlet of Lake Chapala and water hyacinth drifting with the wind. Reproduced courtesy of Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin.

Sumner W Matheson. 1907. “Native craft near outlet of Lake Chapala and water hyacinth drifting with the wind.” Reproduced courtesy of Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin.

The photos in this post are reproduced by kind permission of the Milwaukee Public Museum in Wisconsin, which purchased them from the Matteson estate in 1922. Other Matteson negatives and prints can be found in the collections of the Science Museum of Minnesota in Saint Paul, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Matteson graduated with a B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1888, and worked for a few years as a banking clerk before becoming an agent for a bicycle manufacturer, the Overman Wheel Company. By the end of the century, Matteson was calling himself an “amateur photographer” and a “traveling correspondent.”

In 1902 an album of his Hopi Indian photos was presented to the Smithsonian Institute, and Matteson documented several other indigenous groups in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as spending many months in Cuba.

The photos shown in this profile were all taken in 1907, during Matteson’s first trip to Mexico.

Sumner W Matheson. 1907. Tramp musicians who carry copper coins in sombrero and silver coins in their ears (note 25 cent in ear nearest tree) taken near Hotel Ribera, Lake Chapala. Reproduced courtesy of Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin.

Sumner W Matheson. 1907. “Tramp musicians who carry copper coins in sombrero and silver coins in their ears (note 25 cent in ear nearest tree) taken near Hotel Ribera, Lake Chapala.” Reproduced courtesy of Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin.

During this first visit to Mexico in 1907, Matheson spent 10 months climbing mountains and traveling around the Republic. A Mexico City daily described him as “the expert photographer who has traveled over a great portion of the world as the representative of a number of American newspapers, periodicals and magazines and whose work has evoked high commendation wherever it is known.”

Using Mexico City as his base, he climbed Popocatapetl and Orizaba volcanoes before succeeding in a 5-day ascent of “the most interesting and picturesque of them all”—Volcán de Fuego and Nevado de Colima, the twin volcanoes in Colima. Matteson succeeded in getting photos from inside the Nevado’s crater. From atop the Nevado, Matteson, and his small group—which included Samuel E Rogers of Ocotlán—could see from the Pacific Ocean to Lake Chapala.

On their way up the Volcán de Fuego, the climbing party happened across a “primitive ice plant,” where layers of hailstones were “gathered up in piles and placed in a layer—then with grass thrown on in, another layer is put on, and stamped down, and then wound in cloth and cut up in blocks of forty pounds each.”

Sumner W Matheson. 1907. Stagecoach from Lake Chapala. Reproduced courtesy of Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin.

Sumner W Matheson. 1907. “Stage coach from Lake Chapala.” Reproduced courtesy of Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin.

Matteson’s second trip to Mexico was in 1920. After another successful ascent of Mt. Popocatepetl with some American friends, he stayed too long at the high altitude near the summit and developed pulmonary edema. He barely made it back to his hotel in Mexico City before he collapsed and died.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Sources

  • Anja Müller, Gudrun Schumacher, Gregor Wolff. 2015. “Adventurer with Bike and Camera: Sumner W. Matteson (1867-1920),” pp 136-145 in Gregor Wolff (ed). 2015. Explorers and Entrepreneurs behind the Camera…. Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Insitut.
  • Louis B. Casagrande and Phillips Bourns. 1983. Side Trips: The Photography of Sumner W. Matteson, 1898-1908. Milwaukee Public Museum.
  • The Mexican Herald: 23 June 1907, 12; 27 August 1907, 5.
  • Great Falls Tribune: 24 October 1902.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Apr 252024
 

Unlike most of my writing, this is a very personal post. It was 1980—and I was in my mid-twenties—when I first saw Lake Chapala. I was only there a few hours, took a few photos, and was not overly impressed. It was to be several years before I revisited. What I hadn’t realized, until quite recently, was just how apropos the Kodachrome slides I took during that first brief visit would prove to be for most of my later life.

In 1980, I was on my way back to my teaching job in Mexico City from an Easter trip to the Copper Canyon, and was able to squeeze in two nights in a cheap hotel in Guadalajara before returning to the classroom. Given my limited time, and in the absence of a car, I decided the simplest way to see Mexico’s largest natural lake was to take a Panoramex day trip out to the lake.

Jocotepec. © Tony Burton, 1980.

Jocotepec. © Tony Burton, 1980.

The Panoramex bus took highway 15 out of Guadalajara and made its first brief stop in the center of Jocotepec. Little did I realize at the time that this unprepossessing village would later become my home.

Ajijic and its eagle. © Tony Burton, 1980.

Ajijic and its eagle. © Tony Burton, 1980.

The next stop on this tour was Ajijic. Given only limited time to explore the village, I set off east along the lakeshore to get a better view of the picturesque setting, not realizing at the time that the view I captured included the Ajijic Eagle (Cerro del Aguila or Cerro Colorado).

Ajijic beach. © Tony Burton, 1980.

Ajijic beach. © Tony Burton, 1980.

On the way back to the bus, I just had time to take three quick costumbrista snaps of the lakeshore: fishing nets, washerwomen and a fishing boat, with no idea that these subjects had been depicted by numerous serious artists and photographers for decades.

Washing clothes, Ajijic. © Tony Burton, 1980.

Washing clothes, Ajijic. © Tony Burton, 1980.

Ajijic fishing boat. © Tony Burton, 1980.

Ajijic fishing boat. © Tony Burton, 1980.

From Ajijic, the Panoramex bus stopped at the Chula Vista hotel for lunch, before the short drive to Chapala. Because it was only a few days after Easter, the town of Chapala was humming and buzzing, though we had such a short time there that I barely managed to snatch this quick photo from the pier.

Chapala waterfront. © Tony Burton, 1980.

Chapala waterfront and Cerro San Miguel. © Tony Burton, 1980.

It was another six years (by which time I was living in Guadalajara) before I saw Lake Chapala again. Within a year, I’d met my future wife, the director of the School for the Deaf in Jocotepec, and we’d had three weddings: civil, religious and a special service organized by the staff of the school for the students. The rest, as they say, is history!

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Several chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village offer more details about the history of the artistic community in Ajijic. The story of the School for the Deaf is told in my wife’s book New Worlds for the Deaf.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Apr 112024
 

Juan Aráuz Lomeli (ca 1887-1970) is known to have taken photos of Chapala from the 1920s onward. The somewhat unusual surname Aráuz or Arauz—the accent is optional—is of Basque origin. Though not a full-time professional photographer, Juan Aráuz Lomeli stamped “ARAUZ – FOT.” and an address in Guadalajara on the reverse of the photos he published as postcards, and sometimes added a small white circle containing a stylized JA (or JAL) alongside the caption.

Juan Aráuz Lomeli’s son, Juan Victor Aráuz Gutiérrez (1914-2000), was also a photographer who lived and worked in Guadalajara. Because they sometimes photographed the same subject at the same time, this has led to some uncertainty in the case of some images as to the true identity of the photographer. In addition, more than one edition of some images is known, distinguished by distinct styles of lettering for the captions.

Juan Aráuz Lomeli is known to have photographed and published more than a dozen different postcard views of Chapala.

Juan Aráuz Lomeli. Chapala. ca 1926.

Juan Aráuz Lomeli. “Chapala.” ca 1926.

This particular card (above), number 156, is entitled “Chapala – Jal” and has a handwritten notation dating it to 4 October 1926, leaving no doubt that it is the work of Juan Aráuz Lomeli rather than his son. The reverse of the card has a rectangular hand-stamped box reading (on three lines) “ARAUZ- FOT. / HGO 19, NUM 881, / GUADALAJARA, MEX.”

It shows (left to right), the Villas Elena, Niza and Josefina. (See If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s Historic Buildings and Their Former Occupants for the history of these interesting buildings.)

Some captions were probably added in haste, and occasionally are inaccurate. For example, this second card (below), which has an identical hand-written date, is mistakenly captioned “Villa Josefina;” the building in this photo is not Villa Josefina but the larger historic estate known as Villa Montecarlo.

Juan Aráuz Lomeli. Villa Josefina, Chapala. ca 1926.

Juan Aráuz Lomeli. Villa Montecarlo (despite the caption), Chapala. ca 1926.

Juan Aráuz Lomeli was born to Juan Aráuz and his wife, Austreberta Lomeli, in Guanajuato in about 1887 or 1888. He died in Guadalajara on 30 November 1970. Curiously, his death certificate mistakenly names his wife (who had died many years earlier) as Victoria Rodriguez in place of Victoria Gutiérrez. According to a contemporary newspaper, Victoria Gutiérrez de Arauz Lomeli had died on 15 July 1942, at the age of 52, though this age does not match the census data from 1930!

The household listed in 1930 comprised Juan Arauz Lomeli (aged 42), who gave his profession as photographer, his wife Victoria J de Arauz (36) and their four sons: Jorge (17), Juan Victor (15), Fernando (12) and Alfonzo (10). The name Fernando appears to have been an enumerator’s error for Francisco, since records show that Francisco Aráuz Gutiérrez (born ca 1918, and definitely the son of Juan Aráuz Lomeli and Victoria Gutiérrez) married twice in relatively quick succession in the 1940s, first in 1942, at the age of 25, and then in 1947.

Alberto Gómez Barbosa, in his multi-part series on photography in Jalisco for El Informador in 2004, recalled that Juan Aráuz Lomeli’s interest in photography began when he worked for the Compañia Eléctrica de Chapala, where one of the managers was Luis Gonzaga Castañeda. Gonzaga was a particularly keen photographer and inspired several colleagues, including Aráuz, to take up the hobby. Aráuz and Gonzaga both contributed photographs to illustrate Guadalajara Colonial, a book by José Cornejo Franco, as did a third photographer, Ignacio Gómez Gallardo.

Aráuz knew and was an admirer of José María Lupercio, another of the famous photographers of Guadalajara, whose timeless images of the city and of Lake Chapala have in many ways never been surpassed. Aráuz particularly admired the fact that Lupercio was a true artist, who eschewed timers and measuring scales in favor of mixing all his solutions for developing photographs by eye.

According to Gómez Barbosa, Aráuz became a good friend of José Clemente Orozco and took several singularly-striking portraits of the artist, including some reproduced in later biographies of the world-renowned muralist. As we saw in a previous post, Arauz’s son, Juan Victor Aráuz, also knew Orozco and later documented the progress of Orozco’s work on several murals in Guadalajara, including preliminary sketches that were later altered or never executed.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 9 August 2019.

Sources

  • Alberto Gómez Barbosa. 2004. “La fotografía en Jalisco.” El Informador, 1 August 2004, 14.
  • El Informador: 16 July 1942, 11.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Mar 282024
 

Juan Victor Aráuz Gutiérrez (1914-2000) and his father, Juan Aráuz Lomeli, were photographers who lived and worked in Guadalajara. Because they sometimes photographed the same subject at the same time, there is uncertainty in the case of some images as to which of the two men was the photographer.

Juan Victor Aráuz Gutiérrez (sometimes mistakenly named as Juan Victor Aráuz Martínez) was born in Guadalajara in November 1914 and died in the city on 4 October 2000.

Alberto Gómez Barbosa was a good friend of Juan Victor Aráuz. In his multi-part series on photography in Jalisco for El Informador in 2004, Gómez Barbosa recalled that Juan Victor Aráuz had learned photography from early childhood before pursuing a career as a professional photographer.

His father’s friendship with José Clemente Orozco meant that Juan Victor Aráuz also got to know the great muralist. Juan Victor Aráuz not only chronicled the growth of Guadalajara in photographs but also documented the progress of Orozco’s work on the murals in the city’s university, Government Palace and Hospicio Cabañas (now the Instituto Cultural Cabañas). His photos have proved especially valuable to Orozco scholars since they include images of preliminary sketches that were later altered or never executed.

Along with Orozco, Aráuz was among the founders in 1935 of the Jalisco Union of Painters and Sculptors (Unión de Pintores y Escultores de Jalisco), formed to respond to the call by the Revolutionary Writers and Artists League (Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarias) for a National Assembly of Artists. Other members of the Jalisco Union with links to Lake Chapala included Ixca Farías, José María Servín and Rubén Mora Gálvez..

At the end of the 1930s, when the University of Guadalajara established a School of Fine Arts (Escuela de Artes Plasticas), Aráuz was appointed as its first photography instructor even though there was then no formal career path for student photographers. He remained in that position for many years and taught successive generations of students, many of whom subsequently became well-known photographers.

In 1948, Juan Victor Aráuz partnered with Gabriel Camarena to open the Camarauz photo shop selling cameras and all manner of photographic equipment. Aráuz’s story-telling prowess and willingness to share his experiences and techniques quickly made his store a very popular meeting place for the city’s bohemian architects, painters, writers and would-be photographers.

This card, an interesting aerial view clearly marked Camarauz, dates from the early 1950s and was taken to document the near-completion of the wide avenue (Francisco I. Madero) in Chapala that leads to the town’s jetty and lakeside promenade. Like many other prominent Guadalajara families of the time, Juan Victor Aráuz had a vacation home in Chapala.

Juan Victor Aráuz. Aerial view of Chapala, ca 1950.

Juan Victor Aráuz. Aerial view of Chapala, ca 1950.

Author Katie Goodridge Ingram recalls Aráuz with fondness, saying that she, like her mother and brothers, took their films to him to be developed and printed, and always enjoyed the experience. She chatted with Aráuz several times in Chapala, and remembers him as “a tall lanky man, with thinning black hair, large features in mouth and nose and hands, and the long slumped look of an accomplished aristocrat.” She was so impressed with his photos that she took a selection with her when she attended a US boarding school and college.

