Davidson, Isaac Grundy (Portland)

Davidson, Isaac Grundy (1845-1922)

Davidson, John S.

Davidson Bros.

Palace Gallery

Gilman & Davidson

Shuster & Davidson


1875-1895 Portland

1888 Tacoma, WA

In summer 1875, photographers Herbert Shuster and Oliver Dennie dissolved their partnership, Shuster & Dennie. Former employee John S. Davidson became Shuster’s new partner, forming the partnership Shuster & Davidson.

On 15 February, 1877, Shuster & Davidson dissolved, succeeded by a new partnership, Davidson Brothers. John Davidson and Isaac Davidson announced they were continuing the business at the same address, and that Shuster would remain as an employee for an short time.

Isaac Davidson, age 32, had been a professional accountant for one of Portland’s largest printing shops for the preceding 5 years. Prior to that, he had been a school-teacher. He was married and had three children, one of whom had not been named yet even though he was 12 months old.

Isaac Davidson launched what was probably Oregon’s most ambitious photography enterprise ever attempted.

Within a month he opened a second studio location, as a separate partnership, Gilman & Davidson, naming the studio the Palace Photograph Gallery. This was located opposite the Post Office, a traditional location for photo studios at the time. This was designed to be a high volume, low cost operation. A photo-tent set up by tin-typer Judkins on the street right next to it assured competitive prices and work. By fall Gilman was gone, and Davidson was sole proprietor.

Next he upgraded his main studio into a higher-class operation. Over the winter of 1877-1878 he moved to larger quarters, from First and Yamhill to First and Taylor. His prices for one dozen cabinet card portraits were advertised as being $1 less than any other studio north of San Francisco. Prices in other galleries continued to spiral downward, leading to an 1878 price war that significantly realigned the business.

By the summer of 1878 Davidson’s mobile studio was operating. Although we are not certain how it was packaged and moved, it toured continuously in Oregon and Washington, anywhere a train went. It is possible that the studio was actually in a converted train car. The studio would set up and stay for several weeks to a month in each city. Negatives made on-location were shipped back to the main studio in Portland for printing and finishing, and returned to the job site for customer delivery.

All indications are that by the end of his second summer in business, Davidson had propelled a small studio into the highest volume photography operation in the state. Davidson next focused on developing credibility as a prominent photographer. This he accomplished better than he may have planned. It is due to the high quality of his boudoir size view series that there is substantial interest in his imprints today.

He obtained contracts for photography for the Northern Pacific Railroad for views of trains, bridges and track throughout Oregon. Also needed were promotional pictures of scenic highlights and prosperous farmlands. To accomplish this he hired Andrew Wulzen in August 1878. Wulzen was previously Carlton Watkins’ photographer and had been doing itinerant work freelance for several years. It is doubtful a better photographer could have been selected for this job. Wulzen was intimately acquainted with Watkin’s Columbia River view series from 1868, and proceeded to shoot many of the same views. The influence of Watkins is strongly felt in his work. Although the view series probably yielded no more than ten percent of Davidson’s gross income, it was the highest visibility advertisement a photographer could get. The next five years were the peak sale years for boudoir size views and Davidson produced one of the finest series in Oregon. Wulzen was employed by Davidson for at least two years.

Around this time I. G. Davidson bought out his brother, John Davidson. All further imprints were simply the I. G. Davidson logo. We lose track of John for several years, until 1881 when he returned as an employee. He became the portrait retoucher.

Portraits were photographers’ main source of income, and Davidson’s main competition was Frank G. Abell. Buchtel had sold his gallery, and the new owner, W. H. Towne, was attempting to establish himself. Frank Abell had opened his Portland studios in 1878, a year after I. G. Davidson. By 1881, Abell was emerging as Portland’s leading portrait photography studio. Abell had the highest class gallery in the city, and was a well known socialite, frequently speaking at public events.

The title of the top photographer was an open question. Davidson and Abell were a good match for rivalry, and the pattern of their advertising indicates they had developed a fierce competition. The two studios were only one half block away from each other.

In 1881, the Portland Mechanics’ Fair was in its third year. Its medals were the most significant juried award available for an Oregon photographer. Because of its agricultural nature, the significance of the State Fair awards had diminished to the point where they were hardly reported in Portland newspapers. The Mechanics’ Fair had become the big event of the city.

The featured exhibit of the 1881 Mechanics’ Fair was craft products of the Forest Grove Indian Training school. In 1881, the Indian Wars were not yet over in Oregon. Training Indians to become productive citizens was a new idea, and the Fair was the first major demonstration of the result in the state. The entire student body of the Forest Grove Indian School was brought to the Mechanics’ Fair on a train. Over the preceding summer, Davidson had the school, its students and their activities photographed. He had a great series of views which tied into the theme of the fair, which he first began to advertise for sale a month before the event.

Davidson and Abell both won medals: Abell the silver medal for best general photography and Davidson the bronze medal for best landscape. By this time Davidson had established the reputation of a high quality gallery, and no doubt he led Abell in sales volume. However the quality of Abell’s portraits was not so easily surpassed. Davidson had peaked the local market; his next big move was to establish a gallery in Tacoma.

It is doubtful that I. G. Davidson was a photographer. An accountant by profession, in less than 18 months he transformed one of Portland’s smallest studios into the largest photography enterprise attempted in nineteenth century Oregon. The list of his employees includes some of Portland’s best photographers. There is not a single shred of evidence to suggest he ever took a picture. Looking at the newspaper accounts of his chief rivals, we would expect to see a considerable amount of comment about Davidson. We do, but not one item mentions him having anything to do with the business end of a camera.

