Edward Weston

Edward Weston

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Edward Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois on 24th March, 1886. Educated in Chicago, Weston obtained his first camera in 1902 and began taking pictures while working as an errand boy.

In 1906 Weston moved to California where he worked as a door-to-door portrait photographer. He later studied at the Illinois College of Photography (1908-11) before opening his own portrait studio in Tropico, California.

Weston was greatly influenced by a visit to an exhibition of modern art at the San Francisco World Fair in 1915. His work became much more experimental and by the end of the First World War he had began to place a new emphasis on abstract forms.

In 1922 Weston met Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand in New York City. After looking at their work he became convinced that "the camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh."

Weston opened a new studio in San Francisco in 1928. He began photographing natural landscapes and objects. Weston used a large-format camera with a small aperture, to achieve the greatest possible depth of field and resolution of detail. In 1932 Weston joined with Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams to form Group f/64.

In 1935 Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Works Projects Administration (WPA) as part of the New Deal attempt to combat the Depression. This included the Federal Art Project (FAP) that provided finance for the employment of artists. As well as artists, FAP also employed photographers, and Weston was involved in work in New Mexico and California.

Books produced by Weston include The Art of Edward Weston (1932), California and the West (1940), Leaves of Grass (1940), based on the writings of Walt Whitman, and My Camera on Point Lobos (1950). Edward Weston died in Carmel, California, on 1st January, 1958.

Edward Payson Weston was born on March 15, 1839 in Providence, Rhode Island to Silas Weston, a teacher and publisher, and Maria Gaines, a writer. As a teenager, Weston published books about his father's trips to the California Gold Rush and to the Azores, and he also published a novel written by his mother in 1859. [1] During childhood Weston moved frequently, and by his own account, spent some time travelling with the popular Hutchinson Family Singers. [2]

He first received attention as a notable pedestrian in 1861, when he walked 478 miles (769 km) from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. in 10 days and 10 hours, from February 22 to March 4. During the walk, he faced snow, rain, and mud, and he fell several times. His longest period of uninterrupted sleep was 6 hours, and he usually ate while walking. He arrived in Washington at 5:00 pm, and was strong enough to attend Abraham Lincoln's inaugural ball that evening.

The walk was part of the terms of a bet on the 1860 presidential election. The bettor whose candidate lost was to walk to Washington to see the inauguration of the new president. Weston lost when he bet against Lincoln, and received only a bag of peanuts for his trouble. However, he also received newspaper coverage and a congratulatory handshake from the new president, which inspired him to further pedestrian feats.

In 1867, Weston walked from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois, covering over 1200 miles (1900 km) in 26 days, winning a prize of $10,000. He received several death threats from gamblers who had bet against him, and was attacked once. He gave lectures to crowds of spectators on the health benefits of walking, both during the walk and afterwards.

Over the next few decades, Weston continued his professional walking career. While he was sometimes beaten in indoor multiday races, he held numerous records for long-distance endurance events. In 1869 he walked 1058 miles (1703 km) through snow-covered New England in 30 days. In 1871, he walked backwards for 200 miles around St. Louis, Missouri in 41 hours.

Weston spent 8 years touring Europe, starting in 1876 in England where he challenged England's racewalking champion to a 24-hour, 115 mile ultramarathon. The Englishman quit 14 hours and 65.6 miles into the race, but Weston walked the full 24 hours and covered 109.5 miles. His performance caused a bit of a controversy when he later admitted to having been chewing coca leaf throughout much of the race. [3]

In 1879 he defeated the British champion "Blower" Brown, in a 550-mile (890 km) match which he walked in 141 hours 44 minutes, winning him the prestigious Astley Belt.

In March 1884 he completed his Temperance walk of 5000 miles in 100 days, excluding Sundays, with a meeting at the Royal Victoria Coffee Hall, Lambeth, chaired by Dr Norman Kerr. [4] [5]

In April 1906, Weston walked from Philadelphia to New York, a distance of over 100 miles, in less than 24 hours. [6]

In 1907, at the age of 68, Weston repeated his Maine-to-Chicago walk of 1867, beating his own time by over 24 hours. In 1909, he walked 4,000 miles, from New York to San Francisco, in 100 days. [7] [ failed verification ] [8] [ failed verification ]

His last great journey was in 1913, when he walked 1546 miles (2488 km) from New York to Minneapolis in 51 days.

Weston spent most of the remainder of his life urging others to take up walking for exercise and competition. He warned that automobiles were making people lazy and sedentary.

Weston was severely injured when he was struck by a New York City taxicab in 1927, and never walked again. [9] He died in his sleep at his Brooklyn home on May 12, 1929. [9] Weston was buried at St. John Cemetery in Queens. [9]


  • By creating photographs that transformed his subjects into abstractions of shapes and patterns, Weston helped bring the medium out of the Victorian age that favored pictorialist imitations of painting and into the modern era wherein photography became a celebrated medium in its own right.
  • Similar to images used by the Surrealists, Weston's high resolution, realist photographs of organic forms and modern marvels encouraged viewers to reconsider seemingly mundane objects and form new associations with them.
  • Weston cofounded the f/64 Group, which promoted rather than disguised the characteristics of photography and, in so doing, transformed the photographer from printmaker to artist.