In 1950, recognizing the shortage of gallery space in Guadalajara, Aráuz opened the Galeria Camarauz where shows featured the works of locally-resident artists such as Thomas Coffeen, Matias Goeritz and many others. The legendary Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo) held a solo exhibit there entitled “Como nace y crece un volcán” (How a volcano is born and grows), based on the eruptions of Paricutin Volcano in Michoacán in the previous decade. The Galería Camarauz also sponsored an exhibition of photographs taken by the distinguished Jaliscan writer Juan Rulfo (a personal friend of Victor’s) at the Casa de Cultura in Guadalajara in 1960.

Contemporaries praised Aráuz as a sensitive person with a great sense of humor. He was also an inveterate traveler. His time living with the indigenous Huichol Indians in their remote ancestral lands in the mountains of northern Jalisco and neighboring states proved to be his springboard to national fame. In 1959, an exhibit featuring a selection of his extraordinary Huichol photographs – “Los huicholes ante mi cámara” – opened at the Modern Art Museum in Mexico City in early February. It ran until the end of March. This was the very first time any photographer had been given a solo exhibit at the museum. The exhibit was a personal triumph. His sensitive and powerful Huichol images are now on permanent exhibition in the Sala Juan Víctor Aráuz of the Casa de la Moneda (former Mint), a museum in Zacatecas.

Juan Victor Aráuz was an avid and intelligent collector of early photography. His extensive and unrivaled collection of old photographic plates, daguerreotypes, negatives and prints of Guadalajara, many dating back to the 19th century, was bequeathed to the city. Aráuz researched early photography in Guadalajara and in 1988 a selection of his reproductions of early photographs, accompanied by texts by Francisco Ayón Zester, was published by the Unidad Editorial del Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco as Guadalajara, iconografía del siglo XIX y principios del XX.

The largest ever exhibition of photographs by Juan Víctor Aráuz was held in the Ex-Convento del Carmen in Guadalajara from December 1993 to the following January. On display were 338 images spanning half a century, with examples of Aráuz’s best work from all over Mexico, as well as from New York and several countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, alongside several abstract compositions.

Juan Víctor Aráuz won numerous awards for his work, including the Premio Jalisco (Jalisco Prize)in 1957, awarded by then governor Agustín Yáñez, the Premio Ciudad de Guadalajara (City of Guadalajara Prize) in 1998 and the Premio Jalisco en Artes (Jalisco Arts Prize) in 1982.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 23 August 2019.

Sources:

  • Arturo Camacho. 2008. “La fotografía en Guadalajara”. Revista La Tarea (revista de la Sección 47 del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación), #6, Oct 2008.
  • Justino Fernandez. 1960. “Catálogo de las Exposiciones de Arte en 1959.” Suplemento del Num. 29 de los Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, Mexico, 1960.
  • Alberto Gómez Barbosa. 2004. “La fotografía en Jalisco.” El Informador, 1 August 2004, 14.
  • Francisco Javier Ibarra. 2005. “Juan Víctor Arauz: espejo de la memoria III.” El Informador, 17 July 2005, 14-B.
  • El Informador: 5 October 2000.
  • Katie Goodridge Ingram, personal communication, July 2018.
  • Raquel Tibol. 1994. “Gran Exposicion Fotografica De Juan Victor Arauz”, Proceso, 22 January 1994.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Mar 072024
 

A striking series of color-tinted postcards was published by S. Altamirano in the mid-1920s. The application of color on these cards was far more sophisticated than that used earlier by (among others) Alba y Fernández.

The reverse side of these cards carries the imprint, “Editor S. Altamirano, Av. Colon 165, Guadalajara.” The front of the cards includes a series number and caption, in black lettering as a single line, using both upper and lower case. The font used for the number is smaller than the font used for the caption.

Most Altamirano cards depict buildings in Guadalajara. But at least five cards in the series are related to Lake Chapala. They include (below) this carefully-composed view, from the lake, of Chapala’s majestic railroad station (now the Centro Cultural González Gallo). Carriages are visible behind a throng of excited passengers. Given that the railroad station was only in service from 1920 to 1926, this photograph must date from that period.

Romero / S. Altamirano. c 1925. Chapala Railroad Station.

Romero / S. Altamirano. c 1925. Chapala Railroad Station.

Another Altamirano card shows the Hotel Arzapalo, as viewed from the main pier. A third, taken from almost the same vantage point, focuses on the San Francisco church and Casa Braniff; it has a line of cargo boats in the foreground.

Romero ? / S. Altamirano. c 1925. San Francisco Church and Casa Braniff.

Romero ? / S. Altamirano. c 1925. San Francisco Church and Casa Braniff.

The fourth card in the series is an unusual view from the beach looking up to the castle-like Villa Montecarlo. The only other Altamirano card I have seen that relates to Chapala is a view of the famous trio of villas—Niza, Elena and Josefina—that caught the eye of so many different photographers over the years.

At least two of the photographs—the railroad station and the trio of villas— are definitely the work of a Guadalajara-based photographer named Romero. Romero took black and white photos and usually added “Romero Fot” and “Es propiedad” on them as a means of protecting his authorship. Presumably Altamirano and Romero had a commercial relationship, and it is more than possible that the other images published by Altamirano as color-tinted postcards were also originally by Romero.

One possible candidate for “S. Altamirano” is Guadalajara-born Salvador Altamirano Jiménez (1883-1939). He was a civil and electrical engineer, married first (in 1909) to Cecilia Martínez Cairo and then (1926) to Dolores Elizondo. Prior to the Mexican Revolution, he was an engineer in the Mexican armed forces. He also liked fast cars and was a member of the the Mexican Section of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Each image on Altamirano postcards has a unique 5-digit number in tiny print at the bottom, sometimes in white, sometimes in black, depending on the tones in the photograph. These numbers are identical in style to the 5-digit numbers used by publisher Felix Martín of Mexico City. Martín’s postcards include one of the historic Villa Virginia in Chapala, and it seems likely that the two publishers had some kind of commercial connection.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 7 August 2023.

Sources

  • La Iberia: diario de la mañana, 23 Jan 1910, 2.
  • The Mexican Herald: 8 Nov 1912, 8; 6 December 1912.
  • El Diario: 13 April 1914, 1.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Feb 212024
 

Photographer and hotelier Winfield Scott was born in Galesburg, Michigan, on 15 July 1863 and died in Los Angeles, California, on 19 January 1942.

Scott spent six months in Mexico in 1888, and then lived in the country, with occasional breaks in California, from 1895 to 1924.

Scott-Chapala-Sonora-News-Co
From 1890 to 1894, he was working in Oakland, California. In 1894, he spent a weekend in jail when an aggrieved ex-colleague, unhappy about the terms of a business deal, denounced Scott for taking and possessing “indecent” photographs. A contemporary news report described them as “obscene photographs of semi-naked young Chinese girls” between 10 and 14 years of age. Scott was freed and exonerated because it proved impossible to find any such photos in his possession.

This may well have been the stimulus, if any was needed, that prompted Scott to move to Mexico in 1895 and settle in Silao, Guanajuato, where he undertook photographic commissions for the Mexican Central Railway (Ferrocarril Central Mexicano) and, from January 1897, for the National Railways (Ferrocarriles Nacionales). He is known to have photographed the famous Guanajuato mummies. He also sold some photos in 1896 to the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago.

His railway-related images include photos of canyons, stations, rural landscapes, and everyday life of the people living close to the tracks. By 1897, an advert in Modern Mexico (January 1897) claimed that he had amassed “the largest and most complete collection of scenes of Mexico and Mexican life”. In that same year, Wilson’s photographic magazine called him a pictorialist photographer and publicized his hundreds of images of Mexico and the U.S., with 5×8 prints on sale by mail order for $3 a dozen.

On 21 October 1898, now 35 years of age, Scott married 18-year-old Edna Browning Cody in the city of León, Guanajuato. Edna was from Lakeview, Michigan, but lived with her parents in the mining camp of Mineral de Cardones in Guanajuato.

By 1900, he and his wife (now known as Edna Cody Scott) lived in Ocotlán, Jalisco, on Lake Chapala, where he advertised the sale of “true portraits of the life and landscape of this country of unparalleled picturesqueness.”

Several of his photos, including a panoramic view of Chapala, were used to illustrate A tour in Mexico, written by Mrs James Edwin Morris (The Abbey Press, 1902).

A 1903 list of Scott’s Views of Mexico (published in Ocotlán, Jalisco) has 2486 numbered titles for Scott’s Mexican photographs, together with a testimonial attesting to their quality from Reau Campbell, of the American Tourist Association, author of Campbell’s New Revised Complete Guide and Descriptive Book of Mexico (1899).

scott-winfield-water-carrier-lake-chapala-1909-2

Scott: A Water Carrier (Lake Chapala) , 1909

In 1904, two of his photographs related to Lake Chapala—an Indian woman spinning and an Indian woman weaving—were published in National Geographic to illustrate an article by E. W. Nelson whose own photograph of a square-sailed boat on Lake Chapala was also included. These three images were the earliest photos of Lake Chapala to find their way into the pages of that august magazine.

Scott’s photographs were also used on numerous postcards, including several published by the Sonora News Company in Mexico City. In addition, three small photographs of Chapala, all by Scott, were used on one of the earliest postcards published by Juan Kaiser (with the imprint “Al Libro Mayor, S. Luis Potosí”) in about 1901.

scott-lake-chapala-ca-1908-

Scott: Lake Chapala, ca 1908

Scott’s specialty was the portrayal of women and children, as well as landscapes, and Mexico’s national photographic archive holds no fewer than 223 female portraits taken by Scott. Many of his portraits are exceptional in composition. Scott was one of the first of Mexico’s commercial photographers to pay as much attention to the context and surroundings as to the subject. His success in this regard is partly attributable to his rapid adoption of smaller and lighter cameras.

In 1908 Scott’s photographs were used to illustrate an account in Modern Mexico about the Colima-Manzanillo railway, then under construction but due to be completed in time for Mexico’s centenary celebrations in 1910.

During his time in Mexico, Scott collaborated with fellow American photographer Charles B. Waite. The two photographers offered, in the words of photographic historian Rosa Casanova, images specially chosen to appeal to an English-speaking audience: “a ‘costumbrista’ vision of the landscape, monuments, and people of the country, producing an imagery that was also adopted in Mexico, thanks to their widespread circulation in the form of postcards produced first by the Sonora News Company and later on by La Rochester.”

Scott. c 1900. Calle del Muelle, Chapala.

Winfield Scott. c 1900. Calle del Muelle, Chapala.

In April 1908, Charles B. Waite announced in the Jalisco Times that he had bought all of Scott’s negatives, and that any orders for Scott’s “Types and Views of Mexico” should now be addressed to him. Waite proudly proclaimed that he had “the largest assortment of views of any one country in the world.” Waite registered all the rights to the photographs with the relevant federal authorities. When republishing Scott’s work, Waite usually whited out (on the negatives) Scott’s numbers, captions and credit. This purchase and subsequent (re)registration has caused considerable uncertainty in some quarters (including Mexico’s National Fototeca) as to which photos should really be attributed to Scott, and which to Waite. Even one relatively recent INAH publication erroneously credited Waite for several photographs that are definitely the work of Scott.

After Winfield Scott separated, in about 1905, from his wife, Edna (who died in San Francisco in 1957), he began a relationship with Ramona Rodriguez. Their daughter, Margaret (Margarita), was born in Mexico in 1906. According to poet Witter Bynner and others, Ramona was Mexican and died (definitely before 1920) while Margaret was still young, leaving Scott to bring her up on his own.

When the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910, Scott moved to California, but returned in 1912, and then divided his time between California and Mexico until 1924. When applying in 1921 (in the U.S.) for a new passport so that he can return to Ocotlán, he described himself as 5′ 5″ tall, with light blue eyes and brown hair.

scott-winfield-hotel-arzapalo-chapala-2

Scott: The Hotel Arzapalo, early 1900s.

From 1919 to about 1922, Scott was managing the Hotel Ribera near Ocotlán, the source of stories Scott shared with D. H. Lawrence, his wife Frieda, Witter Bynner and others in 1923.

By 1923, Scott was managing the Hotel Arzapalo in Chapala, living there with his daughter Margaret in rooms on the west wing facing the lake. D. H. Lawrence used Scott as the basis for the hotel owner Bell in his novel The Plumed Serpent. Lawrence’s traveling companions Witter Bynner and Willard “Spud” Johnson stayed at the hotel, which was conveniently close to the house that Lawrence and his wife Frieda had rented.

In his memoir Journey with Genius (1951), Witter Bynner devotes chapter 16 to the Hotel Arzapalo and chapter 22 to Mr. Winfield Scott. He includes a detailed account of Scott telling them about how, while managing an hotel in Ocotlán, he and his guests narrowly escaped a run-in with gun-toting bandits. (Bynner, pp 110-114)

Elsewhere, Idella Purnell, a Guadalajara poet who spent time with Lawrence, has written about how she and Margarita Scott accompanied the Lawrences by boat to the railway station in mid-July 1923, when Lawrence and his wife Frieda left Chapala to return to Guadalajara and then New York.

Later that year, when Lawrence and Kai Gøtzsche visited Guadalajara in October 1923, they chose to stay at the Hotel García because Winfield Scott had now moved from Chapala and was managing that hotel. Scott did not remain at the Hotel García for long. By the end of the following year, he had moved back to California, where he lived until his death in 1942.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Sources:

  • Witter Bynner. 1951. Journey with Genius. New York: John Day.
  • Chapala (3 postcard shots) DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
  • Benigno Casas, “Charles B. Waite y Winfield Scott: lo documental y lo estético en su obra fotográfica”, in Dimensión Antropológica, vol. 48, 2010, pp. 221-244.
  • E. W. Nelson. 1904. “A Winter Expedition into Southwestern Mexico.” National Geographic, vol XV, #9 (September 1904), 341-357.
  • Jalisco Times, 10 April 1908, 24 April 1908.

