This is a work in progress to compile as comprehensive as possible a listing numbers and titles of individual George Rothrock stereographs of Arizona. Each listing will include a brief biographical overview, in addition to the checklist of stereoviews complied to date.
George H. Rothrock was the eldest child of German emigrants George Rothrock and Louisa Frisch who had settled in Jefferson City Missouri. Born March 31, 1843, George spoke both German and English. When Gold Fever hit in 1849, Rothrock’s father headed west to California. His first trip was overland on foot by the southern route through Arizona. The party had all their animals stolen by hostile Indians, but met friendly Pima and Maricopa at the Maricopa Wells stage stop. Likely young George and his two younger sisters heard tales of the Arizona Territory from his father as he traveled back and forth to Missouri over the next five years.
George’s father booked passage to California from New York. After a brief stay in San Francisco the Rothrocks took the riverboat to Sacramento, then traveled on to Marysville, where Rothrock’s father had purchased a ranch.
When he reached eighteen in 1861, George Rothrock left home and took a job as a ranch hand in nearby Colusa, California. After a few months Rothrock caught the “gold fever” and decided to travel eventually arriving in San Francisco.
George heard the government was hiring teamsters to drive from Los Angeles to Yuma, Arizona Territory, so left for Los Angeles on February 1, 1862. Soon after landing, George found teamsters were no longer needed. Rothrock sidetracked into a new career, as a miner. A few years later, after returning to the family ranch Rothrock suffered a tragic accident. He was pulled under the freight wagon carrying their supplies, severely breaking his leg.
While visiting his family, he had his first exposure to photography, taking lessons in wet plate photography from a one-legged Cherokee Flat photographer named Baker (possibly Edward W. Baker of Placerville).
George soon met and formed a partnership with William Houghton. They bought a lot, and built a photographic gallery, which they operated until October 1875. Rothrock next formed a collaboration with another local photographer, William J. Young. Young had operated the first Daguerreian galleries in Susanville, California, and had subsequently operated galleries in California and Idaho, and was interested in visiting the Arizona Territory. After arriving in and finding Yuma in a “depressed mood” the two photographers determined to see and explore other parts of Arizona. They set up their photographic tent in Yuma and produced images including several cabinet views of the dirt streets and adobe buildings comprising the little town on the Colorado River.
Soon the partners moved a few miles upriver to Ehrenberg. They ordered enough additional equipment from San Francisco to have two photographic outfits. Their stock included one tent, two 8” X 10” cameras, lenses and miscellaneous supplies. Rothrock took one outfit and traveled up the Colorado to Fort Mojave where he made stereographs, including one of the new waterworks. While at the fort on the 4th of July, he experienced “the hottest days of my life.”
Young traveled on to Phoenix where he bought lumber and a lot, then built what may have been the first photographic studio in the growing town. Rothrock traveled east by freight wagon from Ft. Mojave to the mining town Mineral Park, where he stayed until October, making stereographs of the emerging town, the mines, and the native population of the area. He then went to Prescott, stopping briefly to make views of the town, and finally to Phoenix where he reunited with Young. The partners decided that they should make a “tour of Arizona in the photo lines” to document the forts, mines and growing communities, to create a body of work that could be sold to take advantage of the future prosperity that Young predicted for Arizona.
Tragically, Young caught a severe cold while working outdoors improving his ranch. Rothrock initially tried to sell the lumber left from Young’s purchase for a photographic studio to raise funds, but could not find a buyer. He eventually used the lumber to build himself the first wooden (as opposed to the usual adobe) house in Phoenix.
Rothrock was determined to complete the photographic tour planned with Young before his untimely death. After settling most of the issues related to Young’s estate he began preparing for the expedition. The first major leg of the trip began in May 1877, as Rothrock traveled from Phoenix through the Pima reservation to Sacaton, Florence, and Camp Lowell outside of Tucson.
Rothrock produced a significant series of stereographs of Arizona during this and later excursions across the territory. The earliest were on 21/2” X 7” green mounts. Later he changed to the larger 3.” X 7” mount size and used orange, and occasionally gray, yellow or buff mounts with printed imprints and manuscript captions. At least 21 variants of color and mount imprint have been identified to date. Though no comprehensive listing exists, projections of caption numbers from extant views identified to date estimate that he produced over 250 individual titles, along with unknown hundreds of cabinet cards and mounted photographs during his 25-year photographic career in Arizona.
Rothrock’s first major stop was Florence, where he made images of the town’s main street and of the nearby Casa Grande ruins. He notes that his tent was used as a playground for the children of Florence “in all stages of smallpox, but none fatal until I left there.”
