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The Big Trees of California (1907), by Galen Clark



About the Author

Galen Clark in front of Grizzly Giant, cira 1865-1866
Galen Clark in front of
Grizzly Giant circa 1865-66.
C. E. Watkins photo.
Galen Clark is famous for his discovery of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia trees and for his role as Guardian of Yosemite National Park for several years. Mr. Clark didn’t seek to enrich himself from Yosemite Valley or the Sequoia Trees. He did try to make a living though. He ran a modest hotel and guide service, but was a poor business man who was constantly in debt. “Clark’s Station” in Wawona, for example, had several more employees than required for the number of guests and its short season. Toward the end of his life Mr. Clark was desperately poor. He wasn’t a great book writer, but due to his popularity and need to make a living, wrote three books on Yosemite. The other two are Indians of the Yosemite (1904) and The Yosemite Valley (1910). Galen Clark’s book on the Sequoia trees is simple, factual, and direct. Unfortunately, he left out the most important part—his personal role in the discovery, popularization, and protection of the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees as hotel keeper, guide, and Guardian of Yosemite and Mariposa Grove. One only wishes he would have included accounts he gave or wrote in his letters or other books.

About the Photographer

George Fiske This book’s most valuable asset is its photographs. Most of the photographs were taken by his friend George Fiske, a Yosemite Photographer. George Fiske was born 1835 in Amherst, New Hampshire and moved west with his brother to San Francisco. He apprenticed with Charles L. Weed and worked with Carleton E. Watkins, both early Yosemite photographers. Fiske and his wife moved to Yosemite in 1879 and lived there until he committed suicide in 1918. Fiske was living alone when he shot himself and he often told his neighbors he was “tired of living.” Most of his negatives were destroyed when his house burned in 1904. After his death, his remaining negatives were acquired by the Yosemite Park Company and stored neglected in a sawmill attic, which burned in 1943. Ansel Adams suggested they be stored safely in the Yosemite Museum fireproof basement, but his suggestion was ignored. “If that hadn’t happened,” says Adams, “Fiske could have been revealed today, I firmly believe, as a top photographer, a top interpretive photographer. I really can’t get excited at [Carleton] Watkins and [Eadweard] Muybridge—I do get excited at Fiske. I think he had the better eye.” (Hickman & Pitts, George Fiske, Yosemite Photographer (1980)).

—Dan Anderson, 2004

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Bibliographical Information

Galen Clark (1814-1910), The Big Trees of California: Their History and Characteristics (1907). 104 pages, including 19 photographic plates and frontispiece (portrait). 19 cm. Library of Congress call number SD397.S4 C5. LCCN 07-022843. Tan cloth binding with a green pictorial. A second edition was printed in 1910.

The pages of the book have a border design of Sequoia foilage.

Digitized by Dan Anderson, November 2004, These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice is left intact.
    —Dan Anderson, www.yosemite.ca.us

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