Ericson Photograph Collection

Biography

Augustus William Ericson (1848-1927) was born in Orebro, Sweden. At age eleven he started a printing apprenticeship, the same business his father was in, and later had an apprenticeship in the dry goods business. When he was eighteen Ericson, without his parent's approval, left Sweden and came to the United States. He first took a job in Chicago and then found work in a logging operation in Michigan.

A.W. (Gus) Ericson took up photography in about 1879 after he had lived in Humboldt County for nine years. From 1869-1876 he lived in Trinidad while working in the Hooper Brothers lumbering enterprise and then in a retail store. Ericson's logging and mill experience gave him a familiarity with the industry that worked to his advantage when he later photographed woods workers, timberlands, and logging technology.

In 1876 he settled in Arcata and started a career as the proprietor of a series of retail businesses. The nature of products and services he marketed changed over the years; first it was pharmaceutical and stationery, later it was a printing service, and eventually it was solely photography. Family members joined the ventures. His brother Richard Ericson (1843-1924) joined A.W. upon his arrival from Sweden in 1882. Later Augustus' son, Edgar, (1887-1961) joined the business. As Ericson entered retirement Edgar and his sister, Ella Ericson Bryan, took over the business and maintained the Ericson and Company until 1955.

The publication Eureka and Humboldt County by the R.M. Thompson & Co., published around 1896 notes, on page 89, that Richard was also considered a photographer. Newspaper accounts in the Arcata Union during 1908 begin mentioning that Ed (Edgar) was also taking photographs. Earlier accounts noted that Ed accompanied his father on photo taking excursions and later accounts continue noting that Ed was taking photographs. Although Richard and Edgar did take photographs A.W. is the one credited with the vast majority of the images taken outside the studio and as the one with the artistic talent.

Ericson's work was widely published and appreciated during his lifetime. His images of industries, agriculture, and businesses were used for fairs and expositions, schoolbooks, literary publications, and civic promotional purposes.

Ericson photography is the subject of two books authored by photohistorian Peter Palmquist. Extensive biographical information and northwest California cultural information putting Ericson's work in historical context is available in each, especially Photographers of the Humboldt Bay Region, A.W. Ericson. These works have provided most of the information for this brief biographical note and researchers will find considerable information by consulting these sources.

Edith Butler, MA, C.A.

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Last Updated: September 13, 2001
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