Jun 202024
 

At the start of the twentieth century, Jacob Kalb, a Jewish immigrant of Austrian ancestry, owned and operated the Iturbide Curio Store in downtown Mexico City. The store, selling all manner of Mexican tourist souvenirs and mementoes, opened in 1903 on the ground floor of the Hotel Iturbide. The hotel occupied the historic Palacio de Iturbide (Iturbide Palace), a superb 18th century Mexican baroque building that survives to this day. It was bought and beautifully restored in 1965 by the Banco Nacional de México (Banamex) and is now the Banamex Cultural Foundation (Fomento Cultural Banamex).

The Iturbide Curio Store was one of several competing curio stores in that area at that time, including one run by Jakob Granat, one of Kalb’s nephews, across the street. (Granat also published at least one postcard of Chapala.)

No expense was spared when Kalb opened his store in 1903. Carefully selected wares were displayed in elegant showcases, all beautifully illuminated by electric lighting, a relatively recent innovation.

Iturbide Curio Store (publicity postcard image)

Iturbide Curio Store (publicity postcard image)

Soon afterwards, Kalb started to publish postcards (both monochrome and color), using various different imprints, ranging from ““Iturbide Curio Store” and “J.C.S” (typesetters of the time often used the letter J in place of the letter I) to “J.K.”

Kalb did not credit the photographer on his cards but at least one card utilizes a photograph taken by Charles Betts Waite, a noteworthy American photographer based in Mexico City at that time.

Kalb published dozens of cards of Guadalajara, some with undivided backs (and therefore pre-1906 in date). These early cards include the only known image of Lake Chapala published by Kalb. This attractive view of Casa Schnaider (Villa Josefina) with the Hotel Arzapalo in the background, was published in about 1904; a postally-used example was mailed the following year. The pretty, European-style ‘cottage’ was originally named Villa Albion, and had been built by the eccentric Norwegian-born Englishman Septimus Crowe in 1896, after he sold the Villa Montecarlo. In 1901, Crowe sold Villa Albion to the US-born Guadalajara beer magnate Joseph Maximilian Schnaider, who promptly renamed it Villa Josefina, in honor of his wife. More than a century later, the property continues to bear this name.

Lake Chapala. Postcard published by Iturbide Curio Store c. 1906

Photographer unknown. Lake Chapala. Iturbide Curio Store postcard #507. c. 1904.

Kalb published this image at least twice, with minor modifications. The “Iturbide Curio Store” version, numbered 228, had a wider white band along the bottom and a flag fluttering from the Villa Josefina flagpole. When Kalb reissued the photo as a “J.C.S.” edition, the image was slightly cropped and the flag removed.

Kalb produced several hundred postcards in total, covering the entire country and designed to appeal to the widest possible cross section of the rapidly increasing flow of tourists exploring Mexico.

In 1906, Kalb advertised in a Mexico City paper that he had the largest stock of picture postcards of Mexico. A collection of 100 views cost $2.00; the wholesale price was $16.00 for 1000.

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

  • Valentina Serrano & Ricardo Pelz. “Serie azul y roja de Jacobo Granat.” Presentation at 8th Mexican Congress on Postcards, Palacio Postal, Mexico City. 16-18 July 2015.
  • Arturo Guevara Escobar, 2012. “Jacobo Kalb, una lectura diferente. Parte I“, blog post dated 1 March 2012

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

Jun 062024
 

Before the advent of trains and motor vehicles, the only way to get to Lake Chapala was to walk, ride or take a stagecoach (diligencia). The first regular Guadalajara–Chapala stagecoach service began in 1866. While the trip could be done in ten hours, it usually took twelve or more, and the mix of excitement, speed, fright, danger and uncertainty described by early travelers was certainly not for the faint-hearted.

After the completion of the Irapuato-Ocotlán-Atequiza-Guadalajara branch line of the Mexican Central Railway in 1888, demand for a Guadalajara–Chapala stagecoach service declined. Travelers from the city had a choice: they could take a train to Atequiza, followed by a relatively short stagecoach ride to Chapala, or they could take the train to Ocotlán, and then catch a steamboat to Chapala, avoiding having to ride the stagecoach at all.

I know of about ten early photos of stagecoaches taken in the town of Chapala. Some were used as book or magazine illustrations, and several were mass-produced as commercial picture postcards in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The images reproduced here are presented in approximate chronological order, based on evidence of publication dates and on details of buildings in the respective photos.

Postcard by Juan Kaiser

Fig 1. c 1900. Winfield Scott. Postcard by Juan Kaiser. The turreted building behind the stagecoach is Villa Ana Victoria. On the extreme right, a water carrier is walking towards the camera.

This photo (Fig 1) of a stagecoach on the eastern side of Calle del Muelle was uncredited when it was first published in 1900 to illustrate an article about Chapala by the Hon. Maud Pauncefote in Harper’s Bazar. The photo was also published in about 1901 on a triple-view postcard by Juan Kaiser, then based in San Luis Potosí. The other two photos on that postcard can be positively identified as the work of Winfield Scott, so there is little doubt that Scott also took this stagecoach photo.

A slightly cropped version of Fig 1 was included in Vitold de Szyszlo’s book, Dix mil kilometres a traverse le Mexique, 1909-1910, published in 1913, where the photo is credited to Charles B. Waite. This attribution is not as surprising as it sounds, given that Waite had purchased all Scott’s negatives and photo rights in April 1908.

Winfield Scott. Published in El Mundo, 2 June 1901.

Fig 2. c. 1900. Winfield Scott. Published in El Mundo Ilustrado, 2 June 1901.

Winfield Scott also took this photograph (Fig 2) of a stagecoach on the other side of Calle del Muelle, waiting outside the Hotel Arzapalo (which first opened in 1898). This image appeared in El Mundo Ilustrado in 1901, and in Four Track News in 1905.

Postcard by Juan Kaiser

Fig 3. c 1904. Photo by José María Lupercio (?). Postcard by Juan Kaiser.

Fig 3 is a somewhat similar image, which I believe was taken a year or two later, probably by Guadalajara-based photographer José María Lupercio. It was reproduced in about 1904 on postcards published both by Ruhland & Ahlschier and by Juan Kaiser, who by then had moved his publishing sideline from San Luis Potosí to Guadalajara. By that time, the Hotel Arzapalo owned two stagecoaches for daily service to and from Atequiza railroad station, as well as several carriages (guayines) for special trips.