Note: This is an expanded and updated version of a post first published in 2015.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards, including several by Scott, to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Jan 262024
 

Every now and again my research into the photographers who captured images of Lake Chapala used on vintage postcards draws a near-complete blank. This post considers two striking images taken by “Andrade.”

The only reference I have so far found to Andrade comes in the unpublished journal (now in the archives of the California Historical Society) kept by Dr Leo Stanley, a prison doctor from California, when he visited Guadalajara and Lake Chapala in 1937. Near the end of his trip, Stanley decided to take a boat from Chapala to Mezcala Island to see for himself the ruins of the nineteenth century jail that had given rise to the island’s nickname, Prison Island. Just as Stanley is setting sail, Andrade asks if he can join him:

15 October 1937: I engaged the launch “Corona” to take us to the island, and invited Ysidoro [Ysidoro Pulido] and the two little Mexican boys of the day before to go with us. As we were about ready to shove off, a Mexican came to me and asked how much I would charge to let him go along with us to the island. He said he was a photographer and wanted to take some pictures there. I told him there would be no charge, and asked him to come along. He said his name was Andrade, and that he had taken a number of pictures about the lake, some of which he showed to me. With him was another boy of about fourteen years of age. This lad carried on his back a large gourd with a hinged door. In this gourd, he carried some of his photographic supplies.”

Unfortunately, no additional biographical information about Andrade is currently known. His two known postcards of Lake Chapala, presumed to date from the 1930s, are both views from the pier in Chapala looking towards the Widow’s Bar, Parroquía de San Francisco (the main church in Chapala) and the Casa Braniff. (For details about these buildings, see If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s Historic Buildings and Their Former Occupants, also available in Spanish as Si las paredes hablaran: Edificios históricos de Chapala y sus antiguos ocupantes.)

Andrade. c 1935. En la playa del lago de Chapala.

Andrade. c 1935. En la playa del lago de Chapala.

The first image (above) reminds us that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the lake was a vital link in the regional transportation network connecting central Mexico to Guadalajara. Local craft crisscrossed the lake every day ferrying all manner of goods and provisions, as well as people, from one small port to the next.

The vessels in use included paddle steamers, fishing skiffs, flat-bottomed launches (canoas) and large sail canoes (canoas de vela), like the one shown in the photograph. Paddle steamers (vapores) were faster, and could carry more cargo, but required more investment and were more expensive to operate than sail canoes.

Almost every village, however small, had its own pier or jetty. Larger towns, like Chapala, had several small piers, some for public use, others built privately by local property owners. The largest piers, like the one in the photograph offered sufficient depth of water that even large cargo-carrying vessels could safely tie up to load and unload.

Andrade. c 1935. En el muro, embarcadero. lago de Chapala.

Andrade. c 1935. En el muro, embarcadero. Lago de Chapala.

The second postcard photograph is more unusual. The large throng of people occupying the pier and lakeshore wall must presumably have been for some very special occasion or event. But what is the occasion? There are no obvious clues on the image. If you can suggest a reason or occasion for this large crowd to gather by the pier, please get in touch!

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Acknowledgments

My heartfelt thanks to Frances Kaplan, Reference & Outreach Librarian of the California Historical Society, for supplying photos of Stanley’s account of his time at Lake Chapala. I am very grateful to Ms Kaplan and the California Historical Society for permission to reproduce the excerpt used in this post.

Source

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Dec 282023
 

Antonio Mólgora was an Italian businessman and hotelier who ran various hotels in Chapala from about 1907 to his death in 1927. Both he and one of his sons, also named Antonio, were accomplished amateur photographers and published a number of postcards, the son generally preferring pictures of boats and people to pictures of buildings. They were almost certainly the first local residents to produce real photographic postcards of Chapala.

At least three postcards must be the work of Antonio Mólgora Sr. (“El Muelle,” “La Plalla” [sic] and “La Reynera”) while many more can definitely be attributed to his son, Antonio Mólgora Jr. There is no evidence that either Mólgora ever tried to commercialize any photographs of other places; their Chapala postcards were presumably given or sold to visitors in the hotels owned or managed by Antonio Sr.

The numbering on some of the father’s postcards suggests there are likely to be many more photos of Chapala still waiting to be found and attributed to him!

Antonio Mólgora Sr. ca 1911. El Muelle.

Antonio Mólgora Sr. ca 1911. El Muelle.

Antonio Mólgora Sr.

Antonio Mólgora (Sr.) was born at Novara, Italy, in 1877. He was one of at least eight children born there to Clemente Mólgora Declerechi (1841-1900), a pork butcher, and his wife, Paulina de Ferrari (1852-1931). One of Antonio’s uncles, Enrique Mólgora (ca 1840-1900), had established himself and his family in Mexico in the 1870s, and Enrique’s brother—Antonio’s father—followed him to Mexico with his family in the 1890s.

In 1900, Antonio married 19-year-old María Espinosa Gómez in Chihuahua. The couple had two sons: Clemente Mólgora Espinosa (1901-1981) and Antonio Héctor Mólgora Espinosa (1903-1980). Clemente, who married a local Chapala girl in about 1927, is mentioned in Journey with Genius, the account by poet Witter Bynner of visiting Chapala in 1923 in the company of D. H. Lawrence. (Bynner later bought a house in the village and was a regular visitor for decades.)

It is unclear what Antonio Mólgora (father) did before becoming manager of the Gran Hotel Victor Huber in Chapala in about 1906. But, roughly three years later, he bought this hotel, originally named for its owner, and renamed it the Hotel Francés. Located immediately opposite the church, it was demolished at the end of the 1940s when the wide main boulevard (Avenida Francisco I. Madero) was created.

In 1919, Mólgora also took over the management of the Hotel Palmera. Part of this building, designed by Guillermo de Alba and completed in 1907, later became the Hotel Nido, and is now the Presidencia, housing Chapala municipal offices.

In March 1921 a vacationer wrote on a Mólgora postcard to friends in New Orleans that, besides having a good time, they had felt their first earthquake – “We all dressed and went down stairs. Thought the next shake would bring down the building.” a reference, presumably, to the 6.4 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Colima on 1 May 1921, an event fortunately without any casualties.

In about 1924, Mólgora bought and took over the running of the Hotel Arzapalo; it was promptly renamed the Hotel Mólgora. The Arzapalo had opened in 1898 as the town’s first major hotel, but had operated only intermittently during the Mexican Revolution before reopening in the 1920s.

Antonio Mólgora Sr., photographer, hotelier and ardent supporter of the Italian community in Guadalajara, died in his adopted home of Chapala on 9 October 1927.

Antonio Mólgora Jr.

Antonio Hector Mólgora (1903-1980) married in 1931 and had at least three children, including Jorge Enrique Mólgora Gil, an artist and architect who has designed or co-designed several projects in Chapala and Ajijic since the 1980s.

Antonio Hector Jr took numerous fine photographs of Chapala from about 1920 onward, at least 20 of which were published as postcards. His father promoted his hotels by offering special rates for excursion groups, and this photo of a passenger boat (below) may have been taken to document a special excursion group from Guadalajara.

Antonio Mólgora. Date unknown. Passenger boat, Lake Chapala.

Antonio Hector Mólgora. ca 1922? Passenger boat, Lake Chapala.

Antonio Mólgora Jr. also documented the huts used by fishermen at Chapala, including one on Isla de los Alacranes. It is unclear if this example (below) was taken on the island or somewhere closer to the town of Chapala:

Antonio Mólgora. Date unknown. Fisherman's hut, Lake Chapala.

Antonio Hector Mólgora. ca 1922? Fisherman’s hut, Lake Chapala.

This Mólgora postcard (with “MOLGORA” in block letters) of typical freight-carrying “sail canoes” or canoas (below) is evocative of the era in which D. H. Lawrence and his friends visited in 1923.

Antonio Mólgora. Date unknown. Boats on Lake Chapala.

Antonio Hector Mólgora (probably). Date unknown. Boats on Lake Chapala.

Acknowledgment

My sincere thanks to Jorge Enrique Mólgora Gil for helping clarify which photographs were the work of his father, Antonio Hector Mólgora Espinosa.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 3 August 2019.

Sources:

  • El Correo de Jalisco: 9 January 1907.
  • El Informador: 15 September 1918, 2; 30 November 1919; 7 March 1920, 10; 1 July 1921, 7; 12 March 1926.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Nov 302023
 

This is the second in a mini series identifying some examples of photo identification errors which pertain to the Lake Chapala area.

Estampas de Chapala by Manuel Galindo Gaitan is an outstanding two-volume collection of mainly vintage photographs of Chapala and other places around the lake. Some of the historical details in the text are outdated but the photographs are an absolute treasure. The volumes were published in 2003 and 2005 respectively. Long out-of-print, they occasionally show up for sale on mercadolibre and similar sites.

Included in volume 1 (page 89) is this image, captioned “Los jóvenes que gustaban de remar en canoas por el Lago de Chapala eran turistas que con suma frecuencia visitablan el lugar.” (“The young people who liked to row small boats on Lake Chapala were tourists who visited the place very frequently.”)

Estampas de Chaplaa page 89

I admit to doing a double-take when I first saw this image many years ago. The pitched roofs of some of the buildings are quite reminiscent of some of the early villas of Chapala, including Casa Albión (later Villa Josefina), built by Septimus Crowe at the end of the nineteenth century. But my eye was drawn more to the much taller, four or five story building further back, mainly because there were no buildings this tall anywhere at Lake Chapala until relatively recently.

A quick reverse image search with the help of Señor Google brought up this strikingly similar image from more recent times:

Waikiki postcard

Waikiki postcard

It is apparent that this is the same location. The difference in date between the two images is shown by the very different leisure attire, but does nothing to mask the fact that the major buildings are the same in both photos.

Chapala or Hawaii? You be the judge!

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Nov 162023
 

Mauricio Yáñez was a Mexican photographer and one of the more prolific producers of postcards in Mexico during the 1930s. He took thousands of tourist photos of Mexico, showing towns, cities and people, including at least 20 related to Lake Chapala.

This view of Chapala and its lakeshore (below)  includes a lakefront cantina mid-way between the Arzapalo hotel building (on the left) and the twin towers of San Francisco church. The cantina was demolished during the construction of the main avenue to Chapala pier (Avenida Francisco I Madero) at the very start of the 1950s.

Mauricio Yáñez. Date unknown. Chapala waterfront.

Mauricio Yáñez. c 1935? Chapala waterfront.

Yáñez’s photographs of Lake Chapala include several beautifully-composed images of fishermen and their fishing techniques. Fishing at Lake Chapala was described by travel writer Edna Mae Stark at about the same time as Yáñez took these photos.

Mauricio Yáñez. c 1935?. Lake Chapala fishermen.

    Mauricio Yáñez. c 1935? Lake Chapala fishermen.

The photo above shows a timeless scene of local fishermen, including young men, deftly working a net to catch fish right next to the shore; the waterfront is covered by water hyacinth (lirio), first introduced to Lake Chapala at the end of the nineteenth century.

Fishermen constantly needed to repair their nets, a task depicted on the following postcard. “Drying large nets required the use of an extensive area of beach. Among the many significant adverse impacts of the rash of shoreline invasions that have occurred in the past century is the great reduction in the area available to fishermen for drying and mending their nets. Missing floats or weights and tears in the mesh, however small, require rapid replacement or repair. However long the nets, their drying, checking and repairing is an essential daily task.” (Lake Chapala: A Postcard History).

Maurico Yáñez. c 1935. Fishermen mending nets, Chapala. (Fig 8.7 of Lake Chapala: A Postcard History)

Maurico Yáñez. c 1935? Fishermen mending nets, Chapala. (Fig 8.7 of Lake Chapala: A Postcard History)

According to photography researcher Miguel Ángel Morales, Mauricio Yáñez was born in Jalisco in 1882 and died in an aviation accident in Tamazunchale, San Luis Potosí, on 1 April 1939. As a youth, Yáñez apparently used a do-it-yourself manual to build his own camera and began to take portraits. He moved to Guadalajara where he continued his career under the well-established and locally-renowned photographer Ignacio Gómez Gallardo.

During the Mexican Revolution, Yáñez became a correspondent for La Ilustración Semanal and also had numerous photos published in La Semana Ilustrada. He had a studio for a time in Culiacán, Sinaloa, where he took portraits of several leading Maderistas, and then opened a studio in Mazatlán in partnership with J. M. Guillen, before finally branching out on his own.

Yáñez moved to Monterrey, Nuevo León, in 1917 where, in partnership with Jesús R. Sandoval, he ran the “El Bello Arte” studio which specialized in marriage photography and portraits. While living in Monterrey, Yáñez and local author and politician David Alberto Cossio co-founded a literary magazine, Azteca.

From Monterrey, Yáñez is known to have visited the U.S. on at least two occasions, in 1918 and again in 1924-25. The latter visit may have been to meet Kodak executives. In 1925 he was named as the “representative of Kodak Mexicana” in Monterrey, where he hosted a dinner party to which numerous local photographers were invited. According to one source, Yanez had been asked by Kodak to re-organize the “Sociedad Fotográfica de Monterrey.”

Based afterwards in Mexico City, Yáñez amassed an impressive collection of photos, and in December 1928 began selling many of them as postcards. They depicted cities and sites of tourist interest across the entire country. According to one estimate, more than 5 million photographic postcards with Yáñez’s name were printed during his lifetime!