On March 10, 1877, Rothrock made his first views of the ruins after camping nearby overnight. At the time he found plenty of wood for camping and saw graffiti signatures of early Arizona pioneers Pauline Weaver (1836) and J. Ross Brown (1853). When he returned years later, in 1891, no wood was to be found, and a Mr. John Jones and Mr. William Williams had written over the pioneer names with their own.
Rothrock’s next stop was Fort McDowell, arriving on April 1. He photographed the fort and grounds, as well as the officers, wives, and pioneering women who braved the dangerous times while stationed there. Another stereograph shows a picnic with armed soldiers protecting the group at a temporary camp near the fort with Rothrock’s photographic wagon partially hidden behind a cactus at the right of the image.
Rothrock returned to Phoenix in late April, photographing other large cacti near the head gates of the Arizona Canal and south of Telegraph Pass while en route from the fort. The first leg of his trip had been a success, so he bought a team and wagon and prepared for his larger photographic expedition through the Arizona Territory.
Rothrock left Phoenix again in late May 1877, and traveled back through Sacaton and Florence to Fort Lowell and Rillito near Tucson, finally camping at the San Xavier Mission. There he set up his darkroom behind the altar with the help of the Papago Indians who lived nearby.
The mission was an icon of Arizona, and next to cacti and the Grand Canyon, one of its most popular photographic subjects. Rothrock’s portfolio of stereographs has San Xavier well represented with interior and exterior views of the mission made on this and later trips.
After leaving the Tucson area, Rothrock went on to Fort Grant. Rothrock’s timing was impeccable – arriving in August 1877, the same time that William H. Bonney, also known as “Billy the Kid,” was at the fort. Rothrock met Billy, who soon left for New Mexico after killing his first man, Frank “Windy” Cahill.63
Word of the murder of a mail rider near Fort Bowie drew Rothrock to Apache Pass and Fort Bowie to explore and photograph the area. En route to the fort, he found the wagon of the murdered carrier alongside the road. His stay lasted for three weeks, during which he made images of the fort and grounds, and of the soldiers and scouts in the field.
The Mormon community of Solomonville, which was forming near the Indian settlement of Pueblo Viejo in Graham County, was his next stop. An example of how small the circles were in the West during this time: of the few dozen people in Solomonville, one turned out to be Dan Hughes, a friend of Rothrock’s from Bakersfield.
After a brief stop, Rothrock went on to the newly established San Carlos reservation during the height of the conflict with Geronimo and Chiricahua Apache. There he photographed distribution of food to the Apache on the reservation on “ration day.” He also made individual and group portraits of the scouts and Apache police working out of the reservation, and of many of the important figures on the reservation. He made stereographs of Pinal Apache chief Eskiminzin, a survivor of the infamous Camp Grant Massacre in 1871. Other images from this visit include: portraits of young Chiricahua leader Natchez, and individual scouts such as Es-Kin-Al-Ze, Tsin-Sim-A, Cun-Din-E-Yo, and Yaav-A-Ki-Shi; buildings and dwellings on the reservation; and Indian domestic and farming scenes.
Rothrock paid to have his equipment freighted to Fort Apache that fall. He produced views of the fort and vicinity, and posed impromptu “battle” scenes with scouts in nearby Ruckers Canyon. After a few weeks in the area, Rothrock moved across northern Arizona through St. John’s Sunset crossing, and Pine Springs where he broke a wagon wheel. He finally made it to Fort Verde in the center of the Territory where he explored and photographed the Cliff Dwellings and ruins that were sprinkled throughout the Verde Valley. At Montezuma’s Castle, he built ladders to explore and photograph the site. One testament to how things have changed is that his attempts to photograph the reflections of Montezuma’s Castle in the creek were unsuccessful due to the activity of beavers in the creek, continually rippling the water. Now all that remains is the name, Beaver Creek.
Rothrock also visited Montezuma’s Well, producing images of the ruins and caves within the site, and of the spring from the well that feeds Beaver Creek. On a later trip, Rothrock followed in the footsteps of travelers at Casa Grande and left graffiti advertising his services and photographic gallery in Phoenix. His marks remain to this day on the wall of the lower cave just above the water level.
En route back to Phoenix, George stopped briefly in Prescott. Deferring to the established local photographer Daniel F. Mitchell, Rothrock operated only as an itinerant, making images of the town and region but leaving the rest of the commercial market to Mitchell.