Davidson did not exhibit at the next year’s Mechanics’ Fair. In 1882 his wife had died, leaving him with 5 children. I. G. Davidson became more interested in real estate investments. The change of occupation was natural for Davidson, having watched the donation land claim he grew up on become valuable real estate in East Portland. His photography studio went out of business in 1895, when he opened a real estate brokerage on Stark street. When his daughter Sara sat for her photograph in June 1897, she went to Mrs. Bronwing’s studio.


OHS has a print of the 1881 Portland Mechanics Fair photography exhibit, where Davidson won the bronze medal.

Portrait of Sara Davidson, daughter of I. G. Davidson, ms date June 13, 1897, on Browning mount. (Davidson family photographs, Stanley Hess)


Early Wet Plate Views

  1. G. Davidson produced two print sizes: 6 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ prints on 10″ x 12″ card mount, and 4 1/2 x 8″ prints on ‘boudoir’ 5″ x 8″ size mounts.

The boudoir series was mass-produced and advertised at various stores as well as his studio. These 5″ x 8″ views are usually numbered and captioned in the negative, although a few simply have a penciled number which refers to a printed catalog on the back of the mount.

The large size photographs are usually imprinted with his I. G. Davidson logo, although some photographs definitely produced by him are mounted on blank cardboard. The large size is un-captioned and un-numbered.

The railroad work was primarily on the large format, although some exist in cropped versions on 5×8” boudoir mounts. The author has examined approximately 50 railroad trestle views which share these characteristics:

  1. The subject is the trestle, which usually fills the frame.
  2. Work crews are often present on the trestle.
  3. The bridges are newly constructed.
  4. Sometimes a train is stopped on the trestle for the purpose of photographing.
  5. The camera vantage point is often above grade, apparently shot from a train car.

While producing this work the photographer shot many scenic views on both negative sizes, from the same camera position. In the case of a view of Mt. Shasta, apparently shot from a railroad car on a freshly built grade, the boudoir used a wide angle lens; the large print used a long focal length lens. The views are from the identical camera position, but separate exposures.

It is possible to safely conclude he had access to a railroad car suitable for processing wet plate negatives. Enough views of other local subjects exist to indicate he also had a photographic wagon.


List of boudoir size views published by Davidson (size 5 1/4″ x 8 1/2″)

1                         South Portland from Robinson’s Hill.

2                         View of Portland showing Mt. Hood.

3                         Showing the central portion of Portland and East Portland.

4                         North Portland, showing Mt. St. Helens.

5                         General view of the Eastern part of Portland.

6                         General view of the Western part of Portland.

7                         Custom House and Central School, Portland.

8                         View of Ships along the river front, Portland.

9                         Willamette Falls and the Locks.

10                      Willamette Falls.

11                      Oregon City, Oregon.

12                      Willamette Falls, near view.

13                      Hunting on Nehalem river, Western Oregon.

14                      Fish Hawk Falls – near Nehalem river.

15                      Trapping scene on Nehalem river.

16                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T.

17                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T., different view.

18                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T., different view.

19                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T., different view.

20                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T., different view.

21                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T., different view.

22                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T., different view.

23                      Vancouver Barracks, W. T., different view.

24                      Baker’s Bay at Fort Canby, W. T.

25                      Fort Canby, W. T.

26                      Block House at Upper Cascades, Columbia River.

27                      Cape Disappointment or Hancock.

28                      Astoria, Oregon, showing Tongue Point in the distance.

29                      Group of Boys at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

30                      Group of Boys at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

31                      Group of Boys and Girls at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

32                      School Scene at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

33                      Blacksmithing at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

34                      Housekeeping at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

35                      Group of Umatillas at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

36                      Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

37                      Group of Alaska Boys at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

38                      Group of Piute, Wasco and Warm Spring Indians at Indian Training School,                                    Forest Grove, Oregon.

39                      Group of Puyallup Boys at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

40                      Group of Spokane Boys at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

41                      Shoemaking at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

42                      Indian Carpenters at work at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon.

43                      New Recruits, Spokane Indians, at Indian Training School, Forest Grove,                       Oregon.

44                      Astoria, Oregon, showing Cape Hancock in distance

45                      Ilwaco, W. T.

46                      Young’s River Falls near Astoria, Oregon.

47                      Mt. Hood from the East Side.

48                      Castle Rock, Columbia River.

49                      Multnomah Falls, Columbia River, Height 850 feet.

50                      Castle Rock, Columbia River, near view.

51                      St. Vincent’s Hospital, Portland Oregon.

52                      Lower Multnomah Falls, Columbia River

53                      O. R. &N. Co.’s magnificent steamer “Wide West”

54                      Oneonta Falls, Columbia River.

55                      Fort Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – Officers’ quarters from East Side

56                      Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Territory.

57                      Fort Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Territory.

58                      Hospital and Chapel, Fort Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

59                      Spokane Falls, W. T.

60                      Spokane Falls, W. T.

61                      Spokane Falls, W. T.

62                      Boys in Uniform, Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Or.

63                      New Recruits, Spokane Indians, after seven months at Training School.

64                      The way the Indian Boys make Bedsteads and keep their sleeping rooms at                     Training School, Forest Grove, Or.