In 1935, with Hugo Brehme, Yáñez illustrated a bilingual guide to the Teotihuacán Archaeological Zone, and in 1937 the D.A.P.P. (Departamento Autónomo de Prensa y Propaganda) published his photographs in El Valle de México.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 1 August 2019.

Sources

  • Arturo Guevara Escobar. 2012. “Mauricio Yáñez“. Blog entry, dated 14 July 2011.
  • Lynda Klich. 2018. “Circulating lo mexicano in Mauricio Yañez’s Postcards,” chapter 10 of Tara Zanardi and Lynda Klich. 2018. Visual Typologies from the Early Modern to the Contemporary: Local Contexts and Global Practices (Routledge).
  • Miguel Ángel Morales. 2017. “Mauricio Yáñez (1882-1939)“. Blog post dated 22 February 2017.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Oct 192023
 

At least two postcards of Lake Chapala from the late 1920s bear the imprint on their reverse side of “F. Martín. Mexico, D.F.” and a stylized “FM” circular logo. According to researcher Arturo Guevara Escobar, the “F. Martín” name was registered as a trade name and used for about 50 years for several distinct series of postcards, which makes it likely that the estimated 1000+ postcards produced by the firm represented the work of more than one individual.

The main “F. Martín” series has bilingual captions in red numbered from 1 to at least 628. This series includes the two cards illustrated here. It is unknown whether these photographs, which date from the 1920s, were taken by Martín himself or were the bought-in work of other photographers.

Felix Martin. Date unknown. Lago de Chapala.

F. Martin. c 1928 (?). “Lago de Chapala.”

The card above (#158) shows a view of Chapala from the west towards the town and jetty of Chapala. The twin towers of the Church of San Francisco are especially prominent.

The card below (#154) is one the very few postcards showing Villa Virginia, one of the numerous elegant villas built along the lakeshore in the period 1890-1930. This particular villa, west of the jetty, and still standing, was built after 1905 by the Hunton family. The matriarch of the family was the basis for the title character of Arthur Davison Ficke’s 1939 novel “Mrs Morton of Mexico.” (See chapter 31 of If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s Historic Buildings and Their Former Occupants.)

Felix Martin. Date unknown. "Un challet a orillas del Lago de Chapala"

F. Martin. c 1928 (?). “Un challet a orillas del Lago de Chapala”

The images on both postcards have five-digit numbers—97899 and 97900 respectively—in tiny white font in the lower left corner. These numbers appear to be identical in style to the five-digit numbers found on cards published (at approximately the same time) by “S. Altamirano” of Guadalajara, so it is likely that the two publishers had a commercial relationship.

The mystery of F. Martín

Arturo Guevara Escobar decided that postcards marked “F. M.” or “F. Martín” were almost certainly the work of Félix Martín Espinoza, who lived in Mexico City, and was a member of the committee responsible for overseeing Mexican participation in the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893. The address of this individual in the first decade of the 20th century was 1er Callejón de López #416.

Display adverts in the Mexico City press from 1901 to 1913 tie that address (and a series of others) to the “Yucatán Medicine Co.” a company selling patent medicines, including a vegetable oil for hair color restoration made by the doctor. At least one of the hair restorer ads gives the doctor’s full name as “Félix Martín Espinoza L.” This would mean that “Martín” was not the doctor’s paternal surname (as the name “F. Martín” would suggest) but was actually his second name, and that his paternal surname was Espinoza. It would have been very unusual at the start of the twentieth century to use two forenames as an advertising/company name, so I believe we need to find a stronger candidate for the “F. Martín” who published postcards.

A much more likely candidate, in my opinion, though no further biographical details are known, is the “Felix Martín” who lived at “5a Capuchinas 89, Mexico City,” and placed regular advertisements in The Mexican Herald from October 1913 to April 1914 claiming to be “The best place in the city to buy postal cards at wholesale prices.” A subsequent F. Martín campaign, in El Pueblo from 1915 to 1919, offered “postcards of every type and style.” The Capuchinas address was a commercial premises which had previously belonged to Bordenave & Coryn, “General Agents for Scotch Whisky Perfection, American Whiskey, Ceylon Tea, etc.”

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 30 July 2019.

Source

  • El Imparcial: diario ilustrado de la mañana,12 April 1913, 6.
  • El Pueblo: 12 Nov 1915, 5; 19 Jan 1919, 6.
  • El Siglo Diez y Nueve, 30 April 1884, 4.
  • Arturo Guevara Escobar. 2011. Letra: M. “Fotógrafos y prodcutores de postales.” Originally published 19 November 2011.
  • The Mexican Herald: 14 October 1913, 6; 7 April 1914, 6.
  • Semanario Literario Ilustrado, 1 July 1901.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

Oct 052023
 

When cataloguing extensive photo archives, it is inevitable that errors are occasionally made. This mini series identifies some examples of photo identification errors which pertain to the Lake Chapala area.

Mexico’s National Photo Archive (Fototeca Nacional INAH) includes this image, titled “Multitud en la ribera del lago de Chapala” (Multitude on the shore of Lake Chapala). The image is credited to Winfield Scott, with a date of about 1920.

Winfield Scott-foto-allegedly of Chapala

“Multitud en la ribera del lago de Chapala” ?? (Winfield Scott, c 1920) Fototeca Nacional INAH.

I have no idea whether or not this photo was taken by photographer and hotelier Winfield Scott (1863-1942), whose close ties to Lake Chapala are explained in “Photographer and hotelier Winfield Scott (1863–1942).” Nor do I have any idea how accurate the date might be.

However, the photograph was certainly not taken at Lake Chapala. Indeed, I think it unlikely to have been taken anywhere in Mexico! The group of multistory buildings (right-hand side of the image) does not correspond in any way to the architecture of any town at Lake Chapala, whether at the end of the nineteenth century or at any point since.

Surely, this photo must show a place in the US? Perhaps an eagle-eyed reader can suggest a likely location? All suggestions welcomed!

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Sep 222023
 

Among the many early postcards of Lake Chapala that were published in Mexico City are several labeled with a caption and stylized “MF” logo. These cards were produced and distributed by México Fotográfico, a Mexico City firm founded by Demetrio Sánchez Ortega. Sánchez Ortega himself took many of the photographs used for the company’s early cards and may have taken this view of the shoreline in Chapala with its distinctive “chalets”. The three most prominent buildings nestled beneath Cerro San Miguel in this image are (from left to right) Villa Elena, Villa Niza and Villa Josefina.

México Fotográfico. Date unknown. Chapala chalets.

México Fotográfico. c 1930. (l to r) Villa Elena, Villa Niza and Villa Josefina.

Demetrio Sánchez Ortega was born in Huatusco, Veracruz, on 22 December 1898. He moved to Mexico City in search of work as a young man and took a job selling paper before finding work as a traveling agent for the Cervecería Moctezuma brewery. This position involved traveling to bars (cantinas) all over the country, where he would perform simple sleight-of-hand and magic tricks, using cards, bottles and simple props, all designed to boost the sales of the brewery’s XX beer brand.

During these trips he must have come across (and maybe relied on) existing illustrated tourist guides, just as he surely encountered postcards published earlier by the likes of Hugo Brehme, Alfred Briquet, William Henry Jackson and Charles B. Waite.

The knowledge, experience and connections that he built up during his travels served him well when he decided to become a photographer. Introduced to photography by a friend, and almost entirely self-taught, Sánchez Ortega founded México Fotográfico, located on Calzada de Guadalupe in Villa de Guadalupe in Mexico City, in 1925, a year after Plutarco Elías Calles became president. Some sources suggest he had government support. México Fotográfico, like several other postcard publishers, became an important pillar of Mexico’s promotion of tourism.

México Fotográfico. ca 1940s. Chapala plaza and ex-presidencia.

México Fotográfico. c 1945 (?). Former Chapala plaza and Presidencia Municipal.

The view of downtown Chapala (above) shows the plaza in its pre-1950s location and the former Presidencia Municipal.

México Fotográfico was very much a family business. Sánchez Ortega and his wife, Tomasita Pedrero, had five children—Alfredo, Eustolia, Teresa, Demetrio and Alfonso—all of whom worked at one time or another in the laboratory and printing side of the business.

Later, the sons became traveling photographers. The company employed a number of “traveling agents”, responsible for photographing the places they visited while promoting the company, taking orders and arranging the distribution of postcards.

México Fotográfico. Date unknown. Chapala lakeshore.

México Fotográfico. c 1950. Chapala lakeshore.

This card (above), showing the lakeshore, trees and fishing nets, and believed to date from the 1950s, was a popular choice as a memento of a trip to Lake Chapala.

Over the years, México Fotográfico amassed an extensive and culturally-rich collection of landscapes and towns large and small all over the country. The collection includes more than 25 cards related to Chapala, and an additional 10 cards of Ocotlán. Several of the cards were reissued in a colorized edition with crenulated edges, and the firm published at least one multi-view card of Chapala, with small reproductions of six photographs in the series.

México Fotográfico. c. 1935? Main beach, Chapala.

México Fotográfico. c. 1935? Main beach, Chapala.

The company’s longevity (it was still producing cards into the 1970s) meant that its corpus of work provides a valuable visual record of the changes in towns, people and customs across post-revolutionary Mexico.

The Mexico City daily, Excelsior, had introduced a weekly supplement—Jueves en Excelsior—in 1923. Photographs published by México Fotográfico were used occasionally as illustrations in 1926. In 1927, the two companies began a much closer relationship, with México Fotográfico supplying many of the photos used in the supplement, perhaps in exchange for small display ads. The earliest such ad, in May 1927, had a portrait of Sánchez Ortega and the text “Fundador gerente de la negociación México Fotográfico, establecida en Guadalupe Hidalgo, México, DF”.

México Fotográfico was active from the 1920s into the 1970s. Its founder, the beer-parlor magician Demetrio Sánchez Ortega, master of postcard illustration, gradually lost his sight and had become completely blind by the time of his death on 27 January 1979.

Acknowledgments

My thanks to Manuel Ramirez for responding to a query posted on Facebook asking which postcard publisher utilized the MF logo.

This profile is based almost entirely on the extensive research by Mayra N. Uribe Eguiluz for her 2011 thesis on the company for a Masters degree in Art History at the National University (UNAM) and her related article in Alquimia, referenced below.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 29 July 2019.

Sources

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Sep 142023
 

Pedro Magallanes López was a Guadalajara photographer, active from the mid-1880s until the start of the 1920s, whose studio was initially located in the city center at Santuario #1, and then at Pedro Loza 17. This latter location was advertised in 1922 as for sale or rent, suggesting that this may be when Magallanes retired.

Best known for his superb portrait work, Magallanes also took several very interesting photographs of Lake Chapala, colorized versions of which were published by the Guadalajara firm of Editores Alba y Fernández. (Among those credited for other postcards of the region in the Alba y Fernández series are J. de Obeso and Manuel Hernández.)

Pedro Magallanes. Undated. Fuerte de Ocotlán.

Pedro Magallanes. Undated. Fuerte de Ocotlán.

At the start of Magallanes’ career, the town of Ocotlán, on the main railroad line between Mexico City and Guadalajara, was still one of the major routes via which visitors reached the town of Chapala. Near Ocotlán, the resort known as Ribera Castellanos, built in the first decade of the twentieth century, attracted lots of tourists, especially those looking to hunt or fish.

Relatively little is known about the life of Pedro Magallanes López. He was born on 23 August 1863, the son of Pedro Magallanes and Petra López, and married Herminia del Castillo, then aged 20, in January 1887. The couple had four children. Sadly, his first wife died in December 1894.

Four years later, Magallanes took Clotilde Castellanos as his second wife. Clotilde, 30 years old at the time of their marriage in Guadalajara on 24 August 1898, gave birth to a daughter, also named Clotilde, on 4 March 1900, and to a son, José Manuel, on 1 April 1902.

Magallanes’ marriage to Clotilde, who had been present as a guest at his first marriage, clearly cemented his ties to the extensive and influential Castellanos clan, and Magallanes became the family’s official portraitist (see the article by Beatriz Bastarrica Mora). He took numerous formal portraits of family members and groups, as well as many unusually informal photos of the family vacationing at Lake Chapala. Some of these show the family’s domestic workers and several include local residents in the background.

Pedro Magallanes. Undated. View of Chapala from Villa Carmen.

Pedro Magallanes. c 1910. View of Chapala from Villa Carmen.

Magallanes’ studio in Guadalajara was only one of several photo studios that thrived in Guadalajara at the time. The reverse of his photos included an elaborately drawn logo of an arch, bright rays of light, flower pots and flowers emblazoned with the photographer’s name. Many prints also included a statement saying that the negatives were kept on file to allow for future repeat orders. As Alberto Gómez Barbosa has pointed out, this is indicative of the importance Magallanes attached to marketing and maintaining clients.

Magallanes died in Guadalajara on 6 September 1928. In 1930 his widow, Clotilde (aged 63), was living in the city with several unmarried relatives, including Clotilde Magallanes (30), Manuel Magallanes (28), M. Maria Magallanes (20) and Beatriz Magallanes (15).

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became such an important international center for tourism and retirement.

Note: This post was first published 4 July 2019.

Sources:

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Sep 072023
 

Librería Ruhland & Ahlschier, publisher of the earliest illustrated postcards of Mexico, was a bookstore in Mexico City owned by Emil Ruhland and Max Ahlschier. The store advertised as “Libreria Internacional de Ruhland & Ahlschier” and was located at Coliseo Viejo #16. The company published at least seven different postcards of Lake Chapala, including views of the shoreline, boats, church, plaza (jardín) and a stagecoach. Two of the photographs were also published, at about the same time, by Juan Kaiser in Guadalajara. Kaiser and Ruhland were apparently close friends.