After returning to Phoenix in the fall of 1877, Rothrock built a new photo studio where he lived and worked for several years.
Rothrock became active in local politics and was involved in incorporating the City of Phoenix in 1881. He also sat on the Board of Elections and was recorder of the first City Council meeting. He served one term as a City Council member from the Third Ward67 and was listed in the 1881 Phoenix City Directory as serving a term as a Justice of the Peace.
Another in Rothrock’s series of short-term partners was C.W. Catton. Catton was a year older than Rothrock, born in Canada in 1843.68 Little has surfaced to date other than note of his activity as a photographer in Coffeeville, Kansas, c. 1875.
In the 1880 Census, the two listed their occupation as photographers and shared the same address. Catton operated as a photographer in his own right, but it is not yet known whether he learned from his partner Rothrock, or had already known and practiced the craft elsewhere.
Their partnership appears to have lasted into 1881, when Rothrock is listed in the City Directory with Catton as a “Landscape and Portrait Photographer.” But the collaboration ended soon after, apparently under less than ideal circumstances. A number of extant cabinet and boudoir card mounts have Catton’s name abraded from the mount, likely by Rothrock after the partnership failed. Catton operated on his own in Phoenix, advertising independently of Rothrock, such as in the 1888 city directory. Catton appears to have moved west soon after, working as a photographer in Tacoma, Washington, c. 1891.
During spring of 1881, Rothrock’s old wanderlust again grew beyond his control. He and his new brother-in-law, Will Woods, prepared for a trip back to Fort Apache during another high point in the Chiricahua uprising. They would leave just a few months before Geronimo and his band left the San Carlos reservation again in September, during the final surge of the Apache Wars in Arizona.
Rothrock and brother-in-law Will Woods left Phoenix on June 15th, traveling light in a “spring wagon” and photographing en route through Fort Verde, south and east to Sunflower, up Reno Pass to the Tonto Basin, and along the East Verde River to the Natural Bridge. The partners then went through Pine, Strawberry, and to the top of Baker’s Butte and General Springs through Showlow to Fort Apache.
The two adventurers continued on to Wilcox, then snuck through Dragoon at night. They finally reached Benson, regrouped, and traveled north through Tucson, Florence and finally back to Phoenix.
Rothrock established his photographic studio first at the News Depot, then at Loring’s Bazaar and the Wells Fargo Agency on Washington Street. However, Rothrock continued to travel throughout the Territory, finding events and interesting locations to add to his stereographic portfolio. For example, in 1881 he visited the southeast corner of the Territory and photographed a memorial parade for assassinated President Garfield in Bisbee’s Tombstone Canyon.
Next in the line of serial photographic partners was Charles W. Barnett.74 Fifteen years younger than Rothrock, Barnett was born in San Bernardino, California, on September 29, 1858. The relationship began c. 1882 and lasted for several years. Though the specific role of each partner is unclear, photographic mounts of cartes de visites, cabinet, and boudoir cards, and local newspaper ads, always gave Rothrock top billing, listing the business as “Rothrock & Barnett.” This partnership appeared more stable than Rothrock’s previous efforts and lasted until the early 1890s. Theirs was the premier photographic studio in Phoenix: it produced hundreds of portraits of Arizona pioneers and their families, and documented the ranches and businesses that were starting to flourish as the town grew in the Salt River Valley.
Rothrock was particularly proud of his stereo work, entering it in the Arizona Industrial Exposition of 1884 and winning the First Premium Award in photography. Thereafter he proudly added notice of this award to his stereograph imprints, offering both views from his earlier expeditions and additions from subsequent travels. Interestingly, it appears that Rothrock retained sole ownership of his stereo work, despite his partnership with Barnett. No jointly labeled stereographs have been identified to date.
Like many photographers of the era, Rothrock used advertising to promote sale of his stereographs. Several of his mounts carry the tantalizing note, “A Complete Assortment of Stereoscopic Arizona Scenery Constantly on Hand, Catalog Free,” as well as “circulars” noting the titles available for sale.75
Unfortunately, no copies of the catalog or circulars have been located to date and the companion listing of titles of Rothrock’s stereographs has been compiled from examples found in surveys of private and public collections.
Rothrock continued to add to his photographic portfolio, occasionally revisiting his earlier haunts. Included are cabinet and boudoir cards and stereo images of ruins at Casa Grande, Camp Verde and the Verde Valley, San Carlos, and Montezuma Well and Castle. In addition, he added many of the emerging camps and towns to his portfolio.
