C. C. Pierce was a pioneer Los Angeles photographer, working from circa 1886-1946, whose photographs document Los Angeles and southern California. Pierce was also a photograph collector and dealer and many of the images in this collection are by his contemporaries as well. The beautifully composed, often atmospheric views are a testament to the practice of early photographers to work according to the principles of painting.
Of particular note is the documentation of surviving structures from the missions and rancho land grants of California. Fourteen missions, including lesser-known “asistencias” (sub-missions under the control of larger missions) and three ranchos are documented.
These historically important nitrate images show the buildings, with their original decor and surroundings, before restoration or, in some cases, complete ruin. Two rancho images document actual working ranch activities such as sheep washing (Rancho Guajome) and sheep shearing (Rancho Camulos).
Of note is the image of the Civil War era barracks in Wilmington.
The collection also shows now-demolished Los Angeles civic buildings such as the ca. 1900 County Courthouse,
civic life in downtown LA, through a series on the various locations of Boos Bros cafeterias which can be enlarged to allow the identification of neighboring businesses,
and the yet undeveloped areas around Los Angeles such as Topanga Canyon and the San Fernando Valley.
Finally, the collection holds surprises, such as an unidentified image which appears to possibly portray William Mulholland, with his signature hat, mustache and confident pose,
when compared to an identified portrait such as this one from the USC Digital Library.
By Martha Steele, Nitrates Metadata Coordinator