Ruhland & Ahlschier were commissioned to provide the first ever series of illustrated postcards for the Mexican Post Office in 1897. All previous postcards (which at that time were postage paid and purchased in a post office) had one side for correspondence and the other side pre-stamped and reserved for the address. As illustrated cards became popular in Europe and then in the U.S., the Mexican government saw the advantages of issuing its own illustrated cards, which required the purchaser to purchase postage stamps separately and affix them to the card prior to mailing.

These beautifully-produced and inexpensive souvenir postcards soon spurred a new market for collectors; many of the art cards, especially, were far too pretty to entrust to the vagaries of being sent through the mail without an envelope to protect them. In consequence, relatively few postally-used examples exist of many of the more attractive cards.

Demand for illustrated postcards grew rapidly. When the postal service relaxed its regulations, several private firms entered the market, each producing their own illustrated cards and selling them through hotels and a wide variety of stores and other outlets.

Illustrated cards still reserved, prior to 1906, one entire side for the address and stamp, meaning that any message or correspondence had to be written on the same side as the image. The first postcards to have divided backs, allowing for both correspondence and address on the reverse, thereby leaving the entire front side of the card for the image, were released in the UK (1902), then mainland Europe and Mexico (1905), and the U.S. (1907); they were legal to mail in the U.S. from 1 March 1907.

The two men who owned Ruhland & Ahlschier are something of an enigma. Emil Ruhland and Max Ahlschier were both born in Germany. Ruhland, born in about 1847, left Germany in about 1869 and was certainly established in Mexico City by 1883 when he is named as the editor of Deutsche Zeitung von Mexiko, a newspaper for the German-speaking community in the city. In 1888 he partnered with Isidoro Epstein to found (and co-edit) another German newspaper, Germania. Ruhland’s name continued to be associated with Deutsche Zeitung von Mexiko until at least 1897, by which time Max Ahlschier was his co-editor.

In 1888, Ruhland edited and published the Directorio General de la Ciudad de México, a forerunner of the telephone directory and later commonly referred to simply as Directorio Ruhland. City directories were especially important following the introduction of the telephone to Mexico in the 1880s. By 1893 telephone services existed in 14 cities even though intercity lines would not become available until much later.

The first edition of Directorio General de la Ciudad de México in 1888 cost $1.60 (paper cover) or $2.00 (cloth cover). New editions of the directory appeared more or less annually thereafter for more than twenty years. The 500-page 1892 version, “more complete than ever,” and costing $3.00 had four parts: the names of residents and industries and their place of residence; a listing of professional men, merchants and manufacturers; contact details for all government offices and heads of departments; and listings for railroads, the press, societies and ecclesiastical figures. Ruhland published a similar volume for Guadalajara in 1894.

Ruhland’s directories proved to be extremely popular and a commercial success. At the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, Ruhland won an award for his guides to the Mexican republic. The following year, the 1896-1897 edition of his directories went on sale in Mexico City at his own store (Avenida Cinco de Mayo #4) and at the bookstore of F. P. Hoeck (San Francisco #12) as well as in New York (E. Steiger & Co., 25, Park Place) and London (Dulan & Co, 37, Soho Square).

Emil Ruhland’s association with Max Ahlschier seems to have begun in 1897. We know little about Ahlschier beyond the fact that he was born in Germany in 1867 and married Anna Vogt, also from Germany, in Mexico City on 4 June 1903. The Lutheran service was held at the Casino Alemán.

The two men opened their joint bookstore, Librería Ruhland & Ahlschier, and also began to publish pictorial postcards. Publicity for their store in 1897 shows that it sold, among other items, American books, literature, American and German paper, pencils, pens, inks, maps of Mexico and illustrated postal cards with views of Mexico.

The earliest Ruhland & Ahlschier cards were black and white or sepia collotypes; later cards were produced by chromolithography. Though their postcards do not identify the photographer, their stable of photographers included some important names in Mexican photography, including German-born Guillermo Kahlo (the father of Frida Kahlo), Guadalajara-native José María Lupercio, and American photographers Winfield Scott and Charles B. Waite.

Guillermo Kahlo (born Carl Wilhelm Kahlo) (1872-1941), who first arrived in Mexico City in 1891, at the age of 19, learned his craft in Mexico and was mainly known as a commercial photographer; his photos were first turned into postcards by “Ruhland & Ahlschier” in about 1903.

Charles Betts Waite (1861-1927) set up shop as a photographer in Mexico City in 1896 and amassed a vast collection of thousands of images taken all over Mexico. In 1908 he bought all the “photographic view negatives” of Winfield Scott, and advertised that he now had “the largest assortment of views of any one country in the world.”

Charles B. Waite. Beach, Chapala.

Winfield Scott. c 1897 (published c 1902). Beach, Chapala.

Winfield Scott was responsible for the photograph on this Ruhland & Ahlschier postcard (above), a photograph now in the collection of Mexico’s National Photo Archive. The photo shows fishermen sitting on a boat in front of the beach, with the Casa Capetillo in the middle background. To the right, only the first story of the Hotel Arzapalo has been built, dating this particular image (though not the card) to 1896-1897. The two-story hotel opened in 1898, and Winfield Scott was its manager when D. H Lawrence visited Chapala in 1923.

Charles B. Waite. Carden's garden, Chapala.

José María Lupercio. c. 1900 (published c 1904). Carden’s garden, Chapala.

The National Photo Archive also has this Lupercio photo of the garden of Villa Tlalocan, the vacation home in Chapala of British consul Lionel Carden and his wife. The home was completed in 1896 and this postcard shows ornamental flower vases in the front garden, with the lake behind and Chapala’s San Francisco church in the distance.

Early cards published by Ruhland & Ahlschier have the imprint “Librería Ruhland y Ahlschier, México, Coliseo Viejo 16.” In about 1903, the two men sold their business, and later postcards (published from 1904 on) have a different imprint: “Ruhland & Ahlschier Sucr. Calle Espiritu Santo 1½, México.” This was the address of La Sociedad Müller y Cia, owners of a competing bookstore, Librería Internacional.

By 1909, Müller and Company had also acquired ownership of, and the rights to publish, Ruhland’s Directorio general de la ciudad de México. The 1909-1910 edition was published in two volumes, one for Mexico City and one for the rest of the country. Müller and Company continued to publish the directory until at least 1913.

What became of Emil Ruhland and Max Ahlschier, pioneers of the Mexican illustrated postcard?

Ruhland revisited Germany in 1899 after an absence of 30 years, before returning to Mexico. Four years later (1903) he appears to have moved to the U.S., at about the time the postcard publishing company was sold. He was a good friend of Juan Kaiser, and Kaiser’s wife, Bertha, records the two men meeting for the first time in twelve years in Los Angeles in 1915.

Ahlschier and his wife visited Europe in 1906. Two years later, he was elected secretary of the Sociedad Alemana de Beneficencia (German Benevolent Society) in Mexico City. In 1912 he lost a civil action brought by a Martin G Ribon and was ordered to pay $3371.08 plus costs.

It seems likely that he and his wife subsequently returned to live in Germany, given that a Max Ahlschier is listed in trade directories there as a publisher between 1928 and 1933. Support for the idea that he returned to Germany also comes from an unusual source. In the Library of Congress’s vast collection of German documents, captured by American military forces after World War II, is a record of one by Max Ahlschier entitled “German colonies in Mexico, 1890-1910.”

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 9 August 2019.

Sources

  • Atlanta Constitution, 22 Nov 1895, 1.
  • El Continental, 13 May 1894, 3.
  • El Diario del Hogar, 3 Feb 1912, 3.
  • Diario Oficial Estados Unidos Mexicanos, 19 Jan 1905; 13 June 1908; 16 July 1909; 17 Oct 1912.
  • El Imparcial, 7 June 1903, 2.
  • Jalisco Times, 10 Apr 1908.
  • Verena Kaiser-Ernst. 2012. Tagebuch Von Bertha Kaiser-Peter Fur Ihren sohn Hans Paul Kaiser. Stuttgart: T H Schetter, 45.
  • The Mexican Herald: 6 Sep 1896, 9; 6 July 1897, 8; 3 May 1899, 8.
  • El Mundo, 1 April 1897.
  • La Patria, 28 Aug 1883, 8.
  • El Partido Liberal, 7 June 1888, 2.
  • The Two Republics, 31 Oct 1888, 2; 20 Feb 1892, 1.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Aug 172023
 

Mexican photographer José María Lupercio (1870-1929) took numerous outstanding photos of Lake Chapala at the start of the twentieth century.

Lupercio was born in Guadalajara on 29 December 1870 and was one of the most noteworthy Mexican photographers of his era. Lupercio was one of several fine photographers whose work reached a wide audience because it was used for many early picture postcards of Lake Chapala. While Lupercio was 100% Mexican, many of the other photographers whose images of Lake Chapala illustrated postcards in the early twentieth century—including Charles Betts Waite, Hugo Brehme and Winfield Scott—were foreign-born, as were most of the postcard publishers.

José María Lupercio began his artistic career by studying painting in the Guadalajara studio-workshop of the Brazilian artist Félix Bernardelli, where he was a classmate of such distinguished artists as Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Atl), Rafael Ponce de León and Jorge Enciso.

Bernadelli and friends, 1898

Bernadelli and friends, 1898

Lupercio developed his photography skills by working with the commercial photographer Octaviano de la Mora (1841-1921) who had his studio in Guadalajara. Despite his humble background, De la Mora, born in Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos, became one of the most renowned early commercial photographers in Mexico. The quality of his portraiture work was praised by contemporary critics and won him a major award in the third Paris World’s Fair in 1878.

Lupercio took over de la Mora’s Guadalajara studio, located in Portal Matamoros, in 1900 when de la Mora moved to Mexico City to work at the National Archaeology, History and Ethnology Museum. Some years later, Lupercio also moved to Mexico City, and again stepped into de la Mora’s shoes when he took over as the museum’s resident photographer after de la Mora retired.

During Lupercio’s time in Guadalajara he shifted the emphasis of the studio’s commercial work away from the formal portraits initially favored by his mentor towards landscapes and photographs of people posed in their natural, day-to-day surroundings. According to an editorial mention in a local English-language paper in 1904, “José Lupercio, the photographer in Portal Matamoros, offers some beautiful views of the city and republic. His portrait work is unrivalled.”

José María Lupercio. Chapala. c 1905.

José María Lupercio. Chapala. c 1905. Published by Juan Kaiser.

Lupercio’s talents brought him great success and he won numerous national and international awards for his work, including a diploma from the French Photographic Society (1898), a silver medal from the 1900 Paris Exposition, a silver medal from the 1901 Panamerican Exhibition in Buffalo, New York, and a gold medal in the 1904 Saint Louis Exposition in Missouri.

The latter achievement was the basis for the text of a 1906 ad for Lupercio’s studio: “Honor for Guadalajara! Native Types of Mexico Took First Premium at St. Louis Exposition. – Lupercio’s – The Finest Views of Guadalajara – Photographs of all Kinds. – José Lupercio, Portal Matamoros #9, Guad.”

Lupercio was a founder member of the Ateneo Libre de Controversias Literarias, Artísticas y Políticas founded by Dr. Atl in Guadalajara in 1916, along with José Othón de Aguinaga, Antonio Pérez Verdía, Ixca Farías and several other local artists and intellectuals.

Many examples of Lupercio’s photographs of Lake Chapala are preserved in the National Archives. More than a dozen of his Chapala photographs were published as postcards in the first decade of the twentieth century, mainly by either Juan Kaiser or Ruhland & Ashclier, though Lupercio also sold his work to several other publishers. Some of the finest images of Chapala taken by Lupercio were used by little-known local publisher Manuel Hernández for postcards printed in Austria, which are of  exceptional quality.

In the year 2000, one particular photograph of Chapala, taken by Lupercio in about 1906, was accorded the rare distinction of being included on a Mexican postage stamp to commemorate the importance of photography in Mexico during the twentieth century. Somewhat surprisingly, this 2000 issue was the first time Lake Chapala had been portrayed on a Mexican stamp.

Mexican postage stamp (2000) with Lupercio photograph of Lake Chapala, ca 1906.

Mexican postage stamp (2000) with Lupercio photograph of Lake Chapala, c 1906.

In 1916, Lupercio was appointed the official photographer at the National Museum in Mexico City. He subsequently took thousands of photographs of archaeological pieces and other items in the museum’s collections. He also photographed the artwork of his former classmate Dr. Atl in the Escuela de San Pedro y San Pablo, the paintings of Saturnino Herrán, the murals of Diego Rivera and took portraits of many of the celebrities of the time, including Rivera, Atl, Manuel Toussaint, José Vasconcelas and other prominent intellectuals.

Lupercio maintained a private studio in Mexico City at Avenida Madero 42 and began to produce postcards for sale in the National Museum. The postcard photographs portrayed ethnographic themes as well as ancient codices, archaeological sites and historic monuments. His production was prolific. For example in 1922, he produced no fewer than 2,564 different postcards! But this was not even his peak level of activity. Astoundingly, between July 1925 and July 1926, he produced 8,229 distinct postcards!

Ever an adventurous individual, Lupercio not only found time for his painting and photography but also worked on theater sets and participated in bullfighting, car racing and flying.

Examples of Lupercio’s superb photographs are preserved in many public and private collections, including those of the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara, the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City and the National Archives in Pachuca, Hidalgo.

