During the course of researching and writing Mary Pickford, Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart, I often came across portraits of Mary that had been taken by Hartsook Studios. I was interested in knowing more about this chain of portrait studios which, in 1921, was the largest photographic business in the world.
Fred Hartsook was born in Indiana in 1876, into a family of photographers and studio owners. Although trained as a civil engineer, Fred became a wandering photographer after he and his wife, also a photographer, arrived in California, about 1906. They travelled the state taking pictures and using a team of oxen to pull Fred's homemade darkroom.
Eventually, Fred opened a photographic studio in Los Angeles and did so well that he was able to expand into other cities along the west coast of the U.S. He became famous for his portraits of celebrities, including many of Hollywood's stars of the silent films such as Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish.
Hartsook was also able to take up life as a rancher, and he and his wife became resort owners, developing Hartsook Inn on 37 acres of California redwood forest. The inn became a favourite of many Hollywood celebrities, including Bing Crosby and Mary Pickford. Fred died of a heart attack at the age of 54. His widow continued to operate the inn until 1938.
The photograph above is my favourite Hartsook photo of Mary. Let me know if you have favourites of your own.