Edward Weston

Weston’s father was a medical doctor. His mother died when he was only five. He was raised by his sister, Mary Jeanette-May. Weston was shy and withdrawn in his youth and referred to schools as dreary wastelands. While on vacation on a farm in Michigan in 1902, Weston received his first camera, a Kodak Bulls-Eye #2. The camera came from his father who wrote, “ you’ll not have to change anything about the Kodak. Always have the sun behind or to the side—never so it shines into the instrument. Don’t be too far from the object you wish to take, or it will be very small. See what you are going to take in the mirror. You can only take twelve pictures, so don’t waste any on things of no interest.” In a biography of Weston, Ben Maddow wrote to the boy who hated school, was bashful, restless, somewhat morose, with a bad temper who preferred to be alone, this black box was the ideal friend. The friendship and love Weston found in photography set the course for his life.

…through this photographic eye you will be able to look out on a new light-world, a world for the most part uncharted and unexplored, a world that lies waiting to be discovered and revealed….Edward Weston
He began photographing in his spare time while working as an errand boy for Marshall Field and Company. The first photographic exhibit he saw was at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1903. After a visit to his sisters in California in 1906, Weston decided to move to California where he worked part-time in Los Angeles and Nevada as a railroad surveyor and as a door-to-door portrait photographer. He used a postcard camera and took pictures of families for the small-price of a dollar a dozen. Weston attended Illinois College of Photography from 1908 until 1911. Married in 1909 to Flora May Chandler, a schoolteacher, Weston soon became the father of four sons, Chandler, Brett, Neil and Cole.

The year he graduated he moved his family to California where he lived most of his life. There he opened his first studio in Tropico, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, now known as Glendale. Between 1911-1922 he won many awards with images he produced using the soft-focus, pictorial style of the day. However, after attending an exhibit of modern art at the San Francisco World’s Fair, Weston became dissatisfied with his work and feverishly began to experiment with a more abstract and hard-edged style. His early influence was Margrethe Mather, who was also one of Weston’s models and studio assistant. She was also more well read on current issues of photography and helped Weston further develop a modernist theory. A few years after Weston changed in style he also met and was encouraged by John Hagemeyer. Hagemeyer was a photographer from Amsterdam, who also influenced Weston’s thinking on photography.

The turning point in his career came in 1922. Weston was travelling to New York to meet with Alfred Stieglitz, Clarence White, Paul Strand and others when he briefly interrupted his trip with a stop in Ohio. At the ARMCO Steel Works in Ohio Weston made incredibly precise, but abstract industrial images that were later published. Although still married to Flora, the following year, Weston moved to Mexico City and opened a studio with his apprentice and companion, Tina Modotti. She introduced Weston to artists of the Mexican Renaissance, including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Jose Clemente Orzco, who encouraged his new artistic direction. Modotti was a part-time silent film actress who met Weston in Los Angeles in 1921. Her three major films included “The Tiger’s Coat” (1920), “Riding with Death” (1921), and “I Can Explain” (1922). She encouraged him to travel to Mexico. They traveled together and soon opened a studio.

On April 20th, 1923 he writes, “photography has certain inherent qualities, which are only possible with photography-one being the delineation of detail—So why not take advantage of the attribute? Why limit yourself to what your eyes see when you have such an opportunity to extend your vision?” Weston’s change of style was validated in Mexico as shows opened and critics raved. This made Weston obsessed with photography, but photography was not a commitment Modotti was willing to make with her life. Modotti was an artist in her right after learning under Weston, but near the end of their relationship she wrote to him, “ I am forever struggling to mould my life according to my temperament and my needs—in other words I put too much art in my life – too much energy – and consequently I have not much left to give to art.” Modotti was more committed to the politics in Mexico and using her camera in that light. Eventually her radical beliefs led to time in prison. She was forced to leave Mexico and only returned to die there in 1942. While in Mexico, Weston’s vision and photographic theories were heightened and perfected. He believed in the previsualization of the final photographic image. If cropping was necessary, the image was a failure. “The camera should be used for recording life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh” (March 10, 1924, Mexico City).

He briefly returned home to Glendale in 1925 and did a series of portrait close-ups. In 1926 he returned to Mexico and traveled with Modotti and his son Brett. In 1927, Weston returned again to Glendale and began his now-celebrated studies of natural-form close-ups, nudes and landscapes.

The close-ups of shells, peppers, onions, eggplants, artichokes and cabbages had numerous influences. Keith Davis writes, “these monumental still-life images were inspired by a variety of influences, including Weston’s love for music of Bach, the elegant simplicity of Brancusi’s sculpture, and the work of other painters and photographers.” He also opened a studio in San Francisco in 1928 with his son Brett. Just a year later he moved to Carmel, California and began the “Point Lobos Series,” concentrating on close-ups of cypresses, rocks and kelp. Also that year, Weston, along with Steichen, organized the American section of the 1929 Film and Foto Exhibition.