65                      Cape Horn, Columbia River.

66                      Cape Horn, Columbia River.

67                      Cape Horn, Columbia River.

68                      Cape Horn, Columbia River.

69                      Cape Horn, Columbia River.

70                      Cape Horn, Columbia River.

71                      View of Columbia River from Block House, Upper Cascades.

72                      Gibraltar, Columbia River, 12 miles below The Dalles.

73                      Hallett’s Hades, midway Gibraltar Rock.

74                      Cape of Good Hope, lower end of Gibraltar Rock.

75                      East End of Tunnel No. 1, O. R. & N. Co.

76                      West End of Tunnel No. 1, O. R. & N. Co.

77                      Upper Cascades, Columbia River, from Espy’s painting.

78                      Spokane Falls, W. T.

79                      Spokane Falls, W. T.

80                      Spokane Falls and the town.

81                      Barrel and Pitcher Rocks, Spokane river, 5 miles below the falls.

82                      Fort Coeur d’Alene, showing Officers’ Quarters from West Side.

83                      Bird’s Eye view of Fort Coeur d’Alene and the lake, Idaho.

84                      U. S. Steam Launch “Amelia B. Wheaton,” Ft. Coeur d’Alene, I. T.

85                      Guard Mount, Fort Coeur d’Alene, I. T.

86                      Battalion, Fort Coeur d’Alene, I. T.

87                      Clark’s Fork Crossing, three miles above its mouth, N. P. R. R.

88                      North Cabinet, N. P. R. R.

89                      South Cabinet, N. P. R. R.

90                      Big Rock Cut, one mile above Cabinet, N. P. R. R.

91                      View from the Cabinet Rapids down Clark’s Fork, Columbia River.

92                      View at lower end of Cabinet Rapids, Clark’s Fork.

93                      Cabinet Gorge, Clark’s River, looking up stream.

94                      Cabinet Gorge, Clark’s River, looking down stream.

95                      Looking out up stream from Cabinet Gorge.

96                      Head of Cabinet Rapids

97                      Big Grade, N. P. R. R., at head of Cabinet Rapids.

98                      Elk Creek Camp on N. P. R. R.

99                      Grading on Big Bluff, 3 miles above Heron’s Rapids, Clark’s Fork.

100                    Fort Stevens, Oregon, – Officers’ Quarters.

101                    Light Battery, Fort Stevens, Oregon.

101                    Cape Disappointment from North Buoy.

102                    Battery I, 1st Artillery, Fort Stevens, Oregon.

102                    Cape Disappointment from bar Buoy.

103                    Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment from the Columbia River Bar

104                    North Head from Middle Head.

105                    Cape Disappointment from Middle Head.

106                    General view of Fort Canby, showing Middle Head.

107                    Rooster Rock, Columbia River, from O. R. & N.

108                    Latourell Galls near Rooster Rock.

109                    Twin Rocks, O. R. & N. R. R.

110                    Rooster Rocks, view from the river.

111                    Sandy Bridge, O. R. & N. R. R.

112                    Upper Cascades, Columbia River, in winter

113                    Seattle, W. T.

113                    LaConner, W. T.

120                    Lower Cascades, Columbia River

124                    Cape Disappointment from Columbia River Bar

133                    Portland from Robinson’s Hill. General View.

234                    Muir’s Glacier, Alaska (“234-238 inclusive are sectional views from                                 the front”)

235                    ”

236                    ”

237                    ”

238                    ”

Employee Listings

James G. Crawford 1883-1885

Buchtel, Samuel, photographer for I G Davidson 1883

Dowe, O. S. retoucher 1880

Foor, George W. photographer 1888.

Jackson, A. L., Mrs, colorist for I G. Davidson, Portland, 1884

Jackson, Albert L., photographer I. G. Davidson, Portland, 1885

Jackson, Albert L, manager for I G Davidson (Tacoma) 1886-1887

Severance, Asel E., photographer for I G Davidson 1882-1883

Short, Charles W., printer for I G Davidson 1888

Wulzen, Albert, photographer

Directory Listings

1872 and before not listed

1874 SD pg. 170 “Davidson, Isaac G., printer for Geo. H. Himes, res e s Front bet Sherman and Caruthers”

1875 PD pg. 74 “Davidson, I. G., printer, res Front bet Lincoln and Grant”

1875 SD pg. 177 “Davidson, I. G., bookkeeper for Geo. H. Himes, res n w cor Grant and Front” (ed note: Himes later became the president of the Oregon Historical Society)

1876 WD pg. 74 “Davidson, J (sic). G., book-keeper, res Front bet Lincoln and Grant”

1877 PD pg. 83 “Davidson, I. G., accountant res e s First bet Hall and Lincoln”

1878 Pacific pg. 220 Portland “Davidson Bros., photographers, 135 First”

1878 PD pg. 83 “Davidson Bros., photographers, s w cor First and Yamhill”; “Davidson, J. (sic) G., D, Bros., res s w cor First and Yamhill”

1879 PD pg. 92 “Davidson Bros., photographers, cor First and Yamhill”; “Davidson, J. (sic) G., (D. Bros) res cor First and Yamhill”

1880 PD pg. 108 Davidson, I. G., photographer, cor. Yamhill and First, res 16 s First”

1881 Ore pg. 257 Portland “Davidson, I. G., photographer, s w cor First and Yamhill sts, res 165 1st bet Hall and Lincoln” also pg. 21 same info.

1881 PD pg. 116 “Davidson, I. G., Photographer, First and Yamhill, res 16 S. First near Hall”

1882 PD pg. 154 “Davidson, I. G., photographer, 181 First s w cor Yamhill, res 34 Caruthers s e cor Second”

1883 PD pg. 116 “Davidson, I. G. photographer, cor First and Yamhill, res 34 Caruther’s”

1884 POWI pg. 266 Portland “Davidson, Isaac G., photographer, 181 First cor Yamhill”

1884 GD pg. 120 “Davidson, I. G., photographer, gallery; 181 First, cor Yamhill, res n e cor Front and Hooker”

1885 PCD pg. 166 “Davidson, Isaac G, photographer, 151 1st, res n e cor Front and Hooker”

1886 POWI pg. 652 Tacoma WA “Davidson, I G, photographer, A L Jackson, mngr”

1886 PCD pg. 180 “Davidson, Isaac G, photographer, 151 1st, res n e cor Front and Hooker”

1887 PCD pg. 187 “Davidson, Isaac G, photographer, 151 1st, res n e cor Front and Hooker”

1888 POWI pg. 383 Portland “Davidson, Isaac G., photographer, 125 1st” pg. 840, Tacoma, WA”Davidson, I.G., photographer 113 So. 10th”