Traveling by stagecoach was both uncomfortable and unreliable. Stagecoach service was often impossible during the rainy season, owing to the poor state of the wagon roads. In July 1904, Chapala hotel owners Victor Huber and Ignacio Arzapalo joined forces to finance repairs and reopen the road before October. At that time the stagecoach between Chapala and Atequiza cost one peso (US$0.50) each way.

Summer Matheson. 1907.

Fig 4. 1907. Photo by Summer W Matteson. (Courtesy Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin.)

We can date this photograph (Fig 4) of another stagecoach outside the Hotel Arzapalo to 1907 with certainty, because it was taken by American photographer Sumner Matteson during his first trip to Mexico.

Postcard published by Schwidernoch, Austria.

Fig 5. c 1907. Photograph by José María Lupercio (?) Postcard published by T Schwidernoch, Austria.

This photo (Fig 5) must date from about the same time, and is believed to be another photograph taken by José María Lupercio. It was used by several postcard publishers, including Juan Kaiser (post-1906), Manuel Hernández (1907), and T. Schwidernoch of Vienna, Austria.

The postal service was efficient in those days. One of these cards, mailed in 1908 by guests at the Hotel Ribera Castellanos near Ocotlán, took only five days to reach Virginia! The card explained why the senders had chosen to stay near Ocotlán in preference to Chapala: “Would you like a souvenir of Mex? This is the coach they use to go from the R.R. [railroad] to the hotel on Lake Chapala fourteen miles. We are staying at a place on the same lake but only three miles from the R.R.”

Unknown photographer and publisher

Fig 6. c 1908. Unknown photographer. Believed to have been published by Juan Kaiser. (Courtesy of Ing. Manuel González García.)

In Fig 4 and Fig 5 there is no building abutting the Hotel Arzapalo, which proves they were taken prior to the second half of 1907, when construction began of the Guillermo de Alba-designed Hotel Palmera, completed in 1908. The Hotel Palmera does appear on the left side of this photo (Fig 6), a rare early image of a stagecoach in motion. The building on the right is the competing Gran Hotel Victor Huber (later Gran Hotel Chapala).

Unknown photographer

Fig 7. c 1908. Photographer and publisher unknown.

The Gran Hotel Victor Huber (later Gran Hotel Chapala) is shown in all its glory in Fig 7, which must date from about the same time.

By 1908, the days of stagecoaches were numbered, and the automobile was taking over. In 1906 prominent American dentist Dr. John W. Purnell drove his Reo from Guadalajara to Chapala in 3 hours 49 minutes, and made the return trip (including an 11-minute stop in Tlaquepaque) in 3 hours 39 minutes. The following year, Alfonso Fernández Somellera took just 63 minutes out to the lake and 65 minutes back to complete his round trip from the big city to Chapala (about 130 kilometers in total) in his 30-horsepower Packard.

Stagecoaches were unable to compete, in speed or comfort, and rapidly became a thing of the past.

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 and additional material are welcome, whether via comments 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.

Feb 082024
 

Several popular curio shops in downtown Mexico City at the start of the twentieth century stocked all manner of wares to sell to tourists and travelers, and some even published their own postcards of Mexico.

An 1898 list in The Mexican Herald of stores selling “Opals and Mexican Curiosities” included Granat & Horwitz (in the San Carlos Hotel); La Joyita (owned by F. Pardal & Co., and located very close to the Iturbide Hotel); La Compaciente; Sonora News Company; and The Art & Curio Co. Stores founded slightly later include the Iturbide Curio Store (in the basement of the Hotel Iturbide), Jacob Granat; Casa Miret; W. G. Walz Co; and American Stamps Works.

La Joyita started life in about 1898 at 1a de San Francisco #16 before moving to larger premises along the street at 1ra de San Francisco #13-14. In addition to postcards, it sold opals, drawn work, silver filigree, plus “ancient French and Spanish fans and silk shawls.”

La Joyita published at least two series of postcards. The earlier series, dating from around 1904-1905, is comprised of more than 50 black and white cards. The second series, believed to include around 230 cards, is in color and thought to date from around 1906. The relatively poor quality of both series suggests that they were printed locally.

Of local interest, in addition to at least half a dozen cards of Guadalajara, is this interesting card showing the Ocotlán Railroad Station in about 1905.

Ocotlán Railroad Station, c. 1905. Published by La Joyita.

Photographer unknown (Scott?). Ocotlán Railroad Station, c. 1905. Published by La Joyita.

Ocotlán was one of the main stations on the Mexican Central Railway’s branch line from Irapuato to Guadalajara. This branch line, completed in 1888, reduced the travel time between Mexico City and Guadalajara to under a day, and passengers could finally travel between Mexico’s two largest cities in relative comfort. On this new line, Ocotlán was the nearest station to Lake Chapala; visitors could disembark in Ocotlán and then take the steamboat that made regular trips to several ports on the lake, including Chapala. Many tourists preferred this way of reaching Chapala, since it obviated the need for any bumpy, rickety and sometimes dangerous stagecoach ride. Ocotlán Station became a major transit point for visitors to Lake Chapala’s new hotels.

Ocotlán Station is an important part of the region’s cultural heritage; sadly, part of the historic station was severely damaged by fire in early February 2024.

La Joyita published photographs taken by some of the most distinguished photographers of the time, including Charles Betts Waite, Winfield Scott, La Rochester, Guillermo Kahlo and R J Carmichael. While we can’t be 100% sure of who took the picture of the Ocotlán Railroad Station, it may have well have been American photographer Winfield Scott, who lived close to Ocotlán at the time, and often undertook commissions for the Mexican Central Railway.

His first visit to Ocotlán station left a vivid and lasting impression on Mexican author José Ruben Romero. In 1897, when he was about seven years of age, his family crossed the lake by steamer from La Palma to catch the train in Ocotlán for Mexico City. Romero later wrote about his experience:

The train that I thought was a precious toy turned out to be something heavy and ugly, full of smoke, with an intolerable odor…. I had no alternative but to entertain myself with the movement about the station: well-dressed travelers from Guadalajara who strolled in the sun; others buying jugs of plum wine, fresh cheeses, or fruits. Groups of farmers arrived, the men with valises of striped chintz on their shoulders and full baskets in their hands; the women dressed in brightly colored percales, with squeaky new shoes that caused them to walk as if on thorns.”