Lupercio remained the official photographer at the National Museum until his death in Mexico City on 2 May 1929.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My 2022 book Lake Chapala: A Postcard History uses reproductions of more than 150 vintage postcards to tell the incredible story of how Lake Chapala became an international tourist and retirement center.

Note: This post was first published 2 July 2019.

Sources:

  • Raúl Aceves. 2005. “La tarjeta postal ilustrada en México durante la época clásica (1896-19015).” Boletín Filatélico Guadalajara, Año 8, No 17, 2005, 3-19.
  • Arturo Guevara Escobar. 2011.”Letra L. Fotógrafos y productores de postales” Blog Post, dated 10 November 2011.
  • Francisco Javier Ibarra. 2005. “José María Lupercio: espejo de la memoria IV.” El Informador, 24 July 2005, 13-B.
  • El Informador: 27 February 1966.
  • Jalisco Times: 14 May 1904; 5 January 1906.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Aug 032023
 

Herbert Johnson (1877-1960) and his wife, Georgette (1893-1975), settled in Ajijic in December 1939. Shortly after Herbert died in Ajijic in 1960, Georgette returned to live in the UK.

These photographs come from a photo album that once belonged to Georgette. For the story of its fortuitous rediscovery by historian Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi in an estate sale in New York, see

The photos in the album have no captions or dates, but are believed to date from 1940 to 1945.

This gallery focuses on the building and gardens of Quinta Johnson, the Johnsons’ house in Ajijic.

Other galleries of photos by Herbert Johnson are:

Note

For more details about the Johnsons’ many contributions to the village of Ajijic, see Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: decades of change in a Mexican village (2022).

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Acknowledgment

My sincere thanks to Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi for recognizing the importance of this photo album and for kindly entrusting it to my care.

Comments welcomed via email or via comments feature on this post.

Jul 202023
 

Herbert and Georgette Johnson were almost certainly the earliest English couple to settle in Ajijic. They arrived in December 1939 and were fixtures of the local community for the next two decades.

The pioneering Johnsons acquired an extensive lakefront property one block east of the current pier and built a roomy single-story home in the local architecture style of adobe and tiles. The couple then created a stunning garden, extending down to the beach.

Otto Butterlin. 1943. Portrait of Herbert Johnson. Image courtesy of Milagros Sendis.

Otto Butterlin. 1943. Portrait of Herbert Johnson. Image courtesy of Milagros Sendis.

Herbert was a keen amateur photographer and documented the construction work via his camera. By a remarkable stroke of luck, I was gifted a photograph album in 2019 that once belonged to the Johnsons and had been found by chance at an estate sale in New York State. The 250 or so photographs it contains include approximately one hundred images of Ajijic, depicting construction of the house and garden, local scenery, streets, buildings, people and events. The album also includes photos taken on trips elsewhere in Mexico:

As an engineer, Herbert Johnson loved his gadgets, and the superb quality of these photographs, most of them from the 1940s, reflects his technical prowess with a camera. His photos of Ajijic are among the earliest known photographic images of the village.

Who was Herbert Johnson?

Johnson was quite an adventurer. As a teenager he helped lay cable in the Amazon; decades later, in retirement, he was the unofficial squire of Ajijic.

The son of a Cambridge-educated clergyman, Herbert Braithwaite Johnson, was born on 16 August 1877 in Lincolnshire, UK. At age 16, he left Harrow, one of England’s top private schools, to become an electrical engineer.

Johnson was likely already working for Siemens in 1895 when the company was contracted to lay telegraph cable along the Amazon, from Belem to Manaos. This massive undertaking, and the 18-year-old Johnson’s role in it, have been well documented by Bill Burns and James Catmur, a great-grandnephew of Johnson.

By November 1898, Johnson was back in London, and sponsored for student admission to The Institution of Electrical Engineers (formerly The Society of Telegraph Engineers). In his application, Johnson wrote that he was employed by Siemens Bros & Co., and was attending evening classes at the City and Guilds of London Institute in Finsbury. He was a student member of the IEE for three years before becoming an Associate Member in 1902 and a full Member in 1904, by which time he was living at 8, Quarry Road, Wandsworth. In 1905 he was fined £5 for riding his motorcycle too fast through the village of Cobham. By the 1920s, Johnson was the Resident Engineer at the Wandsworth Generating Station. He retained membership of the IEE until his retirement in 1930, the year he married Georgette Martin Wilkie.

The newly weds moved to Chinon, in the Loire Valley of France. In 1939, on the eve of the second world war, the Johnsons wisely decided to leave France and move to Mexico.

The unofficial squire of Ajijic

When the Johnsons arrived in Los Angeles, via the Panama Canal, in June 1939, they first headed north to visit a cousin in Canada and take a trip to Alaska. They then headed south, and crossed the border into Mexico on 5 December 1939. It is unknown how they first learned of Ajijic or precisely why they decided to make their home in the village. Within a couple of years, they had bought 5000 square meters of lakefront property (known informally as Quinta Johnson) and built their house, garden and orchard.

Ann Medalie. 1944. Ajijic. (Quinta Johnson)

Ann Medalie. 1944. Ajijic. (Quinta Johnson)

The elaborate and colorful garden was painted and photographed by prominent artists, such as Ann Medalie (whose paintings of Ajijic were exhibited in Mexico City), and lavished with praise by visitors, including the Canadian writer Ross Parmenter. It even made it into Gardens of the World. In 1949 it was the setting for the marriage of Johnson’s 29-year-old niece, nurse Helen Eunice Riggall, and Canadian writer Harold Walter Masson. Their love story, one of the most endearing tales to emerge from my Ajijic research, is retold in Foreign Footprints in Ajijic.

Binoculars at the ready, Herbert took a paternal interest in all the comings and goings at the nearby pier. (At that time it was far easier to reach Ajijic from Chapala by boat than by road.) The foreign community in Ajijic was tiny when the Johnsons first arrived. But a combination of world events and personal misfortunes caused it to grow steadily during the 1940s.

Herbert Johnson. c 1944. Mezcala Island.

Herbert Johnson. c 1944. Mezcala Island.

Having completed his house and gardens, Herbert Johnson used his engineering skills to help others. He oversaw the construction in San Antonio Tlayacapan, on a lot owned by Georgette, of a house which became the residence of Peter Lilley (one half of the Dane Chandos pen name responsible for House in the Sun and Village in the Sun). Author Sybille Bedford included references to both the Johnsons and Lilley in The Sudden View, her fictionalized account of traveling in Mexico.

In 1948, Johnson also helped Neill James design and build Quinta Tzintzuntzan, now part of the Lake Chapala Society complex, as she recounted in “Ajijic Carrousel”:

I was faced with building a casa for myself, an intriguing project. Herbert Johnson, Ajijic’s first English home-owner, a retired engineer, was a help to me… Herbert helped figure out the stress and strain of wooden and steel beams… He supervised the making of the reinforced cement ring with cutting edge used in digging my well.”

The Johnsons also fomented the nascent artistic community in the village. In December 1944, for instance, they held an exhibition of work by area artists and authors on the terrace of their home. The show included paintings, drawings and watercolors, plus embroidery work by village women.

In an unpublished manuscript, Neill James describes Herbert Johnson as a feudal lord whose list of all the foreigners living in Ajijic was divided into two columns: the sane and the crazy. The only sane ones were Johnson himself, Georgette and a couple from Scotland. All the others—including La Rusa, Louisa Heuer, James herself, and “Dane Chandos”—were crazy.

In the 1950s, the Johnsons’ guest cottage was rented by American artist Barbara Zacheisz.

Later occupants of Quinta Johnson, which was divided into three sections shortly after Herbert’s death, included Helen Kirtland. Kirtland’s daughter, Katie Goodridge Ingram, wrote a fascinating account of early life in Mexico City and Ajijic (in the 1940s and 1950s) in According to Soledad; memories of a Mexican Childhood.

The large metal cross on the lakeshore at the end of Calle Nicolas Bravo was originally erected by Herbert Johnson. It is one of the few remaining signs of the Johnsons’ long period residing in, and presiding over, the foreign community in Ajijic.

After Johnson died in 1960 and was laid to rest in the Ajijic cemetery, Georgette returned to live in England, where she died in 1975. When Georgette’s estate was finally settled in 1983, it was valued at only £5665.00. Apparently she must have known nothing about—or had no way of accessing—the several million dollars held by Herbert in the US, some of which was eventually claimed by, and distributed among, family members.

Family members visiting Mexico in 1973 successfully located Johnson’s grave marker. Looking somewhat improvised, and with an incorrect year of birth, it read “H. B Johnson / EX-HARROVIAN / ENGLAND / 1876-1960.”

Is it still there? If so, having it restored or replaced would be a long overdue tribute to this pioneering Englishman.

Acknowledgments

My sincere thanks to James Catmur, for sharing family photos and memories, to Bill Burns, and to Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi for kindly entrusting the Johnson’s photo album to my care.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Chapter 9 of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village is devoted to the Johnsons’ time in Ajijic. Several other chapters offer more details about the history of the artistic community in Ajijic.

Sources

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Jun 082023
 

Juan (‘Juanito’) Olivarez Sánchez was born in Ajijic on 12 July 1944 and died there at the age of 77 on 28 May 2022.

Like numerous other local artists in Ajijic, Olivarez’ interest in art began as a student of the Children’s Art Program (CAP) started by Neill James. Olivarez was among the first generation of students to benefit from CAP which began in the mid-1950s.In the 1960s, Olivarez helped teach the next generation of youngsters. Later students of Juan Olivarez included, in the early 1990s, Bruno Mariscal, described by Lyn Adams as: “Truly a jack-of-all-trades, this talented man is also a well-known rotulista or sign painter. His padrino, Juan Olivarez, started training him in this craft when he was around 18 years old.”

Olivarez’ considerable artistic talent was recognized by the highly experienced art educator Jack Rutherford, a professional Californian artist then living in Ajijic with his wife and their four children. Rutherford was instrumental in arranging for Olivarez to spend several weeks in Studio City (then Ajijic’s sister city) in 1970. Rutherford persuaded Studio City Chamber of Commerce to sponsor Olivarez and to find him a family to board with while he took art classes. Rutherford and his family drove Olivarez up to Studio City, where he was a house guest of the Heckers; Mrs Robert Hecker was a fellow art student. A lively welcome reception in Studio City was held in honor of Olivarez’ arrival before the Rutherford family carried on to spend the summer in Laguna Beach.

Juan Olivarez. Untitled landscape. Coll-JLV

Juan Olivarez. c 1960. Untitled landscape in the Neill James Collection. Reproduced by kind permission of his family.

Jesús López Vega informed me that Olivarez was a member of the “Jardín del Arte,” a group of young local artists at the start of the 1970s, which later became known as “Asociación de Artistas de Ajijic.” This group was a forerunner of the “Ajijic Society of the Arts” (which continues to this day), the largest organization of its kind for artists (Mexican and foreign) in the area.

By 1975, Olivarez was directing a gallery in Ajijic, the Galería de los Artistas Cooperativos, a sign of the bustling art scene in the village at the time. Competing with the long-running Galería del Lago, the Galería de los Artistas Cooperativos was located at 16 de Septiembre #9. It opened on 14 December 1975 with a solo show of 25 works by Frank Barton, an American artist then living in Ajijic, fresh off a successful show in Mexico City.

Olivarez had become interested in photography from a relatively early age, initially acquiring a simple Kodak camera to help him develop his drawing technique, and then discovering the lure of photography as a hobby. He was probably the first native-born photographer to become Ajijic’s unofficial village photographer, taking over this role from, among others, Beverly Johnson.

Juan Olivarez. El Charracate. Reproduced by kind permission of Tom Thompson.

Juan Olivarez. El Charracate. Reproduced by kind permission of Tom Thompson.

Olivarez photographed hundreds of family gatherings, parties and special occasions, and amassed an extensive collection of photographs of Ajijic, covering a very wide range of subjects and events, many of them no longer celebrated in quite the way they once were. Late in life, recounting his experiences to journalist Sofía Medeles, he explained how his photos had originally cost only 50 centavos each. His photographic business was unable to survive the advent of the smartphone, which replaced conventional cameras.

Alongside his photography, Olivarez continued to paint small pictures and do some commercial sign painting. Many of his paintings remain in possession of his family and I hope to add additional images of his work to this profile shortly.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Several chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village offer more details about the history of the artistic community in Ajijic.

Sources

  • Lyn Adams. 2007. “The gallery and art of Bruno Mariscal.” MexConnect.com
  • Sofía Medeles. 2022. “Remembering Juan “Juanito” Olivares, prolific photographer of Ajijic.” Semanario Laguna, 15 de junio de 2022.
  • The Van Nuys News: 26 Jun 1970, 17.
  • Guadalajara Reporter: 13 Dec 1975.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Feb 102022
 

Mary Helen Creighton, usually known simply as Helen Creighton, was born into an upper-class family in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, on 5 September 1899, and became one of Canada’s most prominent folklorists. Her career spanned sixty years, and she gained an international reputation in the field.

After gaining a diploma in music from McGill University in 1915, and graduating from the Halifax Ladies’ College in 1916, Creighton worked as a driver with the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto, and as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross Caravan in Nova Scotia. After completing a course in social work at the University of Toronto, Creighton then traveled to Mexico for a year, where she visited her brother, living in Mexico City, and taught at the American School of Guadalajara.

Helen Creighton and friends, Chapala, 1923

Helen Creighton and friends, Chapala, 1923: Robert Pierce, Margaret Pierce, Lily, Pauchi, Betty, Mrs Bremer, Mrs Neal, Helen Creighton, Dora. Credit: Nova Scotia Archives.