In 1932 Weston became one of the founding members of the f/64 group, promoting a purist style of photography and had his first book published, The Art of Edward Weston. By this time Weston had worked on several photographic series that included nudes, various landscapes, clouds and architecture as the subjects. He worked for the Works Project Administration in 1933 and was the first to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship for Photography in 1937. This was also the year that Weston divorced Flora. He began to travel with Charis Wilson, whom he married in 1938, through California, then to Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington.

The couple returned to Carmel, California and lived in a house built by Weston’s son Neil. He continued his many series’, including a “New Point Lobos” and a “Portaits-in-Landscapes” series. By 1940, Weston had another book published, California and the West. Commissioned in 1941 to illustrate a special edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Weston traveled to the New York area and then South. After the attack on Pearl Harbor Weston returned to the West and served in defense activities as an air-raid-plane spotter. While working in the U.S. Defense, Weston started noticing the early signs of Parkinson’s disease.

Weston was later the subject of a film, The Photographer, by Willard Van Dyke. Though he became increasingly crippled by Parkinson’s disease in the late 1940s, he continued his work by supervising sons Brett and Cole with the printing of his images. He had a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946. Another major retrospective opened in 1950 at the Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris. He was named an honorary member of the American Photographic Society, printed a Fiftieth Anniversary Portfolio, and was, again, the subject of another major exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, curated by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall. Edward Henry Weston died on January 1, 1958 at his home in Carmel.

Edward Weston was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in 1984.

In an article about Weston in the “British Journal of Photography,” March 28, 1986, author Jozef Gross writes (as several others have claimed as well) “the famous arrangement of shells is sensuous in the extreme. The image is not at all about a nautilus shell but about those elements in the object which conjure up other organic phenomena or functions, mainly human and sexual. Similarly every pepper which Weston selected to photograph went as far from his vaunted ‘thing itself’ as it possibly could.” Another biographer of Weston Ben Maddow writes, “he spent the richness of his time and intensity of his spirit on his multiple love-affairs and he made hundreds of photographs of the nude. In nearly every case, art and desire were inextricably entwined.”

Weston claims in his daybooks, “for I can say with absolute honesty that not once while working with the shells did I have any physical reaction to them nor did I try to record erotic symbolism.” This entry into the diary came after Tina and many of her friends whom she showed the images to reflected that they felt the images were “erotic.”

This is very curious, as Cole Weston paints a different picture of his father. He writes, “There were so many myths about him that I wanted to dispel—that he was an artist living in an ivory tower or he wasn’t political and he didn’t like sports. None of this was true. He wasn’t a recluse in an ivory tower. Dad was never as far left as Tina, but he was not apolitical. In 1948, when I ran for Congress on the Independent Progressive Party ticket, he really backed me and thought my candidacy was wonderful. When Dewey ran for president against Truman, Dad wrote Dewey a letter and said, “if you’re elected, it will be the greatest catastrophe for my sons and the world that has ever happened.”

To his day, the Japanese-American community remembers my father. When their land was taken away and they were sent to concentration camps during the war, Dad was vehemently opposed to the government’s decision and very outspoken about it. He loved people. And he lived a very physical life. He loved boxing and was a great runner. When we were young, he would take his four sons down to Carmel Beach we’d race and he would always win…we were all raised listening to Bach…he was a good listener. And he had a vision.”

Of course, every man and woman has another side that is it not so far from reality that our children would never know. We are individuals before we are ever parents. Weston was able to do much of what he did and make his journey to Mexico with the financial help of his wife Flora. However, our reactions to images are not always what the artist intended, but could be exactly as they intended. In the end the viewer has the final judgement, and whether or not the artist rejects this obviously does not play a role.

Comparison 5

Irene Feggoudakis: The figure in my photo appears to have a completely different look than Weston’s photograph. In my photo the figure is more defined and it is obvious that the male portrayed is older. This figure in my photo does not look frail.

Edward Weston: When looking at this photograph I see a male figure who looks malnourished. This photo portrays someone who looks fatigued.

Weston was president of the AIEE  from 1888 to 1889.

Weston was born in Shropshire, England, in 1850 and received his formal education in that country. From childhood he manifested a keen interest in electrical and mechanical research. Coming to New York City in 1870, he spent two years as chemist and electrician for industrial concerns before establishing his own nickel plating business in 1872. He maintained this activity until 1875, when he became a partner in a firm for the manufacture of dynamo-electric machines.

This business was incorporated as the Weston Company in 1877, and in 1881 was consolidated with the U.S. Electric Light Company, where Weston served as electrician until 1888. While in this position he received many patents on dynamo construction, and conducted extensive investigation in the lightning field.