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 11 August 2023.

Sources

  • The Mexican Herald: 5 Oct 1898, 3; 13 Nov 1898, 11.
  • L. Eaton Smith. 1903. The Massey-Gilbert blue book of Mexico for 1903. Mexico City, Mexico : Massey-Gilbert Co.
  • Ricardo Pelz Marín and Karla Pelz Serrano. 2013. “Las joyas de ‘La Joyita.'” Presentation at 6th. Mexican Congress on Postcards, Museo Francisco Cossío, San Luis Potosí, August 2013.
  • José Rubén Romero. 1932. Apuntes de un lugareño, 148. Translated by John Mitchell and Ruth Mitchell de Aguilar as Notes of a Villager: A Mexican Poet’s Youth and Revolution 1988 Kaneohe, Hawaii: Plover Press. Translation quoted by kind permission of Ms. Margo C. Mitchell of Plover Press.

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 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.

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.

Apr 232020
 

At first glance this may not seem to be the most exciting photograph of Lake Chapala ever used for a postcard. However, “Casa Abitia” – the card’s publisher – was the business name for one of Mexico’s most interesting, pioneering and remarkable photographers.

Casa Abitia: Chapala postcard

Casa Abitia. “Orillas del lago, Chapala, Jal.” ca 1920.

Jesús Hermenegildo Abitia Garcés, commonly known simply as Chucho Abitia, was born in Batuchic, Chihuahua, on 13 April 1881, spent his early years in Sonora, and died in Mexico City in 1960.

He took his first photographs at the age of 12, after spending his savings – all US$2.50 of them – on an American camera. In 1905, in his twenties, he set up a photography business in Hermosillo, Sonora, named Abitia Hermanos Fotógrafos, that specialized in the distribution of Eastman Kodak products and materials. He was also a pioneer of moving pictures in Mexico, shooting such reels as El mata mujeres (“He kills women”), Los amores de Novelty (“The loves of Novelty”), Los dos reclutas (“The two recruits”) and El robo del perico (“Theft of the parakeet”), all released in 1913.

During the Mexican Revolution, Abitia joined the Ejército del Noroeste (Constitutional Army of the Northwest) commanded by his former school friend, Álvaro Obregón. As a propaganda officer, Abitia recorded the advance of Obregón’s constitutionalist troops as they took control of Culiacán, Mazatlán and Guadalajara before entering Mexico City in August 1914. Obregón was joined in Mexico City a few days later by Venustiano Carranza who established a new government.

In about 1914, and in cooperation with other family members, he established a photographic business – Abitia Hermanos Fotógrafos – in Guadalajara. He was commissioned by then president, Venustiano Carranza, to travel throughout Mexico, shooting documentaries to be shown across Latin America as a means of promoting the country’s progress.

Abitia’s family photography business in Guadalajara continued to operate until 1926. The family store, operating initially as “Abitia Hnos y Cia” and later as “La Casa del Fotógrafo”, was located at Avenida 16 de Septiembre #160. It advertised its products – all sizes and formats of Kodak film “direct from the factory” – and services sporadically over the next few years, occasionally offering discounts such as “10% off all films, plates, papers and postcards”.

This mention of postcards strongly suggests that the Abitia view of Chapala, illustrating this post, dates from about this time. In 1921, a display advert in El Informador boasted that Casa Abitia offered “Tarjetas Postales de Guadalajara y Chapala. Hermosa colección, única en la ciudad.” (“Postcards of Guadalajara and Chapala. Beautiful collection. Unique in the city.”)

Abitia also continued to make movies and, in 1922, with a budget of $300,000 pesos, he founded the Estudios Chapultepec in Mexico City. The earliest Mexican movie with sound was Santa, filmed here in 1931.

At some point, Abitia acquired the Hacienda San Gaspar in Jiutepec, just outside the city of Cuernavaca in the state of Morelos. In the late 1940s, he built a trout farm on part of the property.

In addition to his career as a photographer, Abitia was an accomplished violinist and built several innovative stringed instruments. He first made string instruments in about 1900. His instruments were of high acoustic quality and craftsmanship and included a viola, a violeta (between a viola and a violin) and a violetín (a fifth sharper than a violin) as well as an ultrabajo (five tones below a doublebass). He collaborated with the notable Mexican musical inventor, Julián Carillo in the development and perfection of Sonido 13. (For more about this unusual musical system, see chapter 25 of my Mexican Kaleidoscope.)

For a sample of Abitia’s documentary work, this short silent documentary – “Los combates de Celaya (Abril 1915)” – is viewable on Youtube. Abitia filmed this in April 1915 as General Alvaro Obregón and his forces took the city of Celaya, Guanajuato. (The music accompanying the film on Youtube is by the Hermanos Záizar.)

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

  • Anon. 2018. “Jesús Hermenegildo Abitia Garcés“, post dated 17 April 2019 on Facebook page, Jesus H. Abitia (1881-1960).  [4 June 2019]
  • El Constitucionalista, Diario Oficial. 3 September 1914, 2.
  • El Informador: 23 Dec 1917, 2; 7 June 1918, 3; 21 February 1920, 8; 20 June 1920, 6; 4 August 1920; 8 January 1921, 7; 24 June 1922; 12 Feb 1923, 3; 14 March 1926, 8.
  • Angel Miguel. Undated. Jesús Hermenegildo Abitia Garcés: Biografía. Fundación Carmen Toscano, archivo histórico cinematográfico. [4 June 2019]
  • Periódico Oficial del Estado de Morelos. 18 June 1939, 1; 27 September 1942, 2; 26 Nov 1947, 1.
  • El Pueblo, 25 Feb 1918, 1.

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 142019
 

Among the very few early images of Chapala that depict village people going about their everyday lives, is this postcard from about 1910 entitled (on its reverse side) “Chapala. Un mercado en México – Mexican market.”

Photographer unknown. Postcard published by Juan Kaiser. “Chapala-Market in Mexico”. c 1910.