In 1891 Rothrock briefly moved his photographic business to Tempe. He continued to explore new photographic technologies, this time using the new hand camera with flexible roll film. Other photographers located in Phoenix, such as Frank Hartwell and Catton, had become competition. Examples of the increasingly competitive atmosphere are images of the winter flood of the Salt River that year. Views of men, posed on the end of the railroad bridge which had been washed out by the flooding, were taken from virtually identical locations and appear on both Hartwell and Rothrock mounts.
The roll film cameras were also popular with amateurs furthering competition. Unfortunately Rothrock “. . . Soon found times too hard to continue on the photo business.” Though it appears that he continued to make photographs, he moved to a ranch northeast of Phoenix where he raised strawberries and Rothrock spent the next 13 years working for the Arizona Canal Company, soon rising into management and eventually running the company.
A group of boudoir photographs of canal construction and clearing the old Hohokam channels may be the last commercial photographs made by Rothrock.
In 1913, Rothrock moved his family to Lehi, on the south bank of the Salt River just north of Mesa, Arizona. In 1920, George H. Rothrock and his wife moved to San Diego, living quietly and relatively unknown until his death on August 17, 1924.
(from Arizona Stereographs 1865-1930 by Jeremy Rowe, 2014)
If you have additional information about photographer George H. Rothrock, examples of stereographs that are not on this list, or variant titles for any of the numbers or captions I would appreciate hearing from you. Ideally, I would like to obtain either a Xerox copy or scan for my files as well.
Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.
Please feel free to use this information but please credit this source and reproduce only with full credit information.
LOCATION: Phoenix, Arizona
DATE: c 1875-90
MOUNT COLOR: orange/pink,
Rothrock Imprint Examples
George H. Rothrock Stereograph Title Listing
(Spellings transcribed from mounts)
1. Water Works, Camp Mojave
4. Birds eye view of Mineral Park, Mohave Co.
6. “Nigger Head”, Mineral Park
19. Hualapai Valley in a Storm
23. Fort Yuma & Ferry
25. Main Street, Phoenix, Ariz.
26. Main Street, Florence
27. Casa Grande
27. Ruins of Casa Grande
28. Sahuaro’s – Giant Cactus
29. Indians Scouting (Ruckers and Indian scouts)
29. (alt.) Scouting (Soldier’s camp near Ft. McDowell)
30. Gila Monster (studio shot)
31. Hualapai Family (itinerant studio portrait)
33. Officers Quarters, Camp McDowell
36. Camp Life in Arizona (19 soldiers & civilians camping, near Ft. McDowell)
38. Arizona Reptiles and Insects (Studio still life)
41. Cactus - Ocotillo
42. Mission San Xavier, (facade) before restoration
43B. San Xavier Mission
44. Quarters, Camp Grant
48. Yuma Belles (itinerant studio portrait)
51. Cu-din-e-yo, Apache Indian (studio portrait)
52. "Es-kun-il-je-ha," Apache Scout
53. Lt. Rucker’s Scouts, Fall Dress
54. Lt. Rucker’s Scouts, Marching Dress
55. Tsin-Sim-A Apache Indian (studio portrait, standing with bow and arrow)
56. Camp Bowie
58. Inspection of Apache Scouts (at Camp Bowie)
59. Apache Indian Skirmish
60. Arizona Shrubbery (studio still life)
61. Ya-Va-Kis-Shi Apache Chief (studio portrait)
63. Gila Canyon
64. Gila Canyon
65. Natches, Chiricahua Chief (at San Carlos)
66. Group of Apaches, San Carlos (8 scouts including Naichez and Anglo scout))
67. Gila Canyon
67. Indian Police, San Carlos
68. Ration Day (probably San Carlos)
69. Black River 70. Aztec Ruins near the Verde
70. Camp Apache (overview from distance) I
71. White River
72. Rocky Canon (overview of military family outing)
74. Aztec Ruins, Camp Verde
75. Aztec Ruins, Camp Verde
75. Aztec Ruins, Camp Verde
77. Beaver Creek and Cave Dwellings
78. Cliff House on Beaver Creek
79. Aztec Ruins at Montezuma Well
80. Cave Dwellings in Montezuma Well
81. Montezuma Well looking East
82. Montezuma Well looking West
83. Outlet to Montezuma Well
84. Aztec Ruins, Oak Creek (Tuzigoot)
85. Ruins of Aztec Mound, Verde Valley
86.Aztec Ruins on Aztec Mound (Verde Valley)