At this time he encountered in all his researches great difficult in making the necessary electrical measurements with the clumsy and slow instruments then available. Weston therefore developed and built for his own experiments a set of more practical instruments. These were so successful that in 1888 he abandoned his other interests and devoted all his time to the innovation of accurate and convenient electrical instruments. He established the Weston Electrical Instrument Company, of which he served as vice-president and general manager from 1888 until 1905, and president from 1905 to 1924. His achievements in developing instruments of a high level of accuracy and ease of portability were well known. In 1908, the Weston standard cell was accepted as the universal standard of electromotive force.

In addition to being a charter member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Weston was a member of its first board of directors and served as manager 1884-87. Following his term as president, he was vice president 1889-91. He is a member of several other engineering and scientific societies, being an honorary member of the Franklin Institute. Doctor Weston has received the honorary degrees of a doctor of laws from McGill University, 1903 doctor of science, Stevens Institute of technology, 1904, and Princeton University, 1910. His interest in the younger members of the profession was demonstrated by his establishment of a fellowship in electrochemistry, managed by the Electrochemical Society. This fellowship of $1,000 was awarded each year to a candidate under 30 years of age who showed marked capacity in carrying out research in electrochemistry or its applications.

Edward Weston

Edward Weston is one of the most recognized of all American photographers. He is probably most responsible for helping people to see photography as an art form.

Today, art experts consider photographers who took pictures like Mister Weston’s to be part of the art movement called Modernism. The kind of photographs Mister Weston took are called “straight photography.” No unusual effects were used to change the image of the subject. The photographs appear to show reality in a pure and clear way.

Yet, Mister Weston did not always use his camera to take pictures that way. At first, he took pictures influenced by the popular photographs of his time. Photographers, then, made pictures that did not appear sharp and clear. Instead, they appeared “soft.” They were similar to painted pictures that tried to be beautiful, not realistic.

Edward Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois, in eighteen eighty-six. When he was sixteen, his father gave him one of the early cameras made by the Kodak Company. Edward soon showed some of his photographs at the Chicago Art Institute.

In 1906, Edward Weston decided to move west where he worked for a railroad company. He briefly returned to Chicago to study at the Illinois College of Photography. But, he soon returned to California. He married Flora Chandler in nineteen-oh-nine. They later had four sons.

Several important photographers he met in southern California influenced him. Imogen Cunningham and Margrethe Mather were two of them. Miss Mather worked with Mister Weston on several pictures. Miss Cunningham praised Mister Weston’s work. She gave moral support that led Mister Weston to seek out other photographic influences.

Edward Weston decided to travel to New York City in nineteen twenty-two. He wanted to meet the most influential American photographers in the East. He expected to be praised by members of the artistic community there.Alfred Stieglitz was the most influential photographer in the United States at the time. He was the reason for Mister Weston’s trip to New York City. He was responsible for a magazine called Camera Works. Mister Stieglitz helped many of the photographers whose work he liked, including Paul Strand and Ansel Adams.

Alfred Stieglitz met with Edward Weston two times. He did not say that he liked Mister Weston’s work. Mister Stieglitz would point to some parts of the pictures he liked. Then he would point to something he did not like.Edward Weston discovered an art community in New York that he had never imagined before. He met many people who, today, are recognized as important American photographers and artists. One of them was Georgia O’Keeffe.O’Keeffe became one of America’s most famous woman painters. Mister Weston saw some of her work in New York. He wrote that he would remember it for many years to come.

Edward Weston felt good about his visit to New York, although he was criticized there. He wrote to a friend saying that his artistic sense was changing. He said Alfred Stieglitz had not changed him—only intensified him.

The photographer Ansel Adams said that in the early nineteen twenties Mister Weston had a growing business taking pictures of people. Yet, he gave up his business and left his family to travel to a foreign land. In February of nineteen twenty-three, Mister Weston wrote, “I leave for Mexico City in late March to start life anew.”

Edward Weston, Photographer - History

Edward Weston was born in Chicago in 1886. He began taking photographs when he was 15 years old. Weston received his first camera, a Kodak Bull' s-Eye No. 2, at the age of 16. Weston's first published photograph, in April 1906, was for "Camera and Darkroom" magazine. Weston left Illinois for California that same year. He decided to pursue photography as a career shortly after.

Weston worked in both George Steckel and Louis Mojonier's photography studios. In 1910, Weston opened his studio in Tropico, California. Weston began photographing nudes for the first time around 1920. Two years later, Weston visited his sister in Ohio and shot a handful of photographs, namely of the tall smokestacks at a nearby mill. These photographs would indicate a shift in Weston's style. Weston became interested in photographing "life."

In 1923, Weston relocated to Mexico and spent his time with Tina Modotti. She became a photographer and acted as an apprentice and partner to Weston. In Mexico, Weston began photographing ordinary objects. Weston returned to San Francisco in 1924. He destroyed all his pre-Mexico journals and started a new chapter in his photography.