The postcard was published by Juan Kaiser. Given that Kaiser lived in Guadalajara, he was somewhat loose with his titles and his geography. The postcard actually shows an open-air market in the village of El Salto, much closer to Guadalajara than to Chapala! The building to the left of the open-air market in the image is the former tienda de raya (hacienda store) in El Salto, Jalisco, near Juanacatlán Falls; the building is now the town’s Centro Cultural.

In his defense, Kaiser was a savvy businessman and postcards such as this one were clearly designed to appeal to a much broader audience than only those visiting El Salto. The market vendors displaying their wares on the sidewalk and prospective purchasers inspecting the fresh produce made for a timeless scene.

Fortunately for Chapalaphiles, there are several early descriptions of the market in Chapala, including this one by Polish traveler Vitold de Szyszlo who witnessed the real Chapala market in 1910:

On the dusty road appeared groups of horsemen. They were selling milk, fruit and vegetables, trotting, loaded with baskets and containers of various sizes. Large cowboy hats completely masked their faces; a blue shirt with pants of the same color and leather huaraches completed their attire. Country girls with olive complexions and braids black as ebony, carefully tied on the nape of the neck, followed, sometimes sitting two on the same mule or donkey, like proud Amazons. Others, darker skinned, let the ivory of their pearly white teeth show through their gracious smiles and the blazing heat of the Andalusian gypsy show through their burning gaze while their silvery voices resounded in harmonious bursts of laughter.

The market, in the center of the village, is the meeting point of all these colourful people. Under multicoloured awnings are mounted pyramids of fruit and vegetables, bananas, oranges, lemons, watermelons, melons, papayas, mameyes, lettuces, sweet potatoes, red and hot peppers. Elsewhere, zealous merchants offer fresh tortillas and tamales of golden cooked corn, and pulque, the smell of which fills one with intense repulsion.

On the other side of the square, cluttered stalls display sombreros, wool sarapes and leather huaraches.”

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.

More details of Vitold de Szyszlo and his visit to Chapala can be found in chapter 55 of  my Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales.

Source

  • Szyszlo, Vitold de. 1913. Dix mille kilomètres à travers le Mexique, 1909-1910. Paris: Plon-Nourrit et Cie., pp 235-236; translation by Marie-Josée Bayeur.

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.

Jul 252019
 

Lucius Seymour Bigelow Jr. (1900-1978), an artist known for his fine watercolors, spent part of his three years roaming Mexico in the 1960s at Lake Chapala. While in Mexico, he held solo exhibitions at the Instituto Mexicano-Norteamericano in Mexico City and at the Casa de Cultura in Guadalajara, which included paintings of Lake Chapala.

Remarkably, there is only limited visual evidence related to Bigelow, besides the press photo reproduced near the end of this post. By chance, I also have a postcard of Chapala sent by his wife in 1967 to a close friend, Mrs Louise Hallowell, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Hallowell was the daughter of pioneer photographer Joseph E. Stimson, and helped, a few years later, to ensure that Cheyenne’s Atlas Theatre was included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The postcard is a typical view of the beach just west of the pier, looking toward Ajijic. The photograph was taken by Manuel Garay and the card was published in Mexico City by Ediciones FEMA.

Postcard of Lake Chapala sent by Bigelow's wife (front)

Postcard of Lake Chapala sent by Bigelow’s wife in 1967

On the card, Bigelow’s wife, Hermine, wrote that, “This has been such a busy winter in Mexico. Two big one man shows for Seymour, Mexico City and Guadalajara and another in May (22-29) perhaps at the Univ. of Conn[ecticut].” She apologized that they would be unable to visit Cheyenne in the near future and hoped that Hallowell could meet them in Europe the following winter.

Bigelow was born on 11 October 1900 in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania into a well-to-do New England family. His father, Seymour Bigelow, had close links to Mexico that dated back to well before the Revolution (1910-1920). He had toured Mexico in 1901 following a mining conference. When giving a lecture in the Mansfield Men’s Club in Connecticut in 1921, he was described as having had “unusual opportunities of acquaintance with the president of the republic and other high officials.”

Lucius Seymour Bigelow Jr. studied art on a scholarship at Albright Art Gallery School in Buffalo, New York, and then began classes at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in 1919 where he studied under Fred Wagner (an early impressionist) and Henry McCarter. He continued to study there there at least until July 1920. That year Bigelow showed “half a dozen pictures of the modern type” at the annual thumb-box exhibition of the Buffalo Society of Artists at Albright Art Gallery.

Bigelow also studied at the Art Students League in New York (1921-22) under the direction of John French Sloan, American painter Robert Henri and Canadian-American artist Boardman Robinson and at the Yale School of Fine Arts.

On 19 December 1925, Bigelow married Hermine von Rarrell (1900-2000). Their only son, Lucius Storrs Bigelow, was born 26 Sept 1926 in Buffalo, New York.

The family traveled in Europe in the early 1930s. According to press interviews Bigelow gave later, this was when he decided to focus exclusively on watercolor painting. The Bigelows returned from Europe in August 1934, returning to New York on 9 August from Trieste, Italy.

Seymour Bigelow. 1941. Lobster cages. Reproduced by kind permission of Lori Bigelow Story.

Seymour Bigelow. 1941. Lobster cages. Reproduced by kind permission of Lori Bigelow Story.

When Bigelow lectured about modern art to the Pencraft literary society of the University of Connecticut in March 1935, he illustrated the lecture with examples of his own watercolors, arguing that “the best art must necessarily be impressionistic.” The lecture was accompanied by an exhibition of his watercolors. This exhibition was one of several solo exhibitions he held in the years following his trip to Europe and this particular collection had previously been shown in Baltimore, where a reviewer praised his work: “Mr Bigelow is a master of color, his work possesses a quality rarely encountered in watercolors.”

In July 1937, he took part in a group show at the Central Connecticut Art Gallery. By this time the Bigelows were dividing their time between their main home in Mansfield Center, Connecticut, and a summer residence in Sebasco Estates, Maine. (I am still hoping to find more details of his show at the Maine Art Gallery.)

Seymour Bigelow 1934. Woman on beach. Reproduced by kind permission of Lori Bigelow Story.

Seymour Bigelow. 1934. Woman on beach. Reproduced by kind permission of Lori Bigelow Story.

Unfortunately, art alone could not support his family, so Bigelow earned his living working as a draftsman, doing technical plans and drawings, and later in engineering.