Creighton arrived in Mexico from Cuba in 1922 and taught most of 1923 at the American School of Guadalajara. A keen photographer, Creighton’s snapshots from her time in Mexico can be viewed on the website of Nova Scotia Archives. In early April 1923, the local Guadalajara daily noted that “Miss Helen Creighton has returned to Guadalajara after spending a very pleasant week with her brother, Dr Creighton of Mexico City.” Two weeks later, she was listed among attendees at the large Rotary Club party in the city.

The exact dates of her visit (or visits) to Lake Chapala are unknown, but all her photographs of Chapala are dated 1923, and they were almost certainly taken within a few weeks of when D H Lawrence arrived at the beginning of May. Photographs taken by Creighton at Chapala show her friends, boats the beach, and a view of the Villa Montecarlo from the lake. Her captions name various people, including a second Helen, Dora, Josie, Lily, Betty, Robert Pierce, Margaret Pierce, Lily, Pauchi, Mrs Bremer and Mrs Neal, most of whom are presumed to have been administrators or fellow teachers at the American School.

Helen Creighton. Villa Montecarlo, 1923

Helen Creighton. Villa Montecarlo, 1923. Credit: Nova Scotia Archives.

On returning to Canada, she began a broadcasting career as “Aunt Helen” and read children’s stories on radio CHNS Halifax. In 1928, Dr Henry Munro, the Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia, urged her to find and record more local stories and songs. This was the start of her passion as a folklorist. Creighton became an intrepid traveler, hiking or sailing, carrying her melodeon (button accordion) to the remotest parts of the province, in search of new material. Before the development of audio tapes, she used wax cylinders and acetate disks to record music and songs in situ. She also investigated and wrote about ghosts, superstitions, witchcraft and buried treasure.

Though Creighton was awarded numerous honorary doctorates and the Order of Canada, her work was not without its critics. Some claimed that her song selections and editing were flawed; others argued that she could never escape her privileged background, and that her collections helped commodify Nova Scotia tourism literature which highlighted its ‘Scottishness’ and the myth of ‘hardy fisherfolk.’

Creighton’s books include Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia (1932), Bluenose Ghosts (1957), Maritime Folk Songs (1962), Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia (1964), Bluenose Magic (1968), Folksongs from Southern New Brunswick (1971), A Life in Folklore (1975), Eight Ethnic Songs for Young Children (1977), Nine Ethnic songs for Older Children (1977), With a Heigh-Heigh-Ho (1986) and La Fleur du Rosier (1989). Published recordings included Folk Music from Nova Scotia (1956) and Maritime Folk Songs (1962).

Helen Creighton, author and pioneering folklorist, and subject in her lifetime of three documentaries—Songs of Nova Scotia (1957), Land of Old Songs (1960) and Lady of the Legends (1966)—died in her native town of Dartmouth on 12 December 1989.

An extensive collection of materials related to Creighton’s personal life, and her career as an outstanding author and folklorist, is held by the Nova Scotia Archives.

Acknowledgment

  • I am grateful to the Nova Scotia Archives for permission to reproduce these images.

Sources

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Jun 242021
 

Prior to becoming a noted abstract expressionist painter, Stanley Twardowicz (1917-2008) lived in Ajijic in about 1948. Three years later, he exhibited about twenty photographs from that visit in New York, and won instant acclaim as a talented fine arts photographer.

Remarkably, Twardowicz had only taken up photography a short time before arriving in Ajijic, and he only took a camera with him to help supplement the preliminary sketches he needed to compose paintings on canvas. When the photos were developed, Twardowicz realized that the images he had captured were artistically satisfying in, and of, themselves. This began a lifelong love of photography, alongside his passion for painting.

Stanley Twardowicz. c.1948. Fishing nets, Ajijic. (Credit unknown)

Stanley Twardowicz. c.1948. Fishing nets, Ajijic. (Credit unknown)

Stanley Jon Leginsky was born to Polish parents in Detroit on 8 July 1917 and grew up with his godfather; he formally adopted his godfather’s surname in his early twenties, shortly before marrying Pauline (aka Apolonia) Jaszek (1921-2012) in October 1940. The marriage did not last and the couple divorced after six years.

Twardowicz attended summer school programs at the Chicago Art Institute and studied photo-retouching at the Meinzinger Art School.

He held his first exhibition of paintings in Detroit in 1944. Two years later he won a scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.

Despite having no formal qualifications, Twardowicz was then offered a teaching position at Ohio State University. He taught there for about five years and became close friends with another instructor, Roy Lichtenstein—they were later best man for each other on their respective wedding days.

Twardowicz won a $1500 fellowship in 1948 in Pepsi-Cola’s Fifth Annual Paintings of the Year Competition; his work was included in a show at the National Academy of Design in New York City.

Stanley Twardowicz. c.1948. Fishing nets, Ajijic. (Credit unknown)

Stanley Twardowicz. c.1948. Fishing nets, Ajijic. (Credit unknown)

It is unclear how he came to learn about Ajijic but he traveled there in 1948-49, seeking inspiration for more paintings; while there he took a series of eye-catching photographs of fishermen and their nets. His “stunning photographic journal of the Mexican people” (New York Times) was the basis for his Mexican series of paintings, completed between 1948 and 1951.

Safely back in the US in 1949, Twardowicz held the first of several annual solo shows at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in New York, and married an Ohio State student, Ruth Ann Mendel (1929–1973). Mendel (the spelling used on the marriage certificate is given as “Mandel” in Twardowicz’s obituary and elsewhere online) later became known for her wood-cut prints. According to one source, the couple lived for a time “near Guadalajara” (presumably in Ajijic), though I have yet to find any hard evidence for this assertion.

Twardowicz’s photographs of Ajijic went on show at Wittenborn & Co., 38 East Fifty-seventh Street, New York, in October 1951, shortly after Ann graduated from Ohio State and he resigned his teaching position there. The New York Times included one of the photos—of fishing nets in Ajijic—alongside its very positive review:
“The show… consists mainly of poetic impressions of fishing nets billowed by the wind and photographed about two years ago, a year after Mr. Twartowicz began to use a camera…. The pictures convey an artist’s emotional response to the mood of a situation rather than a literal rendering of material.”

Stanley Twardowicz. 1951. (Oil on canvas) Fish Nets (Ajijic). Credit: Berner's Auction Gallery, Ohio

Stanley Twardowicz. 1951. (Oil on canvas) Fish Nets (Ajijic). Credit: Berner’s Auction Gallery, Ohio

Twardowicz’s paintings based on these photographs include an oil on canvas entitled “Fish-Nets”, completed in 1951, which was auctioned in 2015 at Berner’s Auction Gallery in Donnelsville, Ohio.

Twardowicz and Ann left for Europe on 23 November, bound for Le Havre.  When they returned to the US six months later, in June 1952, they lived in Plainfield, New Jersey, near enough to New York to enjoy its vibrant arts scene. From late-1952, the couple were Saturday evening regulars at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village, where they became friends with Jack Kerouac and a group of artists (later recognized as Abstract Expressionists) including Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and others.

By 1953, Twardowicz’s own painting had shifted away from semi-abstraction to full abstraction. The following year he was introduced to Zen philosophy and began a series of bio-morphic paintings, developing a technique to pour household paint onto canvasses stretched flat on the ground.

Twardowicz’s innovative artworks brought him major success with numerous solo shows, including annual one-person shows in the Peridot Gallery for twelve consecutive years.

In the 1960s, Twardowicz moved to Northport on Long Island. While visiting Twardowicz there, Kerouac wrote “The Northport Haiku” (1964), which first appeared in print in Street in Spring 1975. By this time, Twardowicz had been married to artist Lillian Dodson for four years.

Twardowicz continued to work also in photography. His best known later photographs are the portraits of Jack Kerouac he took in June 1967, a few months before his good friend died. The friendship was mutual: Kerouac considered Twardowicz “the most compassionate man I’ve ever met.” Despite their long friendship, the portraits were the first photographs of Kerouac that Twardowicz had ever taken.

Towards the end of the 1960s, Twardowicz became fascinated by color field theory and its relationship to visual perception; this led to him painting a series called “Disappearing Ovals.” He kept developing and experimenting as an artist. His style during the 1990s was aptly dubbed “Moving Color” by the Phoenix Museum when it held the a retrospective of Twardowicz’s work in 2001. The artist had three other retrospectives during his lifetime, all in New York: Heckscher Museum (1974), Nassau Community College (1987) and Hofstra University Museum (2007)

After a prolific career spanning 65 years, Twardowicz retired from painting in 2005 and died in Huntington, New York, on 12 June 2008.

Main sources

  • Paul Kowalchuk. 2008. “Renowned American Abstract Expressionist Painter and Photographer, Stanley Twardowicz, Dies at Age 90 in Huntington, NY.” TheDeepArchives Inc, 19 June 2008. [1 April 2021]
  • New York Times: 28 October 1951, 104.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Mar 182021
 

Several photographs of Ajijic by Jacques Van Belle (ca 1924-2012) are captioned “Hotel Laguna.” They are believed to date from the late 1950s.

Jacques Van Belle. ca. 1960. Hotel Laguna, Ajijic.

Jacques Van Belle. ca. 1960. Hotel Laguna, Ajijic.

The main hotels in Ajijic at about the time of the photos were:

  1. Casa Heuer, a rustic lakefront property run by siblings Paul and Liesel Heuer west of the pier in Ajijic. ‘Pablo’ Heuer died in 1957. The architectural style of Casa Heuer does not match the photographs.
  2. Posada Ajijic, the centrally-located hotel, had its main entrance on Calle 16 de Septiembre and extended to the lakeshore. It had been operating an an hotel for more than thirty years before the Eager family ran it from 1976 to 1990. The Eagers closed Posada Ajijic in 1990 and immediately opened their own new hotel, La Nueva Posada, a few blocks further east.
  3. Quinta Mi Retiro (aka Hotel del General). This hotel was most active in the 1950s and 1960s.
  4. Hotel Anita. This small hotel was on Calle Juárez, and is the “Hotel Laguna” shown in these photographs. In 1967 it was renamed Hotel Villa del Lago.
Jacques Van Belle. ca. 1960. Hotel Laguna, Ajijic.

Jacques Van Belle. ca. 1960. Hotel Laguna, Ajijic.

The Hotel Villa del Lago (Hotel Laguna) was originally owned by Anita Chávez de Basulto; the business was later owned by Luis de Alba and his wife, Margaret.

Please get in touch if you can tell me any more about “Hotel Laguna” / Hotel Anita.

Sources

  • Guadalajara Reporter, 24 June 1967; 8 July 1967.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Feb 112021
 

Esther Henderson and her husband, Chuck Abbott, spent six weeks in Mexico taking photographs for Arizona Highways magazine in the early 1940s. They were major contributors to the magazine for decades.

They published at least three photographs related to Lake Chapala in Arizona Highways. The first two were black and white images in the September 1942 issue of a farming family’s home and a landscape view of adjoining peasant smallholdings on the lakeshore. This color Kodachrome photograph, taken from almost exactly the same vantage point as that landscape view, was included in the October 1945 issue of Arizona Highways.

Esther Henderson / Chuck Abbott. c. 1942. Lake Chapala.

Esther Henderson / Chuck Abbott. c. 1942. Lake Chapala.

The original caption for the following photo (from the September 1942 issue of Arizona Highways) read “A farmer’s house and his family on the shores of Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara. These farming folk are unusually industrious and self-reliant.”

Esther Henderson / Chuck Abbott. c. 1942. Lake Chapala.

Esther Henderson / Chuck Abbott. c. 1942. Lake Chapala.

The precise location of these smallholdings is undetermined, but appears to be somewhere on the southern shore of the lake, perhaps close to San Luis Soyatlán or Tuxcueca.

Charles “Chuck” Abbott was born in Michigan in 1894 and died in Santa Cruz, California in 1973. After high school, he joined his brother in Hawaii to work on a pineapple plantation. During the first world war, he served with the 23rd Army Engineers in Europe, where “he photographed the war-torn landscape.” On his return to the U.S., he established Chas. H. Abbott Photography business in New York to market his photographs. With the proceeds, he opened (with a German partner) a shop on Fifth Avenue selling exotic birds. Abbot married the daughter of a wealthy rug merchant and the couple moved to Florida to run a dance hall and casino, “Abbot’s Joint.” After that business was destroyed in a hurricane in 1928, his wife returned to New York.

Abbott, however, moved to California and ran a coffee shop in Carmel before relocating to Palm Springs, where he became known as the “Cowboy Host,” arranging breakfast rides and events for the wealthy patrons at the Desert Inn. He first met his second wife, Esther, when he was hired by the Tucson Sunshine Club as the “Cowboy Photographer” to take photos of all the various important celebrities visiting Tucson.

Esther Henderson was born in Illinois on 24 July 1911 and died on 22 August 2008. She was a professional dancer in New York City for several years before taking up photography. After studying at the New York Institute of Photography, she moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1935 to start her photography career. Esther specialized in landscape photography and was a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways from the 1930s onward.

Chuck and Esther met in early 1941. Esther was the chairwoman of a group of local Tucson photographers who were outraged that the Sunshine Club had chosen Chuck Abbott, an outsider, as their “Cowboy Photographer.” Chuck tried to visit her in an effort to smooth the ruffled feathers. After first refusing to meet him, Esther later agreed to join him for a drink, which led to a picnic, and then a joint camera shoot. They were married within months.

The couple, who had two sons, traveled and worked regularly together to capture images and write copy for several travel publications. During the 1950s, Esther published “Way Out West”, a weekly photographic feature column every Saturday in the Tucson Citizen.

Esther and Chuck opened The Photocenter photography studio and gallery in Tucson, where they also later established Color Classics, the first color laboratory in Arizona.