In 1928, Weston visited the Mojave Desert, which inspired him to create landscape photographs for the first time. In the 1930s, Weston began photographing details of fruits and vegetables.

In 1935, Weston closed his studio in Carmel and opened another in Santa Monica Canyon, California. Weston traveled extensively over the next five years, photographing the American landscape.

Weston was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1947 and stopped photographing shortly after that. The final decade of his life was spent overseeing the printing of over a thousand of his most iconic images.

26: Edward Payson Weston’s 1909 Walk Across America

In previous articles, stories were shared about various walks across America in the 1800s. In 1909 Edward Payson Weston, the most famous American Pedestrian of the 1800’s made his transcontinental walking attempt in the twilight of his walking career, at the age of 70. His amazing walk captured the attention of the entire country and was the most famous transcontinental walk across America in history.

Edward Payson Weston (1839-1929) was born in Providence, Rhode Island on March 15, 1839. He was not particularly strong as a boy and took up walking to improve his health with exercise. When he was 22, on a bet, he walked from Boston to Washington to witness the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln, covering 453 miles in about 208 hours. In 1867, he walked from Portland, Maine to Chicago, about 1,200 miles, in about 26 days. That walk brought him worldwide fame.

Over the next few decades he was a professional walker and took part in many indoor multiday races. He gained more fame when he went and competed in England in 1876. Later in life, Weston gained intense attention in America in 1907 when at the age of 68, he again walked from Maine to Chicago and beat his 1867 time by more than a day.

Since 1869 Weston expressed a desire to walk across America. Many had claimed that they accomplished it. Finally, in 1909 he decided he would make his attempt starting on his 70th birthday.

Here is the story of his famous 1909 transcontinental walk.

In January 1909, Weston publicly announced his plans to walk across the continent from New York to San Francisco. He intended to accomplish it in 100 walking days, taking off Sundays each week. Including some planned side trips, he intended or the distance to be 4,000 miles, meaning that he would need to average walking 40 miles per day.

In 1909 there weren’t any paved roads across the country, just some pavement in the cities. His route would be on dirt road “turnpikes” and on railroads. Along the way he wanted to deliver lectures, and give walking demonstrations, probably for money. Because of all the past fraudulent transcontinental walks by others, he wanted witnesses to keep him under surveillance to verify his accomplishment. It was recognized by the press, “Several alleged walks across the continent have been heralded from time to time, but their accuracy has been so vague as to be valueless for records of bona fide achievements.”

At first Weston planned to walk from New York to Seattle and then head south to San Francisco. For his past long point-to-point walks, he had used horse carriages as crew, but the horses would wear out. This time he made plans for an automobile to go along with him. He wanted his route to include bridges, with no ferries, so he could walk every foot of the way. He purposely wanted to boycott going through Cleveland because in 1907 he was treated poorly by city crowds and didn’t receive what he thought was proper protection for that walk.

Instead of bringing camping gear with him in the automobiles, he felt confident that lodging would be found in towns each night across the country. Among his planned provisions to always have on hand would be eggs, tea, meat, and plenty of ginger ale. He also wanted to have ice with him at all times, and included plans for blankets, extra shoes, and changes of clothing.

As the day approached Weston changed route plans. Instead of heading to Seattle, he planned to head to Los Angeles and then north to San Francisco. He planned send daily updates of his walk to the New York Times by telegraph. Those updates are the primary source for this article

The crowd at the start

Weston started his transcontinental walk on his 70 th birthday, on March 15, 1909, at the General Post Office in lower Manhattan, in New York City. He was late to arrive at his planned start time at 4:15 p.m. which worried many, but “suddenly the swinging doors were thrown wide open and Weston raced into the middle of the floor,” and briefly greeted friends. He later revealed that his left foot that had been injured ten weeks earlier, was in great pain, and that he was “frightened to death.” He didn’t stay long and quickly went down the steps of the building to the street. It was reported, “His walking costume was composed of a blue coat of light weight, riding trousers, mouse-colored leggings, and a felt hat of broad brim that resembled a sombrero in all but color.”

Ready to start walking

There was a large crowd around the Post Office that pressed closely around Weston as he started. He said, “I was praying every step I took that no one would ever have the chance to say, ‘I told you so.’”

“Walking with a springy step and general jaunty air” Weston started his journey. The large crowd yelled out repeated cheers and shouts of encouragement. Policemen escorted him for the first few miles on the city streets. Crowds followed after him as he walked through the streets of the city. At 59 th Street and band played “Auld Lang Syne.”

/>Weston didn’t immediately start heading west. A westward route would involve winding rough roads through the Pocono Mountains. There was no I-80 or I-70. The best roads west were further north through central New York. So instead, he headed north toward Troy, New, York. On that first day, after about five hours and 23 miles he reached Yonkers where he gave a short address to members of the YMCA and a crowd of 2,000 that greeted him as he reached City Hall at about 10:30 p.m. He finished off the day with 30 miles and spent the night in Tarrytown, New York. Of his first day, Weston said, “The reception that was extended to me long the route was the greatest I have ever witnessed, and I am indeed truly grateful to those who appreciated the start of my effort.”