In 1942, when he was drafted into the U.S. armed forces, Bigelow – 5′ 11″ tall with blue eyes and brown hair – gave his last residence as Conneaut Lake in Pennsylvania, and said he worked for Frazier Bruce Co.

Seymour Bigelow continued to paint and hold solo shows during the 1950s. It is unclear when he first traveled to Mexico to paint. However, his one-person show of watercolors at Community House, Storrs, Connecticut, in 1952 included “scenes from Mexico, New Mexico, Maine and a few from Europe.” The following year he held a solo show of watercolors at the Present Day Club, Princeton, New Jersey, and he had another show at the University of Connecticut in 1958.

Bigelow wrote to the New York Times on 30 August 1959 to say he was in full agreement with the paper’s art editor’s suggestion that galleries and museums be encouraged to sell off old paintings that had been donated to them years before in order to make space for newer works.

Jay Stokes (left) and Seymour Bigelow. Credit: The Palm Beach Post, 2 April 1968.

Jay Stokes (left) and Seymour Bigelow. Credit: The Palm Beach Post, 2 April 1968.

Shortly after Bigelow retired to dedicate himself full-time to his painting, he and his wife spent most of three years (1964-67) roaming around Mexico. At the end of 1966 or early 1967, Bigelow held a solo show of his watercolor paintings at the Instituto Mexicano-Norteamericano in Mexico City. Shortly afterwards, he and his wife stayed for several weeks at the Hotel Chapala Haciendas. While more details of his time in Mexico have proved elusive, it was in March 1967 that his one person show opened at the Casa de la Cultura in Guadalajara, an exhibition that featured more than 30 watercolors of Mexican scenes, including paintings of Chapala, Ajijic, Guadalajara, Manzanillo, Cuautla, Cuyutlan and Oaxtepec.

In 1968, Bigelow was back in the U.S. and held a showing of some of his work in Baltimore, followed by a joint show with Jay Stokes at the home of Mr and Mrs Robert Plimpton in Palau Beach Ile, Singer Island, Florida.

Examples of Bigelow’s work can be seen in the collections of the Patten Free Library, Bath, Maine; the Instituto Cultural Hispano-Mexicano in Mexico City; and La Casa de la Cultura Jaliciense in Guadalajara.

Bigelow died in Windham, Connecticut, on 21 March 1978.

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

  • Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, New York), 21 Dec 1919, 7.
  • Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express (Buffalo, New York), 4 Jun 1919, 9.
  • The Buffalo Times, 17 Jan 1920, 5; 16 Dec 1925, 24.
  • The Daily Campus (University of Connecticut), Volume XXI, No 22 (26 March 1935), 2; Volume CXII, No 45 (20 November 1958), 3.
  • Guadalajara Reporter, 11 Mar 1967.
  • Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut), 27 Jul 1937, 9; 2 May 1952, 33; 31 Oct 1953, 4.
  • New York Times, Letter to the editor. 30 August 1959, X-10.
  • Norwich Bulletin, 12 Jul 1920, 2; 27 Aug 1921, 7.
  • The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Florida, 2 April 1968, 9.

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.

Jul 262018
 

Jakob Granat (1871-1945) was a Jewish merchant and businessman born on 18 October 1871 in Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) in what was then part of the Austrian empire. He left Europe in July 1887 to seek his fortune in the U.S., where he was known as Jacob Granat. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in New York City on 11 July 1900, having worked as a salesman in New York, Chicago and San Antonio, Texas.

According to most sources, Granat moved to Mexico (where he was known as Jacobo Granat) in 1900, working first in Veracruz with an uncle, who had moved there in 1885, before striking out on his own in Mexico City two years later. However, many details of the popularly-repeated version do not match the available documentary evidence from Granat’s passport applications and known travel movements.

During his lengthy stay in Mexico, Granat established various businesses, including a leather and curios shop (selling “trunks, saddles, traveling bags and cases of all descriptions”), a printing company and a small chain of cinemas. Granat was a nephew of Jacob Kalb, who owned the Iturbide Curio Store, which also published postcards, in Mexico City.

In about 1901, Granat began publishing postcards showing people, views and scenes from all over Mexico. Granat is believed to have published around 300 postcards, including this one of the buildings along the waterfront in Chapala. The most prominent buildings are the Arzapalo Hotel (opened in 1898) with its bathing huts (on the left), the turreted Villa Ana Victoria owned by the Collignon family (in the center) and the San Francisco parish church with its twin towers.

Chapala, ca. 1905. Postcard published by J. Granat.

Winfield Scott. Lago de Chapala, c. 1905. Image colorized and published as postcard by J. Granat.

Aside: This iconic image of Chapala’s waterfront appears on the cover of If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants (2020), also available in Spanish as Si las paredes hablaran: Edificios históricos de Chapala y sus antiguos ocupantes (2022).

Granat is best remembered today for opening Mexico City’s first public cinema—El Salón Rojo—in 1906 by elegantly remodeling the interior of the downtown eighteenth century building known as Casa de Borda. The renovations included the installation of Mexico’s first electric escalator. El Salón Rojo quickly became the most famous of Mexico City’s early movie houses (of which there were eleven by November 1910) and the one favored by all the high society families, including those close to President Porfirio Díaz. El Salón Rojo eventually had three screening rooms and added a dance hall in 1921, as well as other public spaces. Located in the heart of the city, it was also in great demand for public and political meetings.

To help publicize the silent films being shown, which starred both Mexican and foreign actors, Granat published a series of small movie lobby cards, similar to postcards, sold in the theater lobby.

In 1912, when Francisco I. Madero was Mexico’s President, Granat was one of the prime movers behind, and first president of, a permanent Jewish charitable community in Mexico named Alianza Beneficencia Monte Sinaí. Four years later, the Jewish community was given permission by Venustiano Carranza in 1916 to establish a cemetery for the “Colonia Israelita de México” in Tacuba. The new cemetery came too late for Granat’s older brother, David Granat, who died of heart failure in Mexico City in March 1914 and was interred in the city’s French cemetery.

During the Mexican Revolution, Jakob Granat claimed on repeated passport applications to have returned to the U.S. every year since 1905 for between two and six months, though these claims may have been made only to prevent him losing his right to a U.S. passport.