1888 PCD pg. 214″Davidson, Isaac G, photographer, 151 1st, res n e cor Front and Hooker”

1889 POWI pg. 848 Tacoma “Davidson, Isaac G, photographer, 113 S. 10th.”

1889 PCD pg. 217 “Davidson, Isaac G, photographer, res 447 H”

1890 PCD pg. 208 “Davidson, Isaac G, real estate, 92 2d res 109 13th”

1890 Tacoma Directory: I. G. Davidson, 117 S. 10th

1891 POWI pg. 443 Portland “Davidson, Isaac G., real estate and photographer, 3rd and Alder”, pg. 1136, Tacoma, WA “Davidson, I.G., photographer 113 So. 10th”

1891 PCD pg. 253 “Davidson, Isaac G, real estate and photographer 92 2d, res 293 Montgomery”

1891 Tacoma Directory: I. G. Davidson, 115 S. 10th

1892 PCD pg. 367 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est and and photographer 132 1/2 3d, res 493 Montgomery”

1893 PCD pg. 345 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est and and photographer 132 1/2 3d, res 493 Montgomery”

1894 PCD pg. 283 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est and and photographer 132 1/2 3d, res 493 Montgomery”

1895 PCD pg. 255 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est and and photographer 132 1/2 3d, res 493 Montgomery”

1896 PCD pg. 240 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est 272 1/2 Stark, res 493 Montgomery”

1897 PCD pg. 235 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est 272 1/2 Stark, res 493 Montgomery”

1898 PCD pg. 241 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est 272 1/2 Stark, res 493 Montgomery”

1899 PCD pg. 249 “Davidson, Isaac G, real est 272 1/2 Stark, res 493 Montgomery”

1900 PCD pg. 257 “Davidson, Isaac G, Pres Davidson, Ward & Co, res 493 Montgomery”; “Davidson, Ward & Co, I G Davidson, Pres, M P Ward Sec, Real Est, Loans and Mining, 408 Cham of Com”

1901 PCD pg. 237 “Davidson, Isaac G, pres Davidson, Ward & Co, res 493 Montgomery”; “Davidson, Ward & Co, I G Davidson pres, Milo P Ward sec, real est 408 Cham of Com.”

1903 PCD pg. 287 “Davidson, Isaac G, pres Davidson, Ward & Co, res 493 Montgomery”; “Davidson, Ward & Co, I G Davidson pres, Milo P Ward sec, real estate 406-408 Cham of Com.”

1904 PCD pg. 321 “Davidson, Isaac G pres Davidson Ward & Co res 493 Montgomery” pg. 321 “Davidson Ward & Co, Isaac G Davidson pres; Milo P Ward sec real est 408 Cham of Comm”

1905 PCD pg. 344 “Davidson, Isaac G, pres Davidson, Ward & Co, res 493 Montgomery”; “Davidson, Ward & Co, I G Davidson pres, Milo P Ward sec, real est and mining 408 Cham of Com.”

1906 PCD pg. 321 “Davidson, Ward & Co., Isaac G. Davidson, pres, Milo P Ward, sec, reas est 408 Cham of Comm.”, “Davidson, Isaac G., pres Davidson, Ward & Co., res 493 Montgomery”

Listed in Real Estate through 1921

Mautz Oregon “Davidson Bros, 1878-1890, Portland”, “Davidson, I. G., 1875-1900, Portland”

Directory Listings for J. S. Davidson

1875 SD pg. 177 “Davidson, J., assistant to Oliver Dennie, res n w cor Grant and Front”

1875 PD not listed

1876 WD pg. 74 “Davidson, J. S., Shuster & D., rms s w cor First and Yamhill”; pg. 154 “Shuster & Davidson, photographers, s w cor First and Yamhill”; “Shuser, H. S., S. & Davidson, bds cor Fifth and Alder”

1877 PD pg. 155 “Shuster, H. S., S. & Davidson, photo gallery, First bet Yamhill and Talor, res n w cor Fifth and Washington”

1878 PD pg. 83 “Davidson Bros., photographers, s w cor First and Yamhill”; “Davidson, John S., D. Bros., res s w cor First and Yamhill” Davidson Bros

1879 PD pg. 92 “Davidson Bros., photographers, cor First and Yamhill”; “Davidson, J. S., (D. Bros) res cor First and Yamhill”

1880-1881 not listed

1882 PD pg. 154 “Davidson, J. S., photographer with I. G. Davidson, res Second w s bet Yamhill and Morrison”

1883 PD pg. 116 “Davidson, J. S., photographer and retoucher with I. G. Davidson, res cor Third and Ash”

1884 GD pg. 120 “Davidson, J. S., retoucher I. G. Davidson, res Third bet Ash and Pine”

1885-1886 PCD not listed

1887 PCD pg. 187 “Davidson, John S, operator I G Davidson, res cor 3d and Morrison”

1888 PCD pg. 214 “Davidson, John S, photog I G Davidson, rms Vacuna House”

1889 PCD pg. 217 “Davidson, John S, photographer, rms 3d bet Morrison & Alder”

1890 PCD pg. 208 “Davidson, John S, photographer, rms 153 1/2 3d”

1891 PCD pg. 253 “Davidson, John S. photogr G W Davies, res 153 1/2 3d”

1892 PCD pg. 367 “Davidson, John S, retoucher G W Davies, bds 170 1/2 3d”

1893 PCD pg. 345 “Davidson, John S., re-toucher G W Davies, res 170 1/2 3d”

1894 PCD pg. 283 “Davidson, John, retoucher George Davies, res 170 1/2 3d”

1895 PCD not listed

Photographer’s Imprints


“J. Davidson, Photographic Artist, Taken at the Cottage Wagon.” printed label glued on back of 3×4” (trimmed on long dimension) mount with albumen print.