Some unkind people hoped Weston would fail. One article stated, “On the second day, Weston limped and the third day he fell over a pebble and skinned his face and had to rest a long time before he could go on and when he went on, he walked lame. What started out to be a triumph over years threatens to wind up in a pitiful display of its effects. Weston better had stayed at home.”

Road conditions were a significant challenge. He was on an old turnpike used in stagecoach days. The road was “heavy with mud” and snow flurries fell but he still walked 38 miles that day. He continued north for the next couple days to Troy. There, he was greeted by 2,000 people and given “one continuous ovation,” and welcomed to a hotel. The next day he started to head west across upstate New York. During his first week he walked about 275 miles despite the appearance of a bad blister on the ball of his right foot. Weston said “I am amazed at myself and what I have accomplished during the past week.

After resting his first Sunday at Utica, New York, he started walking again five minutes after midnight on Monday morning. Along the way he fought through headwinds and sticky red clay on the road. He said that his feet sank nearly to the ankle and “whenever I pulled out a boot it sounded like a cow’s hoof coming out of the mud.” He remarked that it was the most hazardous road section he had ever encountered and he had to struggle through it for ten straight hours. At Syracuse, New York, he walked four miles through lines of thousands of enthusiastic spectators.

A description of his arrival included, “Soon was audible the chugging of a pair of automobiles moving slowly in the wake of a single, hurrying figure toward which all eyes were turned, tramping stolidly, stubbornly through the clinging mud. Soon the pedestrian had reached the pavement and with unflagging stride breasted the hill. A mighty cheer arose as the crowd disintegrated at his approach, deploying forward as an uproarlous bodyguard.”

Entering Weedsport, New York

Weston next walked on the tow path of the Erie Canal that contained awful frozen ruts that were a dangerous hazard, threatening to twist Weston’s ankles. People came out of the farmhouses along the way to cheer him. For the first time, rain fell on him and he put on an “oilcloth suit and fisherman’s hat.” Rain eventually changed to snow on his 11 th day and he said, “I found the snow and slush more than a foot deep with wind and gale blowing directly in my teeth at the rate of fifty miles an hour.”

Weston tried to start early the next morning, but the blizzard was so bad that the automobile carrying his crew was blown into a show drift. He decided to return to the house he had stayed at to wait out the worst of the storm. When he eventually continued, he said, “every house I passed a good woman or man came out and offered me hot refreshments and any aid within their power to bestow.” He pushed on ahead through huge snow drifts that he had to crawl through on his hands and knees and the car struggled to keep up. The attending vehicle eventually became hopelessly stuck and Weston went along alone for 22 miles but received some help from some pedestrians who came out from Buffalo to escort him to the city.

At Randolph, New York

When he arrived at Buffalo , he received an escort from mounted police. It was reported, “Every window along the way was occupied, and cheer after cheer greeted the tired figure, plodding, plodding, plodding, with a steady step. Several times men forced their way through the crowd to hand flowers to the old man. He would take the proffered gift with a smile.” A cannon fired when he reached a packed hotel where he was to give a speech.

To close out his second week he went walked across fields instead of muddy roads and went over the 500-mile mark. He continued through western New York and was amazed at the reception received as he walked through the towns.


Union City, Pennsylvania

On March 31st, day 17, Weston entered eastern Pennsylvania. The roads along the way were so muddy that again his crew automobile became stuck in the mud and a hotel owner’s horse carriage followed him into Union City. He said, “I was met by about 50 strenuous and stalwart young men, who escorted me into the town. As I entered the limits I was greeted by screeching of whistles and ringing of bells from all parts of the city. There was also a military band, which escorted me to the hotel.”

On the following day, he felt faint during his walk but a farmer invited him into his home, giving him coffee and a piece of homemade cake that helped him continue on. He had not seen his automobile for two days, still delayed by impassible roads.

Weston wrote the next day, “Lost. One automobile, one chauffeur, and one trained nurse, incidentally several suits of underclothes, three pairs of boots, dozen pairs of socks, two dozen handkerchiefs, one oilskin coat, and one straw hat. Last seen in Jamestown, New York.” He did hear that it had a “busted engine.”

Weston entered Ohio on April 3 rd to finish off week three. He wrote, “This has been the most trying week I have experienced during this tour. This morning I encountered slippery clay roads of most aggravating character. There was a drizzling rain at the start that made it impossible to secure a footing. Placing my right foot a little ahead it would slip back six or eight inches before you could get the left foot located, which in its turn would try to slide of into another county.”