According to documents he signed when registering his presence in Mexico with the U.S. Consulate-General in Mexico City in 1917, at that time he owned five cinemas in the city. The same documents also mention his leather and curios shop, stating that he manufactured “American trunks.” In a supporting affidavit, Granat swears he had “temporarily resided” in Mexico City since 1905:

“I am manufacturing and importing American trunks, bags and suit cases, including all the materials, such as nails, wood trimmings, locks, etc., from the United States. Also, I am importing American films, showing them exclusively in my five theaters, and in preference to European films. I purchase my trunk materials from R. Newman Hardware Co., P. Stiger Tunk Co., and M. Goulds Son & co., all of Newark, N.J. I buy films from almost every American manufacturer. Since residing abroad, “Every year, I have spent from two to six months in the United States.”

Life in Mexico City was apparently becoming quite difficult and Granat stated that his intention to return permanently to the U.S. “as soon as conditions permit me, as I intend to sell out my interests here.”

Curiously, among these documents is a declaration that Granat was not married. This does not match his status as recorded on earlier passenger manifests or, indeed, explain the U.S. passport application he makes in Mexico City a few years later, in 1921, which specifically includes his wife, Alma Nebenzahl.

The 1921 passport application lists his occupation as “Moving picture Manager on behalf of the Orozco Circuit, handling American films for the Republic of Mexico.” According to the paperwork, Granat (then 50 years of age, 5’4″ tall with brown hair and blue eyes) planned to travel to Europe. He named England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, Switzerland and Belgium as intended destinations; a later amendment (dated March 1922) added Poland.

Granat’s personal reputation had been severely tarnished after July 1920 as a result of allegations made about his possible relationship with a young girl, an employeed in El Salon Rojo, who had taken her own life.

At about this point, Granat found a willing purchaser for his cinemas in the form of William O. Jenkins, an unscrupulous American businessman and property speculator then living in Mexico City. Jenkins, the subject of a recent biography by Andrew Paxman, had already made millions and went on to enjoy a virtual monopoly over Mexico’s booming movie business during the 1930s and 1940s. Later, following the death of his wife, Jenkins turned philanthropist and devoted his considerable wealth and energy to create a charitable foundation which helped establish the Universidad de las Américas.

Claims that Granat left Mexico in about 1920 and—perhaps at the insistence of his wife—returned to Europe where they were still living when the second world war erupted in 1939 appear to be overly simplistic. For example, in 1927, Granat, traveling alone, re-entered the U.S. on 23 February, having traveled from Hamburg on board the SS Albert Ballin. Three years later, on 21 August 1930, Granat (without his wife) again entered the U.S. from Mexico.  In 1936, Granat, 64, retired (and now claiming to hold Mexican citizenship), arrived at the port of New York again on 28 Jan 1936, coming from Le Havre, France, on board the Ile de France, and in transit, presumably to Mexico. Yet again, he appears to be traveling alone. These trips were presumably to see his family members (including his sister-in-law and her children) who were still living in Mexico City.

When the second world war did begin, Granat (and presumably his wife) did find themselves trapped in Europe. Despite the claim made in Mexican sources that Granat was killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz in 1943, the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database shows that his death came not at Auschwitz but at the equally infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp two years later, on 27 January 1945. His wife’s name does not appear in the database, though it is possible that she died in Auschwitz in 1943, since only fragmentary records exist of the thousands who lost their lives there.

Note: This is an expanded version of a summary post first published 22 July 2018.

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:

  • Miroslava Callejas. 2016. El primer cine capitalino y el primero con escaleras elétricas, El Universal, 24 October 2016.
  • Alicia Gojman Goldberg. 2010. “Los inmigrantes judíos frente a la Revolución Mexicana”, presentation at the XIII Reunión de Historiadores De México, Estados Unidos y Canadá.
  • Arturo Guevara Escobar. 2011. “Letra G. “Fotógrafos y productores de Postales.” Blog entry dated octubre 4, 2011.
  • Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database.  [8 July 2018]
  • Gregory Leroy. 2017. “The adventurous and tragic life of Jacob Granat” Blog post on Early Latin American Photography.
  • Valentina Serrano & Ricardo Pelz. 2015. “Serie Azul y Roja de Jacobo Granat.” Presentation, 8th. Mexican Congress on Postcards, Palacio Postal, Mexico City. 16-18 July 2015.
  • Kathryn A. Sloan. 2017. Death in the City: Suicide and the Social Imaginary in Modern Mexico. Univ of California Press, 170-172.
  • Andrew Paxman. 2017. Jenkins of Mexico: How a Southern Farm Boy Became a Mexican Magnate. Oxford University Press.

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.

Jul 122018
 

Mexican actor and photographer Luis Márquez Romay (1899-1978) was born in Mexico City on 25 September 1899. The family fled to the father’s homeland of Cuba in the midst of the Mexican Revolution and Luis began his art studies there at the Feliú studio in Havana. Alongside his studying, he worked as an actor, with starring roles in Dios existe (1920), Mamá Zenobia (1921) and Aves de paso (1921).

He returned to Mexico City in 1921 to study photography at the Public Education Secretariat’s Photography and Cinematography Workshop. He also continued his acting career, with major roles in Bolchevikismo (1923), El Cristo de oro (1926) and Conspiración (1927).

His photographic assignments at the workshop included documenting traditional religious celebrations in Chalma (State of México) and in Janitzio, the island-village in Lake Pátzcuaro renowned for its Day of the Dead festivities. This began a life-long interest in indigenous Mexico. Márquez later wrote the screenplay for the romantic drama movie Janitzio (1935) – the earliest all-Mexican sound film – which starred Emilio Fernández and María Teresa Orozco.

Poster for Janitzio (1935)

Poster for Janitzio (1935).

As Márquez pursued his photographic career during the 1920s and early 1930s he was working during one of the most creative periods in Mexican photography. The photographic opportunities offered by Mexico were being used to good effect by several talented foreign-born photographers including Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paul Strand and Josef Albers among others.

Márquez was a key member of what he later called Modern Mexican Photography as it gradually emerged, evident in the body of work of photographers such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Agustín Jiménez, Emilio Amero, Lola Álvarez Bravo and Aurora Eugenia Latapí. This group eschewed conventional pictorialism in favor of subjects that allowed them to edge towards surrealism and abstractionism. The light, patterns and shadows of urban and industrial landscapes gained favor, as did artistic images of the human form.