OVERPRINT: “Excelsior Art Gallery. Shuster & Davidson, Cor. First and Yamhill Sts. Successors to Shuster and Dennie, Portland, Ogn” CDV printed back, ms date 1876, which may not be reliable. (OHS study collection of CDVs)


OVERPRINT: “Davidson Brothers, Successors to Shuster & Davidson, Cor. 1st & Yamhill, Portland, Oregon…” (OHS study collection of CDVs)


“I. G. Davidson, 125 First Street, Opposite First National Bank, Portland Oregon” c.1888-1889 boudoir, imprinted on front.

“I. G. Davidson, 151 First St. Over Skidmore’s Drug Store, Portland Oregon” c.1885-1886 boudoir, imprinted on front.

“I. G. Davidson, 125 First Street, Portland Oregon, and Over W. U. Telegraph Office, Tacoma, W. T.” early large mount, imprinted on front.

“I. G. Davidson, Portrait and Landscape Photographer, Over Post Office, Tacoma, W. T. Photographs of all Sizes – the Latest and Best Styles. The largest List of the Best Landscape Views of the Pacific Northwest. Pictures Copied and Enlarged in India Ink or Water Colors. Portland, Oregon Established 1875. Tacoma, Wash. Ter. Established 1885.”

“Davidson Photo” cabinet card imprinted front, “The negative of this picture is preserved. When an extra dozen is wanted address: I. G. Davidson, Photographer, Cor. First and Yamhill Sts. Portland, Oregon” ms date Jan 17, 1887 Hillsboro.(tr)

“I. G. Davidson, Photo. Portland, Oregon. Views made of City and Country Residences, Live Stock, Machinery, Furniture, Etc.” on front of stereo card, on back “View from Real Life in the Coast Range Mountains, Oregon. Hunting Camp of D. K. Hickok, of Vermont. (Copyright, 1880, by D. K. Hickok)” (OHS #4371)

News Items and Advertisements

1875: “Photography. The very finest photographs are now taken at the new firm of Shuster and Dennie, who have just refitted their rooms, corner of First and Yamhill.” Oregonian 3 March – 29 March 1875

1875: “Shuster and Davidson are producing some excellent work at their photograph gallery. Observe the display made in front of their rooms.” Oregonian 4 September 1875 pg. 3, col. 4.

1875: “If you wish to get a fine picture taken call on Shuster & Davidson, First Class Artists, corner First and Yamhill” The Portland Bee, 2 November 1875

1876: “Something New Under The Sun. Photographs! Photographs! Shuster & Davidson’s patent method of Taking Photographs. Corner First and Yamhill Sts.” The Daily Bee, (Portland) 2 November 1875 – 5 May 1876.

1875: account of the Riggs family reunion “Mr. and Mrs. I. G. Davidson, married June 26, 1870, with three children, Wa. G, George L, and another boy a year old, for whom a name good enough has not yet been found, born April 9, 1891, Jan. 1, 1873, and Oct. 28, 1874, respectively…

Isaac G. Davidson was born in Schuyler county, Illinois, April 23, 1845. He removed to Oregon with his parents in 1850, and settled in what is now East Portland. From thence his family went to Monmouth, Polk County, in 1855, and in 1866 to Josephine county. For the next few years he followed the occupation of farming and school teaching, and in December, 1873, he returned to Portland, since which time he has been engaged with George H. Himes as accountant and general workman.” The Portland Bee, 28 December 1875, pg. 3, col. 2.

1876: “LOOK OUT! QUEER THINGS MAY HAPPEN UNLESS YOU GO TO Shuster & Davidson’s, cor. First and Yamhill Streets, for your Photographs.” The Daily Bee, (Portland) 23 June – 1 July 1876

1876: “Go to the PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY of Shuster & Davidson for Good Pictures at Low Rates. Cor First and Yamhill Streets, Portland, Ore.”Daily Bee, (Portland) 25 October and before – 22 December 1876 (last)

1877: “PHOTOGRAPHY – The undersigned respectfully announce to the public that we will continue the business of Photography, heretofore conducted by Shuster & Davidson, at the same place, and under the firm name of Davidson Brothers. We have engaged the services of Mr. H. S. Shuster as operator for a short time, and feel confident of pleasing those who may give us their patronage. I. G. Davidson, J. S. Davidson, Portland, Feb. 14, 1877” Oregonian, 15 February 1877, pg. 2, col. 3

1877: “For Photographs of the finest quality go to Davidson Bros., successors to Shuster & Davidson, corner First and Yamhill streets, Portland, Oregon.” The New Northwest, (Portland) 2 March 1877 pg. 3 col. 5 (regular insertion, other issues not checked)

1877: “DAVIDSON BROTHERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, Cor. First and Yamhill sts. Have greatly improved their Facilities for doing Good Work. Their stock of patience and good nature is immense; and the Pictures they take cannot be excelled in the State.” Daily Bee, (Portland) 27 April 1877 – 18 May 1877

1877: “DAVIDSON BROTHERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, Cor. First and Yamhill sts.” Daily Bee, (Portland) 19 May 1877 – 28 May 1877.

1878: “Photographs of all sizes and at very low prices can be had at Davidson Brothers. They are determined to do business in such a manner that they can remain permanently in the city of Portland and get their share of the trade.” The new Northwest, April 19, 1878, pg. 3, col. 1.

1878: “The Palace Photograph Gallery, opposite the Post Office, makes 36 gem pictures for 50 cents; 12 double gems, 75 cents; 12 Album size, $2; 12 cabinets,$4 50; 1, 8×10, $1 50; 1, 10×12, $2 50. Old and new pictures copied and enlarged.” Daily Standard, (Portland) 13 July 1878

1878: “There is nothing so nice to beautify home with as pictures, just such as Gilman & Davidson, at the Palace Photograph Gallery, furnishes. Visitors are always welcome” Daily Standard, (Portland) 13 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 3.