Weston walking in the rain

Weston continued in Ohio. His automobile had been repaired but had not caught up to him yet. It rained hard and thankfully he had an attendant who he met along the way who helped him with rain clothes. The next day he walked in a terrible windstorm. “The wind had a velocity of seventy miles an hour and blew right in my teeth for twelve mortal hours. It knocked me all over the road and sometimes blew me to a standstill. Twice it blew me under a rail fence.” It was said to be the worst windstorm in fifty years that had ever hit that area. People kept coming out of their houses, trying to persuade him to stop for the day at their house, but he continued and walked 24 miles in seven hours. At Mansfield, Ohio, about 10,000 people welcomed him into the city. He decided to take a rest day there and let his automobile arrive with his personal supplies.

At many of the towns he stopped at, he took time to give lectures in the evenings. His dark early morning travel turned out to be a problem when he took a wrong road and his automobile got stuck behind in the sand. Some young men walked with him but “Soon we were walking in and out of the woods and ditches until finally we came to a house and heard the news that we were six miles north of the right road. A good-natured farmer got up and directed us how to reach the right road.” It turned out to be a ten-mile mistake that day which really bothered him.

Weston was knocked down twice at Plymouth, Indiana

On day 30, Weston entered Indiana feeling well after a rare night of seven hours of sleep. Spring still had not arrived. He continued to walk through snowstorms and on frozen roads. Near Ligonier, Indiana, the school was let out early to let 300 students come out with the rest of the town to cheer him as he went by. Some nights he was surprised that rooms weren’t initially made available for him and some hotels would charge him very expensive prices. Other towns were very gracious and put him up for free. As he got closer to Chicago, he walked on the best roads of his journey so far.

Weston crossed into Illinois on April 17 th and was escorted by Chicago’s chief of Police and many other policemen to the Illinois Athletic Club. Hundreds of automobiles full of ladies and old friends came out to greet him at the city boundary. He finished week five in Chicago with 1,253 miles.

He decided to fire his chauffeur that had been driving the automobile since New York and he waited an extra day for a new driver to arrive. He blamed his original driver for letting him take the wrong road in Ohio and then didn’t make efforts to find him. On another day in Indiana, the driver just didn’t show up. Weston wrote, “It is absolutely necessary for me to have someone about me who can do something besides eat and sleep and give me a little attention. I propose to enforce more discipline in the future, and plan to walk more in daylight, except possibility if the sun get too hot.”

/>Weston suffered from a pain in his side

On the road again, Weston continued across Illinois. He hit a terrible four-mile muddy stretch and his automobile with his new driver became stuck in deep mud up to the hubs of the wheels. It took many men and a horse-drawn beer wagon, twenty minutes to pull the car out. Still not satisfied with his crew, he fired his male nurse/valet for losing some of his clothes and for being “too lazy to breathe without help.” His replacement immediately lost two new hats and allowed him to walk too far past his hotel. He grumbled that “walking is the easiest part of this task.”

Flooded roads were the problem west of Willingham, Illinois. “A new form of torture turned up in flooding the road, water 100 feet wide and 300 feet long. I thought this was a task for walking, but it seemed likely to develop into a swimming bout for three quarters of an hour.” He crawled under barbed wire fences trying to find ways through fields to get around the water but he still had to walk through knee-deep water. Weston was delayed by another off day because his new valet quit and the automobile “gave up the ghost.”

Weston caught a cold after his “swimming” experience. Now in the small town farm country, he was impressed by the kindness of the people. Word spread by telephone as he approached and groups would come out in Automobiles and horse carriages to escort him into the Illinois towns. It had been a rough week with the delays and only 170 miles.

To get back on schedule, in order to arrive at San Francisco by July 9 th as planned, Weston sought to reduce his miles by walking on a railway bed. He explained, “I would much prefer the country roads, which are in excellent shape. While the railway roadbed is very good, it tires my feet walking on the ties and ballast. I cannot make more than 3 ½ miles an hour.” But the railroad route cut his miles by about 30%. As he traveled on, mostly using railroad beds, an automobile with a crew no longer traveled with him. But an attendant brought his things forward using the trains and make arrangements for lodging.

As he entered the town of Brooklyn, Illinois, he was arrested by a policeman. The officer later explained, “When a stranger walks through town with such a crowd following him, his suspicions were aroused.” He thought Weston could be an escaped lunatic. When Weston’s identity became known, the policeman apologized and let him go on.

On April 28th, day 40, Weston crossed over the Mississippi River on a railroad bridge and entered St. Louis Missouri, greeted by a very enthusiastic crowd and escorted to a big dinner at the athletic club. While going across Missouri he walked through his first thunderstorm that lit up his way and then he was pelted by hail. He tried to get some temporary cover and wrote, “I had great difficulty in getting shelter but finally succeeded after doing a lot of explaining to a farmer who was suspicious. I told him who I was and what my mission was, but he never heard of me and does not read the newspapers.”

Weston had a public spat with his manager at supper who chastised Weston for not eating stewed prunes. “By gum, I’ll quit,” said the manager. “Quit then, replied Weston. “I don’t need you to walk.” They soon called a truce and Weston bought his manager an ice cream soda.