This postcard view of Lake Chapala was taken on a trip to the lake sponsored by the Carta Blanca beer company in November 1930.

Luis Márquez. Chapala (November 1930).

Luis Márquez. Chapala (November 1930).

This colorized postcard of a Lake Chapala aguador (water carrier) was published by Publicaciones Fischgrund in Mexico City in about 1939. A black and white version of this photograph, credited to “Grace Line Photo” had been used in 1937 to illustrate “Discovering Mexico”, an article by Edna Mae Stark in Modern Mexico.

Luis Márquez. Aguador en el Lago de Chapala. (1939)

Luis Márquez. Aguador en el Lago de Chapala. (1939)

Márquez traveled widely across Mexico for decades and combined his ever-evolving photography with collecting and exhibiting ethnic Mexican clothing. His photographic work was popular as illustrations in newspapers and magazines, as well as for postcards, calendars and books. His work won numerous awards, including a coveted first prize at the Exposición Iberoamericana (1930) in Seville, Spain, and a first prize at the International Photography Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair (1939-40).

Four of his photographs were published in the May 1937 issue of National Geographic which brought his work to an international audience.

Mexican Folklore: 100 Photographs by Luis Marquez, a book that showcased a selection of 100 of his magnificent black and white photos, accompanied by text by Justino Fernandez, was published by Eugenio Fischgrund in Mexico City in about 1954. In the 1970s, Mobil Oil sponsored the publication of El México de Luis Márquez and its English version, Luis Marquez’ Timeless Mexico.

In 1997, a previously unknown side of Márquez’s portfolio as a photographer emerged when 53 artistic photos of nudes (40 male and 13 female) were discovered. The photographs date from the mid-1930s and are some of the earliest photographs of the male form ever taken in Mexico.

The extraordinarily gifted photographer Luis Márquez Romay died in Mexico City on 11 December 1978.

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:

  • Alquimia. 2000. El imaginario de Luis Marquez” – The major source for this post is this special issue of Alquimia, año 4, núm. 10, Sep-Dec 2000, which has numerous essays about Márquez and his work.
  • Susan Toomey Frost. Undated. “Postcards of Luis Marquez“. Blog post.
  • Arturo Guevara Escobar. 2011. “Letra M. Fotógrafos y productores de postales.” Blog post.
  • Ernesto Peñaloza Méndez. 2006. “Luis Márquez Romay.” Kean University. [30 Sep 2019]]
  • Edna Mae Stark. “Discovering Mexico”, Modern Mexico, Vol 9 #2, July 1937, 19-23.

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.

Jul 052018
 

Swiss-born publisher Juan Kaiser (1858-1916) published some of the earliest postcards of Lake Chapala. His early postcards of the lake, dating back to the start of the 20th century were multi-views, with three small images on each card.

Kaiser was born in Leuzigen, Bern, Switzerland in 1858. In 1881, at the age of 23, he left home to seek his fortune in the Americas. After working with family friends in Peru and traveling in several South and Central American countries, he moved to Mexico in about 1886. After some months in Mexico City, working at “La Helvetia” (part owned by his countryman Guillermo Kaiser who, despite his surname, is not thought to be a relative), Juan Kaiser moved to the silver mining boom town of San Luis Potosí where he bought a bookstore – “Al Libro Mayor” – in 1887.

This proved to be a successful venture and Kaiser envisioned that opening a branch in Guadalajara, which was experiencing rapid growth at the end of the nineteenth century would be similarly profitable. With this in mind, he sent for his younger brother, Arnoldo Kaiser (1875-1952), to join him in Mexico to help run the business. Arnoldo, still a teenager, joined him in San Luis Potosí in 1891. Both brothers were multilingual, having acquired French, German and Spanish in addition to the Romansche spoken at home.

Juan Kaiser postcard

Triple view card of Lake Chapala: two photos by Winfield Scott (left) and one by C. B. Waite (right). Published by Juan Kaiser c 1901.

Juan Kaiser’s first wife, Ana Simmen, of Swiss parentage, died in San Luis Potosí on 19 January 1892. The following year, on 13 Nov 1893, Kaiser married her sister, Maria Guillermina Simmen, then 38 years of age, in Mexico City. The couple’s eldest child, Guillermo Juan Kaiser, died as an infant in San Luis Potosí in February 1895.

Juan Kaiser expanded the business to Guadalajara in 1899, opening a store named “Al Libro de Caja”. This bookstore and stationers supplied all manner of pens, inkwells, journals, bookbinding, pocket books, cashbooks and accounts books for the city’s thriving commercial and mining sector. Kaiser also developed a lucrative sideline in publishing picture postcards. His artistic connections were immediately visible to all patrons since the entrance to the store, located at the intersection of Calle San Francisco and Calle López Cotilla, was decorated “in a neat and stylish manner” with the work of another Guadalajara resident, the Brazilian-born artist Félix Bernardelli.

The first series of Kaiser postcards (see triple view of Chapala, above) was published in 1900-1901, with the imprint “Al Libro Mayor. S. Luis Potosi”. Various other imprints were used by the brothers including “Juan Kaiser y hermano”, “Juan y Arnoldo Kaiser”, “Juan Kaiser, Guadalajara”, “Juan Kaiser, San Luis Potosí”, “Juan Kaiser, San Luis Potosí y Guadalajara”, “Arnoldo Kaiser, San Luis Potosí”, “Al Libro Mayor, San Luis Potosí” and “Al Libro de Caja.” According to expert deltiologists (postcard collectors) all the early Juan Kaiser postcards were printed in Germany.

Jose María Lupercio. Chapala. Postcard view published by Juan Kaiser.

José María Lupercio. Chapala. Postcard view published by Juan Kaiser.

The Kaiser brothers worked with several photographers, including José María Lupercio and the American hotelier-photographer Winfield Scott. The early Chapala photographs on Kaiser postcards are unattributed but many are believed to be the work of Scott. Scott also sold his own vast collection of photographs of Mexico – “Scott’s Types and Views of Mexico… true pictures of life and scenery in this country of unequaled picturesqueness” – through the Guadalajara store. The majority of later views of Chapala (see above) include a clear attribution to Lupercio.