1878: “In spite of the adverse newspaper criticism, it is said that The Crushed Tragedian is holding its own at the London Haymarket Theater. So does Gillman & Davidson hold their own opposite the Post Office.” Daily Standard, (Portland) 14 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 1.

1878: “At the Palace photograph gallery opposite the Post Office you can get three dozen pictures taken in one second for the small sum of 50 cents. Step in and examine the pictures, you are always welcome.” Daily Standard, (Portland) 16 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 1.

1878: “Yesterday the ladies were out in full bloom and many visited the Palace photograph gallery opposite the Post Office, and had their pictures taken. The art of Messrs. Gilman & Davidson is appreciated.” Daily Standard, (Portland) 18 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 1.

1878: “Yesterday was a day gotten up especially for proud mothers. They took their little ones to the Palace Photograph Gallery, opposite the Post Office and had their pictures taken. Arrangements have been made for similar sunshine to-day.” Daily Standard, (Portland) 19 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 1.

1878: “Kimball, the church debt raiser, has cleared thirty-seven churches of mortgages … Call on Davidson Brothers and see his photograph.” Daily Standard, (Portland) 13 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 3.

1878: “For elegant photos or cabinet size pictures, visit the gallery of Davidson Brothers, on First street, near Taylor. They are the most popular artists in the city” Daily Standard, (Portland) 16 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 1.

1878: “The handsomest photograph establishment in the city is that of Davidson Brothers on First street near Taylor. Just tarry a moment and see the grand display of pictures, taken in all of the latest styles.”Daily Standard, (Portland) 18 July 1878 pg. 3 col 1

1878: “Davidson Brothers, the princes of photographers, were rushed yesterday to their hearts’ content. The magnificent parlors were crowded all day long, and the number of negatives taken were great, and all in first class style.” Daily Standard, (Portland) 19 July 1878 pg. 3 col. 1.

1878: “The Palace gallery, in front of the Post Office, beats them all. How is this for a price list: Gems, 36 for 50 cents; gems, double, 12 for 75 cents, ninths, 12 for $1.25; cards, 12 for $2.00; cabinets 12 for $4.50; 8×10 each $1.50; 10×13 each $2.50. Special attention given to copying and enlarging old and new pictures.” Daily Bee, (Portland) 26 July 1878, pg. 3, col. 5.

1878: “PORTLAND VIEWS.- There have been on exhibition in various show windows throughout the city, for the past few days, photographic views of various points of interest, the elegance and finish of which, together with the local nature has made them an object of admiration by all lovers of art. They include a panoramic view of the entire city, various dwellings and business houses; Some exterior and interior views of Hon. Henry Failing’s elegant home on Fifth street, the U. S. Custom House, Central school building, view of First street from Morrison looking north, interior view of B. L. Stone’s magnificent jewelry establishment, the steamship Great Republic on Swan Island bar and other points of interest give indications of artistic skill second to none in this State. The artist is A. H. Wulzen, Esq, formerly in the employ of C. E. Watkinds (sic), of San Francisco, but now under engagement to the enterprising photographic house of Davidson Bros., of this city, who have employed him for this especial purpose. The views are taking like hot cakes, giving as they do, a correct idea of what Portland really is.” Daily Bee, (Portland) 26 August 1878, pg. 3, col. 2. (The panorama was actually taken from the roof of Central School -ed)

1878: “A Handsome Picture. To the Messrs. Davidson, the favorably known artists, we return thanks for an elegant photograph of First street, splendidly executed. It is a fine picture and worth preserving.” Daily Bee, (Portland) 6 September 1878, pg. 3, col. 1 (this picture is in Wulzen’s album at the Oregon Historical Society -ed)

1878: “Big Reduction! in prices of Photographs. Card size, per dozen – $1.50, Cabinets – $3.00, The Landscape, Exterior and Interior Views that we make are unequaled in the state. Davidson Brothers Corner First and Yamhill streets Portland Oregon.” Salem Daily Record, 24 September 1878 pg. 2 col. 2 (regular insertion)

1878: “Davidson Brothers, of Portland, Oregon, are leading in the Photographic business, and have reduced the price of card photos to $1 50 and cabinets to $3 per dozen. Their landscapes, exterior and interior views excel everything.” East Oregonian, (Pendleton) 5 Oct 1878 pg. 4 col. 4 (regular insertion, tracked through 22 October 1878)

1878: “The excellent photo work that Davidson Brothers are turning out proves that while they have much the lowest prices, they do not intend the quality of their pictures to be excelled. They make cards for $1.30, and cabinets for $3.00 per dozen.” Oregonian, 18 October 1878, pg. 3, col. 4.

1879: “An Oasis in the Desert. The Bee says; ‘It is a relief to glance an an honest mans picture, that of Hon. L. L. Rowland, late state superintendent of public instructions. This photograph, life-like and natural, taken by Davidson Bros., may be seen in the window of Morse’s palace. According to the report of the investigating committee, Mr. Rowland is the only honest member of the late defunct and dishonest state administration, an ‘oasis of in the desert’ of fraud, embezzlement an corruption, there was one honest man, and he a Simon-pure, solid republican (sic)” The Daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1876-1883, January 15, 1879, pg. 3, col. 3.

1879: “Jury List… subject to service during the year… Multnomah County… Davidson, J. G. (sic), Portland, photographer” Daily Bee, (Portland) 21 January 1879, pg. 3, col. 5.