The January 1968 issue of Arizona Highways was a special edition devoted to three decades of Esther’s photography.

The couple moved to Santa Cruz, California, in 1963 where they were actively involved in community affairs. They restored a number of houses in the town and spearheaded an initiative to improve the downtown area; the name Abbott Square honors their achievements. They also replaced the town’s lighthouse as a memorial to their son, Mark, who drowned while bodysurfing at the age of 18.

Chuck died in 1973. Esther continued to live in the family home in Santa Cruz until her death in 2003.

The University of Santa Cruz is the custodian of an extensive archive of the couple’s color transparencies.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Jan 142021
 

Herb McLaughlin was a prolific commercial photographer who began his career in Illinois before moving to Arizona. These images of the church and waterfront in Chapala were published in Arizona Highways in November 1950.

Herbert (“Herb”) McLaughlin was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 30 July 1918 and died in Phoenix on 19 February 1991. He first became fascinated by photography after receiving a gift as a teenager of a Voightlander folding camera. McLaughlin studied safety engineering at Purdue University and then completed a double major at Indiana University in business administration and journalism. Even before graduating, he had established his own business, Mercury Pictures, in Hammond, Indiana. On graduating in 1940, McLaughlin married Barbara Cartwright (1920-1996); the couple had two children, but divorced in about 1949.

While running Mercury Pictures, McLaughlin undertook commissions for several newspapers as well as for wartime factories and other companies. In 1945 he sold this company and, following medical advice, moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in the hope that his asthma would improve. The new company he began, McLaughlin and Co. did well and in 1947 he bought a rival company, McCulloch Brothers Inc., together with their extensive photographic collection.

It is unclear whether his photographs of Chapala were taken on commission for Arizona Highways, or whether the lake was where he chose to spend his honeymoon following his second marriage – to Dorothy Ann “Dot” (Jensen) Jolley (1912-2005) – in the summer of 1950. Or perhaps both reasons were true?

Herb McLaughlin. c. 1950. Chapala.

Herb McLaughlin. c. 1950. Chapala.

The photo above shows the Chapala waterfront as seen from the end of the pier. At the time of McLaughlin’s visit, the large-scale remodeling of the town center to create Avenida Francisco I. Madero and Paseo Ramón Corona was almost complete. Villa Tlalocan (built in the 1890s by George Edward King for British consul Lionel Carden) and Villa Ferrara are visible on the right hand side of the photo.

The image below, of the San Francisco church in Chapala, shows what the church looked like prior to a major (and never fully completed) renovation of its facade and bell towers (or spires) in the 1960s, which left the towers at different heights.

The clock visible above the main entrance dates from about 1897 and was a gift of Eduard Collignon, owner of the nearby Villa Ana Victoria (which was demolished during the updating of the town center). This imposing parroquia (parish church) gets several mentions in D. H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent, and is only a short stroll from the house Lawrence rented in Chapala in 1923 while composing the first draft of his famous novel. That house, greatly expanded since Lawrence’s visit, is now a boutique hotel known as the Hotel Villa QQ.

Herb McLaughlin. c. 1950. Church at Chapala.

Herb McLaughlin. c. 1950. Church at Chapala.

McLaughlin’s second wife, Dot, had previously been married to Marion Doval Jolley, with whom she co-owned Jolley Turkey Company in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. After her first husband died, and she remarried, Jolley sold that company to become co-owner of McLaughlin & Co. She organized the company’s photographic library and began her own photographic career, specializing in portraits of children. The ownership structure of the firm was changed in 1955 in order to grant their staff a stake in the company, now relaunched as Arizona Photographic Associates.

The McLaughlins published two books of photographs: Phoenix 1870-1970 in Photographs (1972) and Arizona the Beautiful (with Don Dedera, 1974). They donated an extensive collection of their photographs to Arizona State University.

For more about the many historic buildings in Chapala, please see my recent book If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Sources:

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Dec 312020
 

Herbert Johnson (1877-1960) and his wife, Georgette (1893-1975), settled in Ajijic in December 1939. Shortly after Herbert died in Ajijic in 1960, Georgette returned to live in the UK.

These photographs come from a photo album that once belonged to Georgette. For the story of its rediscovery by historian Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi in an estate sale in New York, see

The photos in the album have no captions or dates and date from 1940-1945.

This gallery (many locations unknown) focuses on places in central and western Mexico.

Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan?
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan?
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan?
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan?
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan?
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan?
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Tzararacua Falls, near Uruapan
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Camecuaro park (near Zamora)
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Camecuaro park (near Zamora)
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Camecuaro park (near Zamora)
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Camecuaro park (near Zamora)
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Camecuaro park (near Zamora)
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Camecuaro park (near Zamora)
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Taxco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Taxco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Taxco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Taxco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Taxco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Taxco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Taxco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Central Mexico
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Morelia.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Morelia.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Morelia.

Note

Acknowledgment

My sincere thanks to Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi for recognizing the importance of this photo album and for kindly entrusting it to my care.

Comments welcomed via email or via comments feature on this post.

Dec 032020
 

Herbert Johnson (1877-1960) and his wife, Georgette (1893-1975), settled in Ajijic in December 1939. Shortly after Herbert died in Ajijic in 1960, Georgette returned to live in the UK.

These photographs come from a photo album that once belonged to Georgette. For the story of its rediscovery by historian Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi in an estate sale in New York, see

The photos in the album have no captions or dates and date from 1940-1945.

This gallery (locations unknown) focuses on horsemanship and bullfights.

Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Horsemanship and bullfight.

Note

Acknowledgment

My sincere thanks to Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi for recognizing the importance of this photo album and for kindly entrusting it to my care.

Comments welcomed via email or via comments feature on this post.

Nov 052020
 

Herbert Johnson (1877-1960) and his wife, Georgette (1893-1975), settled in Ajijic in December 1939. Shortly after Herbert died in Ajijic in 1960, Georgette returned to live in the UK.

These photographs come from a photo album that once belonged to Georgette. For the story of its rediscovery by historian Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi in an estate sale in New York, see

The photos in the album are in no particular order and have no captions or dates. The photos in the album date from 1940-1945.

This gallery focuses on three individual archaeological sites:

  • Tenayuca
  • Teotihuacan
  • Xochicalco
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Tenayuca
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Tenayuca
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Teotihuacan
Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Xochicalco
Herbert Johnson. c 1943. Xochicalco

Note

Acknowledgment

My sincere thanks to Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi for recognizing the importance of this photo album and for kindly entrusting it to my care.

Comments welcomed via email or via comments feature on this post.

Nov 052020
 

Herbert Johnson (1877-1960) and his wife, Georgette (1893-1975), settled in Ajijic in December 1939. Shortly after Herbert died in Ajijic in 1960, Georgette returned to live in the UK.

These photographs come from a photo album that once belonged to Georgette. For the story of its rediscovery by historian Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi in an estate sale in New York, see

The photos in the album are in no particular order and have no captions or dates. The photos in the album date from 1940-1945.

This gallery focuses on Xochimilco and its trajineras.

Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.
Herbert Johnson. c. 1943. Xochimilco.

For more information about Xochimilco, see:

Note

Acknowledgment

My sincere thanks to Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi for recognizing the importance of this photo album and for kindly entrusting it to my care.

Comments welcomed via email or via comments feature on this post.

Nov 052020
 

One of the delights of writing this blog has been the number of readers who have reached out to me with further information about the artists and writers I’ve written about. This has greatly improved the blog and resulted in some valuable virtual friendships.

A case in point. A year ago, a chance find at an estate sale by Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi, an adjunct instructor of history at Siena College in New York, and author of Remembering World War I in America (University of Nebraska Press, 2018), led to her contacting me to ask if I knew anything about “Georgette and Herbert Johnson” of Ajijic. 

I was barely able to contain my excitement. The Johnsons were an English couple who settled in Ajijic in 1939, and I’ve been researching them for a chapter in a forthcoming book. Kimberly had rescued a photo album containing more than 250 photographs which fortuitously included a copy of a greetings card sent by the Johnsons. Long story short, Kimberly has entrusted me with the album’s future.

The album almost certainly belonged to Georgette Johnson. Apart from a copy of their own greetings card, it also includes several postcards sent to the Johnsons and one or two photos with inscriptions on the back that make it clear they were gifts to the couple. The fact that the photos are in no particular order and have no captions or dates makes me confident that the album was Georgette’s rather than Herbert’s. (Herbert’s hardcover “weather log,” given to me many years ago by Jocotepec author Joan Frost, has meticulous notes and weather records from the 1940s, making me confident that Herbert would have added neat captions and dates if the album had been his.)

Herbert Johnson was an engineer and loved his gadgets, including his camera. He is depicted in a few of the photographs (presumably taken by someone else), but both subject matter and style make me confident that he was the photographer responsible for the vast majority of the photos in the album. Almost all the photos date from 1940-1945; a few loose photos are slightly later.

A small number of Herbert Johnson’s photos were included as illustrations in June Summers’ Villages in the Sun. In that slim volume the photos were misleadingly captioned and poorly reproduced. The original of one of those photos is in the photo album; the quality of the original clearly reveals the technical skills of Herbert Johnson as a photographer.

Apart from the Johnsons’ photo album, very few photos of Ajijic in the early 1940s (or earlier) are currently known. This makes the photo album particularly valuable in documenting the village’s history.

The following posts are photo galleries revealing the scope and quality of Johnson’s work:

Further photo galleries may be added later.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Chapter 9 of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village is devoted to the Johnsons’ time in Ajijic. Several other chapters offer more details about the history of the artistic community in Ajijic.

Acknowledgment

My sincere thanks to Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi for recognizing the importance of this photo album and for so kindly entrusting it to my care.

Comments welcomed via email or via comments feature on this post.

Jan 022020
 

German engineer and photographer Helmuth A. Wellenhofer lived with his wife, Antonia (“Toni”) in Jocotepec for many years in the 1970s.

Helmut (as he was known in Mexico) was born in Bavaria in 1935. After completing his studies, he worked in a fashion house, became interested in literature, modern art and music, and founded a jazz group. In 1960, he crossed the Atlantic to Canada where he worked in a sawmill, warehouses and mines.

He became a passionate and serious photographer, undertaking trips to Alaska, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Sumatra and India. He visited Mexico for the first time in 1962 and planned to return, but only after visiting Panama, Germany and several other European countries, as well as seeing more of the U.S. and Canada.

Poster for 1976 exhibition

Poster for 1976 exhibition

On 17 August 1965 he married Antonia Bruggner, then aged 23, in Santa Barbara, California. The couple settled in Santa Barbara for several years and had a son, Andreas. Helmuth managed the Coral Casino Beach Club and Antonia worked with a title insurance firm.

The Wellenhofers, with their young son, returned to live in Jocotepec on Lake Chapala in 1973. They became close friends with photographer John Frost and his novelist wife Joan Van Every Frost, whose son, John, was of similar age to Andreas. Both families spent Easter 1973 at the beach and in the surf at Tenacatita.

The Wellenhofers built a house in Nestipac and later sold the upper part of the property to another couple who eventually became long-time Jocotepec residents: Austrian artist Georg Rauch and his wife, Phyllis.

In 1975, Wellenhoffer embarked on a photographic railroad excursion to Los Mochis and the Copper Canyon and back. This was the basis for a fascinating exhibit which opened the following May at the Goethe Institute in Guadalajara.

That exhibition, entitled “Impresiones de un Viaje en México” featured photos from throughout Mexico, including Wellenhofer’s train trips along the west coast and through the Copper Canyon.

Wellenhofer summarized his railroad experiences for the local weekly newspaper, the Colony (Guadalajara) Reporter:

“Freight train 656 gets a “go” signal via shortwave radio and jerks slowly out of Guadalajara. After a few street crossings, the four-engine, 62-boxcar convoy picks up speed and we roll through the open countryside. I’m sitting in the third engine – my camera ready – and am happy to finally be on the track again.

Maybe it’s because I was born in a train station that I feel such an affinity for rail travel. I’ve ridden Japan’s “superfast”, spent three days inside a closed cattlecar in India and recall an unbelievable trip through Bolivia where male passengers were given reduced fare if they helped to chop wood for the engine.

My Mexican odyssey began when I approached the director of Ferrocarriles del Pacifico with a plan to travel the nation’s passenger and freight trains, documenting my journey with photographs. He approved and issued me a letter of introduction, instructing stationmasters and train personnel to help me along the way.

Armed with the letter I hopped aboard my first freight train in Guadalajara – bound for Tepic. En route, engineers and brakemen came by to talk, curious about my rail journey with a camera….”

At Tepic, Wellenhofer “switched to a freight train for a six-hour run to Mazatlán, riding alone in the last compartment of a 70-car convoy.” In Mazatlán he “hopped aboard a three-engine train barrelling 56 miles per hour to the railroad junction at Sufragio” where he boarded a second-class train through the Copper Canyon to Chihuahua.

From Chihuahua, he took the mid-night train to Zacatecas, in case full of “families, boxes, people sleeping on the floor, crying babies and moaning grandmothers.”

According to the poster for that show, he was then working on a collection of photos and poems about his impressions and perspectives.

The Wellenhofers were regular return visitors to Jocotepec for many years after moving from Mexico to Germany. Their son, Andreas Noar Wellenhofer is a professional saxophonist. (Enjoy his videos on Youtube)

Acknowledgments

  • My thanks to the late John Frost Sr, and to John Frost Jr., Phyllis Rauch and Peter Huf for sharing their memories of the Wellenhofers.

Sources

  • Colony (Guadalajara) Reporter: 14 April 1973; 6 Sep 1975; 24 April 1976, 14; 1 May 1976, 11, 14, 18.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.