See also: Vitold de Szyszlo visited Chapala market in 1910

Kaiser also published a limited number of postcards of art works, including several paintings of Lake Chapala by Paul (‘Pablo’) Fischer – see Can a copy have as much merit as an original painting?

Juan Kaiser died in Guadalajara on 13 February 1916. His then wife, Bertha Meter, and their son Hans Paul Kaiser, aged 4, inherited the business and sold their interests in Al Libro Mayor to Arnoldo Kaiser. Advertisements for the store continued into the 1920s. In 1927, Bertha and Hans Paul left Guadalajara for Switzerland. They came back in 1930 to wind up affairs in Mexico before moving permanently to Switzerland in 1932.

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:

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 242016
 

Dutch-born photographer Jacques Van Belle, who died in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2012 at the age of 88, took about forty black and white photographs of Ajijic which were reproduced as postcards.

The postcard views, believed to date from 1957 or early 1958, included at least two of the “Hotel Laguna” as well as one of the bee hives in Neill James‘s residence, Quinta Tzintzuntzan (now part of the Lake Chapala Society complex), and one of Ajijic taken from the north side of the plaza. It is likely that these postcard images, and other unpublished photographs by Van Belle of her silk-worm business, were commissioned by Neill James for sale in her store.

van-belle-ajijic-pc

Born in the Netherlands on 22 September 1923, Jacques Joseph Hubert Van Belle was educated in Europe. He emigrated to the US in 1957 and then worked as a professional photographer in Palm Springs for a time, before settling in Hawaii, where he combined his photography with employment as a real estate broker. He and his wife, Helen Aro Van-Belle, had a son, Jacques, Jr. and were definitely living in Hawaii by July 1972.

Copyright registrations for 1973 show that Van Belle produced, and copyrighted, a pen and ink drawing entitled “With aloha from Jacque Van Belle’s Little Eurasia” (Little Eurasia was the name of his company in Hawaii], together with a matching envelope, and the “Royal Hawaiian Birthday Calendar”. The calendar had color photos by Van Belle on its six pages (two months to a page), with each page dedicated to a different member of Hawaiian royalty. The calendar also signposted famous births, deaths, and other significant events for Hawaii. Copies of this calendar still occasionally appear for sale online as collectibles.

Van Belle also worked as a tour escort for International Travel Service on extended trips to Europe. Advertisements for his tours describe him as a trilingual world traveler and professional photographer… recently honored by our state government for outstanding community service.

Jacques Van Belle died in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2012.

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 Neill James’ life in Ajijic.

Chapter 11 of Lake Chapala: A Postcard History has several other photos of Ajijic by Jacques Van Belle.

Sources

  • The Desert Sun (Palm Springs): 24 Dec 1959, 14.
  • The Honolulu Advertiser: 12 Apr 1965, 25.
  • Honolulu Star-Bulletin: 26 April 1978, 15; 21 May 1978; 52; 30 March 2012.

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 102015
 

Hugo Brehme was born in Eisenach, Germany, 3 December 1882, and died on 13 June 1954 as a result of an auto accident in Mexico City. Brehme certainly visited and photographed Lake Chapala on more than one occasion. Images of the lake and its environs appear in his work from around 1920.

Hugo Brehme: Fishermen in Lake Chapala. ca 1925.

Often cited as Hugo Brehme, Fishermen in Lake Chapala, c 1925, this photo dates from 1907 and was the work of Sumner W Matteson (see comments)

Brehme studied photography in Erfurt, completing his studies in 1902, and then opened his own studio. He took several trips to the then-German colonies in Africa.

He first visited Mexico in 1906, strongly influenced by having read Mexiko: Eine Reise Durch das Land der Azteken (“Mexico, a journey through the land of the Aztecs“) by Oswald Schroeder (published in Leipzig 1905).

On 14 August 1906, Brehme, then 23 years old, left Hamburg for Veracruz, Mexico, on board the SS Fürst Bismarck, traveling 3rd class. The ship called in at Dover (U.K.), Le Havre (France), Santander (Spain), A Coruña (Portugal) and Cuba, en route to Mexico.

He clearly liked what he found in Mexico, and saw a future there, since he returned to Germany, married his sweetheart Auguste Hartmann, and soon afterwards, in August 1908, the couple were on their way back there. They traveled on the SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie, but this time in the relative luxury of 2nd class!

By 1910, Brehme had a studio in Mexico City and rapidly gained popularity among the wealthier residents. The following year, he joined Casasola’s Agencia Fotográfica Mexicana. He documented many of the key events of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20),  including the Decena Trágica of 1913, Emiliano Zapata’s activities in Morelos, and the 1914 U.S. intervention in Veracruz.

Brehme quickly established himself as an outstanding commercial photographer, specializing in black-and-white postcard views. For more than 40 years, he roamed the country, using excellent photographic technique and composition to capture all manner of scenes. Some of his images are hauntingly beautiful, reminding us of a bygone age that we can never hope to regain.

The 1927 edition of Terry’s Guide to Mexico recommends Brehme as having “the largest, most complete and most beautiful collection of artistic photographs (views, types, churches, etc.) in Mexico.”

Brehme’s best-known photographic book is México pintoresco (“Picturesque Mexico”) which was published in 1923. A second volume Picturesque Mexico: The Country, The People and The Architecture appeared in 1925 (in English, French and German). These are among the masterpieces in the history of photography in Mexico.

Hog Brehme. Boats at Lake Chapala.

Hugo Brehme. Boats at Lake Chapala. ca 1925?. (From Marian Storm’s Prologue To Mexico)

Brehme, who is also credited with having introduced the first photographic Christmas cards into Mexico, was granted Mexican citizenship shortly before his death. His son Arno, born in Mexico in 1914, also became a photographer and worked in his father’s studio. Of the relatively small number of photos attributed to Arno (Armando Brehme), perhaps the most interesting are those of the eruption of Paricutin Volcano in 1943.

There is no question that some images signed by Brehme were actually taken by other photographers, and there are doubts about others. For example, see this analysis (in Spanish) of some of his photos. Equally, there is no doubt that many Brehme photos were used, without adequate attribution, by other authors.

These issues aside, Brehme was clearly a master of publicity, and helped to foment an interest in Mexico, and travel in Mexico, that extended far beyond its borders.

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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.

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