1879: “Photo work made for $1 per dozen less at Davidson Bros. than any other gallery north of San Francisco, and the work just as good when not better.” Oregonian, 17 February 1879 advertisement

1879: “Jury List…State Circuit Court…J(sic). G. Davidson, Portland, photographer…” Daily Standard, (Portland) 21 May 1879 pg. 3 col. 2

1879: “I. G. Davidson does not mislead the public by giving out worthless cards, promising to make $6 worth of photo work for $5, but simply charges $2.50 per doz for cards and $5 for cabinets.” Oregonian, 9 October 1879, pg. 3, col. 2.

1880: “Davidson, photographer, has reduced the price of his cabinet views of the public schools from 50 cents to 25 cents each, in order that every scholar, teacher, and parent may afford them to send to friends. Leave orders at the gallery, corner First and Yamhill” (ad not tracked yet) Oregonian, 22 October 1880

1881: “I. G. DAVIDSON. Every part of Oregon can show specimens of the good work of this Photographer. Southwest corner First and Yamhill sts.” Bynon, A. A., compiler, Oregon State Directory 1881, Portland; J. K. Gill & Co. 1881 pg. 21.

1881: “Davidson, photographer, of this city, believes in making good work on small profits, so as to come within reach of the general public.This partly accounts for his immense photo trade. His gallery is one-half block further up town than any other, corner Front and Yamhill streets.” Oregonian, 7 October 1881, pg. 3, col. 1 one day only.

1881: report of Mechanics Fair in Portland “DAVIDSON the photographer, has gotten up an immense number of views, which include selections from the most attractive on the Willamette, the Columbia as far as the Snake at Cour d’ Alene, Spokane falls and Vancouver. In Portland alone he has taken a host and at Forest Grove the camera has been brought into play in several ways. We have mentioned but few of the views taken by this artist, and each and every one has its interesting feature. Visitors to the city are only too glad toto find views of the country and Davidson is filling their wants as far as it is possible to do so. Every week he adds to the collection. The exhibit in the art gallery is worthy of universal attention.” Oregonian, 19 October 1881, pg. 3, col. 2.

1881: “Premiums awarded at Portland Mechanics Fair, which Closed Saturday Evening. … Bronze Medals … I. G. Davidson, Oregon photograph landscape scenery …” Oregonian, 31 October 1881, pg. 3, col. 3.

1881: “Davidson’s views of Portland, Indian Training School, Columbia river, Spokane Falls, etc, make the finest of presents to Eastern friends. Send orders early, as he is already pressed to print fast enough.” Oregonian, 24 November – 28 November 1881.

1881″ A full set of Davidson’s views of Oregon and Columbia river scenery makes a fine present to eastern friends. His cabinet and boudoir photos are unexcelled in the city.” Oregonian, 29 November – 9 December 1881

1881: “Davidson’s new sky-light is the ‘Bees’ these dark days. His customers do not fail to get good negatives and finely finished photographs.” Oregonian, 10 December 1881 – 22 December 1881.

1882: “The views of Oregon and Columbia river scenery made by Davidson, photographer, attract much attention and are in great demand. His gallery, corner First and Yamhill, Portland, is a busy place.” Oregonian, 15 June 1882 – 31 July 1882.

1882: “Send for list of Davidson’s views of the Pacific Northwest. Address I. G. Davidson, Photographer, Portland Oregon.” Oregonian, 1 Nov 1882 pg. 3 col. 2.

1882: “It’s a mistake. Davidson, the photographer, has no idea of moving his gallery from corner First and Yamhill street. He will soon have more room and better facilities than ever for good work.” Oregonian, 15 November 1882.

1883: “I. G. Davidson, Photographer, At the old corner. First and Yamhill Streets, Portland.” The Northwest News (Portland) 15 January 1883 (first appearance of ad, further issues not checked)

1884: “I. G. Davidson Photographer Corner First and Yamhill Streets, Portland Oregon” (regular insertion) The Columbian, (St. Helen, Columbia County OR) 6 June 1884 pg. 3 col. 3.

1887: “Mr. and Mrs. E. B. Davidson, from Applegate, Josephine county, pioneers of 1851, and original owners of the land claim northwest of Mount Tabor, now chiefly owned by Mr. Ladd, and upon which his deep well is situated, were recently in the city, visiting their son, I. G. Davidson. They spent the winter at Monmouth, Polk county.” Oregonian, 17 April 1887, pg. 3, col. 3.

1897: list of Oregon pioneers in attendance at reunion and parade in Portland, “1850… I. G. Davidson …” Weekly Oregonian, 18 June, 1897, pg. 4, col. 5

1922: “PIONEER OF OREGON DEAD, I. G. DAVIDSON, REALTOR, CAME TO NORTHWEST IN 1850. Part of Donation Claim Entered by Father Now Included in Laurelhurst Addition. I. G. Davidson, prominent Portland resident, who died last Tuesday, was one of the pioneers of the Oregon Country, having crossed the plains to this state with his parents in 1850. He was well known throughout the state and pursued successively the vocations of teacher, accountant, photographer, and realtor.

Mr. Davidson was born in Warren county, Ill, April 23, 1845. After coming to Oregon his family spent the winter in the vicinity of Milwaukie. In the spring of 1857 his father took a donation claim east of Portland a few miles, the west portion of it now being included in the Laurelhurst addition. In 1855 he sold this and removed to the vicinity of Independence, in Polk county, with his family.

The son, familiarly known as ‘I. G.’ was largely educated at Christian college (now the state normal) and at Willamette university.

Funeral services for Mr. Davidson were held Friday at Finley’s chapel. Final services were at the Portland crematorium” Oregonian, 26 Feb 1922 sec. 1 pg. 14

1927 biography of O. C. Yocum: “… I went to Portland in 1880 and went to work for I.G. Davidson, the photographer, at First and Yamhill streets. After working in his gallery five years I started a gallery of my own on the East Side…” Oregon Journal 3 July 1927, sec. 1, pg. 6, col. 6-7. (quoted fully under Yocum in this book)

News Items pertaining to the mobile photography division.