88. Camp Verde (overview)
89. No caption (Apache scouts and Officers in front of quarters, Camp Verde)
91. Moqui Indian (studio portrait)
92. Prescott in 1864, Painting by Miss Dickason
93. Prescott (overview)
95. Prescott in 1878
98. School House, Prescott
100. Ft. Whipple looking S.
101. Fort Whipple
102. Bank of Arizona
103. Gurley Street, Prescott (C. P. Read store and stagecoaches)
104. Montezuma Street, West Side
105. Montezuma St. Prescott, East Side
106. Prescott Street scene (Goldwater and J. Howey stores)
108. Court House, Prescott
109.Gillett (overview of Tip Top Mill and settlement)
110.Tip Top Mill, Gillett
111. Tempe and Hayden's Mill
112. Tempe and R.R. Bridge.
115. May Day Party, McDowell
117. Officers Quarters (exterior w/people at Ft. McDowell – tentative
IDs Miss Taylor, Mr. Cunningham,
Captain Kendall, Mrs. Kendall, Captain Corliss and Miss Corliss)
122. Senator Mill, Hassayampa
125A. Group of Sahuaros
127. Mojave Squaws (standing studio portrait of 2 squaws)
128. Belle of the Maricopas (seated studio portrait)
129. Niush Maricopa Girl
132. Smith Flour Mill, 1st Street & Jefferson
135. Ancient Hieroglyphics, A
136. Hieroglyphics, B
137. Hieroglyphics, C
138. Hieroglyphics, D
139 B. Group of Saguaro (unidentified scenic)
140.Pima Village (overview)
144. View of Pima Villages
144. Vulture Mine & Hoisting Works
145. Vulture City (overview)
150. General View of Natural Bridge
152a. Interior View of Natural Bridge, Tonto Basin
153B. Interior of Natural Bridge, Tonto Basin
155B. Pine Creek (scenic)
156. East Fork, White River
157. North Fork of White River
159. Es-kin-al-ze, Apache Indian (studio portrait)
162. Hospital, Fort Apache
164. Apaches Playing Billiards
165. Es-Koiw-intate, Apache Indian (studio portrait of armed apache scout)
167. Francisca, Mexican Captive (studio portrait, same background as 165)
170. Group of Apaches (5 in studio w/painted backdrop)
176. Pima Wickiups (overview of Pima Villages)
179. School House, Phoenix
180. Hole in the Rock (Papago Park) looking South. A few miles from Phoenix.
182. Pima Station
183. He-Chack, Apache Squaw
184. Apache Girl (studio portrait)
186. Ni-a-Kutch, Apache Indian (studio Portrait with painted backdrop)
192. A Melon-colie Scene (studio shot, 3 men eating watermelon)
195. Maids of the Forest (2 Indian maidens in studio)
199. (Unidentified pioneer family sitting around large Saguaro)
202. (Gila monster lying on rock among desert shrubbery)
204. Monroe Str. Phoenix
206.Head & Waste gate, Arizona canal
207. Waste gate & (Salt) River, Arizona Canal
208. Falls of Arizona Canal
209. The Cholla
213. Benson Smelter
213A. Bisbee Smelter
217B. Huachucha Hotel
219. Bisbee Looking
222B. Grant Funeral Procession, Bisbee
230. On The Grade (probably at Silver King)
247. Camp Misfortune, superstition Mountains
255. Brays Canyon
256. Tip Top
Un-Numbered Rothrock Titles
[?] No label. Scene marked 1st street & Wash. Street,
[?] (Old Clark Churchill home, Monroe Street)
[?] (Portrait of young boy on horseback in front of wooden building)
[?] CAMP APACHE
[?] Copeland's Steam Bicycle (studio view)
[?] Courthouse, Phoenix
[?] Courthouse, Prescott
[?] Gila Canyon (overview)
[?] Gurley Street, Prescott
[?] House in Phoenix
[?] Lt. Rucker’s with Apache Scouts
[?] Mineral Park
[?] Natural Bridge near Payson (with Rothrock and party)
[?] Odd fellow’s parade, Phoenix (1884)
[?] Old Gubernatorial Mansion, Prescott
[?] Prescott (Goldwater & Bro. Store)
[?] Residence of Reverend Blake, Prescott, Prescott
[?] Residence of A. D. Lawson, Phoenix
[?] Roberts Ranch on Clear Creek
[?] Rocky Canyon near Camp Apache
[?] Saguaro (Man posed in center of Saguaro near Ft. McDowell
[?] Street Scene, Phoenix (Ore wagons in front of Assay Office)
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