1878: “The Palace Photograph Gallery, which has arrived and set up just below the Stine House, (brick building on Main street) Walla Walla is already doing an immence business. And no wonder, for it turns out the best pictures ever made in this country — at extremely low prices — 36 gems only 75 cents; card size, $1.75 per dozen.” Walla Walla Statesman, (Walla Walla, WA) 7 September 1878 pg. 3 col. 2 (courtesy Michael Cirelli)

1878: “On account of the immence rush to the Palace Photograph Gallery, below the Stine House, it will remain a few days longer. All that want good pictures, at such low prices, should not wait until it is everlastingly too late.” Walla Walla Statesman, (Walla Walla, WA) 12 October 1878 pg. 1 col. 3 (courtesy Michael Cirelli)

1880: “The Palace Photograph Gallery – branch of Davidson’s, Portland, – has arrived in Dallas and located over Mrs. Meyer’s millinery store, on Main street, to remain but a few weeks only. Owing to the great success of this, my branch gallery, at Walla Walla, The Dalles, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, McMinnville, Corvallis, etc., it is with the fullest confidence that I assure the citizens of Dallas and vicinity that they can now get photo work to please them. Mr. Severance, the operator in charge, has been associated with me for the past eighteen months, and has my full confidence in his ability as a photographer, and all will find him gentlemanly and brim full of patience for nervous mothers and the babies. All the work will be finished at the home gallery in Portland in the latest and best manner, at only $5 per dozen for cabinets and $3 per dozen for cards. Will also make all sizes of gems or tin-type pictures on short notice, and especially do I want to get orders for copying or enlarging your old pictures, which you will find much safer to entrust to our care than to irresponsible canvassers, who may or may not give you first class work nor return the original pictures. Please call and be convinced. Respectfully, I. G. Davidson, Photographer, Portland, Oregon” (above insertion also appeared 10 Sept 1880) same paper pg. 3 col. 1 “Go to Davidson’s gallery and have your pictures taken. A good opportunity is here offered our citizens to get first-class work at home.” Polk County Itemizer, (Dallas) 3 Sept 1880 pg. 3 col. 6

1890: ” Mr. Grundy Davidson, the popular Portland photographer, was visiting among relatives in Monmouth the forepart of this week. Mr. D. spent his early life in this community, but of late years has been identified with Portland.” The Independence west side, November 21, 1890, pg. 3, col. 2.


Wedding Announcement (Alva G. Davidson, son of I. G. Davidson, to Eva Eldridge Barnett, 7 August 1900) “Mr. and Mrs. D. J. Barnett request your presence at the marriage of their daughter Eva Eldridge to Mr. Alva G. Davidson, Tuesday evening, August seventh, nineteen hundred, at half past eight o’clock, at their residence, 188 north Eleventh street, Portland, Oregon” (courtesy Stanley Hess, of I. G. Davidson’s family)

Lockley, Fred: “The Story of Albany’s Pioneer Photographer”, Albany Democrat, 6 July 1924 (biography of J. G. Crawford) “.. In 1889 we moved back to Portland and I worked a couple of years for I. G. Davidson. In the winters I worked in the Portland gallery, and during the summers I ran his branch gallery in McMinnville…” (courtesy Eric Gustafson)

Brown, Robert O., Nineteenth Century Portland, Oregon Photographers: A Collector’s Handbook (author; Portland, 1991) pg. 26-27, 58-59

Oregon Journal, 26 June 1949, Magazine pg. 9 review of early Oregon photographers, says about Davidson “whose field of work was a part-time enterprise of the late 1870s and early 1880s… He pictured the beauties of the Columbia River and the surrounding region, but gave equal attention to the pictorial aspects of the growing towns, western military installations, and the Forest Grove Indian School. His work was bold, clear, and well composed”

Goodman, Theodosia, “Early Oregon Daguerreotypers and Portrait Photographers”, Oregon Historical Quarterly, (Portland; Oregon Historical Society) Vol. 49, No. 1, March 1948, pg. 44.

  1. O. Lang, History of the Willamette Valley pg. 714 (noted by John Horn) Son of Elijah B Davidson, born Warren County Illinois 1845. Has been photographer since ca. 1880. Best scenic photographer in state. Married Sarah O. Riggs of Salem 1869, she died 1883.

Hines, Harvey, An Illustrated History of The State Of Oregon, Chicago; Lewis Publishing Co, 1893 pg. 736-737 (James G. Crawford biography) “…until 1883 he conducted a gallery in Harrisburg. In order to get the benefit of new ideas, and to further perfect himself in his chosen art, he went to Portland, and was employed in the gallery of I. G. Davidson until 1885. Returning to Albany…”

Nolan, Edward W. “Not Without Labor and Expense”, Montana, (Helena; Montana Historical Society) Vol. 33, No. 3, Summer 1983, pg. 3-11, Account of N. P. R. R. last spike ceremony at Gold Creek, Montana Territory, 8 September 1883. Summary: many photographers were present at the last spike ceremony, but no photographs were made of the actual event due to the fading light and the inability to get cameras close enough. Present was a crew from I. G. Davidson of Portland, as well as other photographers including Haynes, Rutter, etc. These photographers did make views of the speeches and other aspects of the event. This article quotes the New-Northwest (Deer Lodge MT) 14 September 1883 “The photographers were out in full force Saturday. Cameras were as plentiful as locomotives, and ‘dry plates’ were almost as numerous as dry palates. A Portland firm had a machine as large as a dry goods box up on a platform that suggested a Sioux burying ground…”. illustrated in article is Davidson view of excursion train on its way to the ceremony.