As Weston walked on the railroad, occasionally a train would pass him. “As I waited for the train to pass a number of ladies and gentlemen from the rear car shouted and waived handkerchiefs as me and then threw a portion of a copy of The New York Times, which I received. On the margin was written: “You are doing fine, go ahead. Signed M. Wilson.”

Bridge at Glasgow

Walking on the railroad had its dangers. He wrote, “I experienced a shock that seemingly overpowered my faculties. At Glasgow an immense iron trestle spans the Missouri River, and a person told me that there would be no trains either way for 30 minutes, so without the least hesitation I started to walk over the trestle. To my horror I discovered the trestle was nearly 150 feet above the river and nearly a mile in length. In case a train approached I had no way to escape except to jump into the river. I got very nervous and was getting dizzy. Finally I arrived at the western end, but I was thoroughly weakened.” Two passenger trains passed him and tooted a greeting. He was starting to be recognized the train crews. Every time he arrived at a train station, the telegraph operators would share the news up and down the line.

On May 7 th , Weston entered Kansas on the Union Pacific Railroad. He finished his eighth week in a terrible rainstorm. As he left Topeka, a walking companion became violently sick so Weston backtracked a mile to take his friend back and decided to stay, walking just half of the day.

At New Cambria, he decided to start his next day at 1 a.m. Things didn’t go well in the dark. He wrote, “The darkness was dense and a strong wind blew me backward down the embankment from the Union Pacific tracks. I carried a lantern, which the wind extinguished. In vain I tried to relight it. I traveled on however, making only two miles an hour.” He had been walking more at night instead of during the heat of the day.

Near Russell, Kansas, Weston was caught in a severe “cyclone.” He wrote, “I sought shelter under the Union Pacific Railway bridge and found enough cornstalks and grass to make it quite comfortable. While waiting for the storm to blow over a covey of quail, a snake, and a rabbit visited me.”

At Ellis, Kansas

On another day, as a bad storm appeared to be coming, he took shelter under an old railway platform. Soon a rancher with his family drove up in a wagon urging him to walk to their home a half mile away because the storm was going to be terrible. It should be noted that on his walking days, Weston never took rides to go anywhere, even when detouring off course. He wrote, “The ranchman sent his family ahead with the wagon and we walked to his cozy home together. Just as we got to his gate the storm broke with all its fury and I was drenched before I reached the door a hundred feet distant. The storm lasted for four hours. If it had not been for the thoughtfulness of my host in coming for and urging me to go to his house I should certainly have been attacked with pneumonia or lumbago. As it was, I enjoyed the perfection of hospitality.”

On May 19 th , Weston crossed into Colorado and got caught in yet another terrible storm. He was feeling lonely and observed, “The towns are very small and accommodations are not of the best. I have walked fifteen miles without meeting a person. An occasional rabbit, many prairie dogs and coyotes being the only ‘live ones’ to greet me. These parts are devoted almost entirely to cattle and sheep grazing.”

Near Boyero, Colorado, he was delighted when a train engineer tossed to him a bag of ice. Soon after that he had a scare when he passed two “hoboes” sitting beside the track. They started to chase after him but Weston kept increasing his pace and eventually left them behind. He finished off his tenth week at Hugo, Colorado with a total of 2,396 miles. When he started this journey, he weighed 155 pounds and he now weighed 135 pounds.

Fierce storms continued to delay him on the Colorado plains as he walked on roads again. He wrote, “The road was sticky and I slid with every step.” He called the storms his “daily bath.”

At Aurora, Colorado, about 50 people started walking with him on his way into Denver. The crowd grew larger and larger. Weston would shout, “Keep away from my heels. If you injure a tendon there I am a goner.” He wrote, “The police finally came to my rescue and did excellent work keeping the ever-increasing crowd back.” He was escorted to the Denver Post building and there he addressed a mass of about 15,000 people.

From Denver, Weston turned north to go around the very high Rockies and headed to Greeley, Colorado. He wrote, “It is a pretty sight to see the snow-covered mountains with their irregular shapes and the many thousands of sheep, cattle, and horses. But farmhouses are scarce.”

On May 29 th Weston entered Wyoming and finished off his eleventh week near the Colorado-Wyoming border with a total of 2,614 miles.

Terrible headwinds made walking nearly impossible as Weston headed into Wyoming. He cut off seven miles by traveling cross-country climbing over fences, walking through cornfields, and bypassing Cheyenne. Of his night walks, he wrote, “The weather was perfect and the moon shone brightly. Coyotes were howling a serenade as I walked across country.” He reached Laramie, Wyoming on June 2nd in a starving condition. He wrote, “I was unable to get any regular nourishment. The towns are so far apart that it is impossible to get anything in the line of refreshments on the way.”

Weston continued to walk on the railroad bed. He said, “I passed through a tunnel half a mile long which gave me the horrors. Snow is everywhere from the recent storms. The massive hills full of large rocks and decomposed granite make such a wild and lonesome picture.”

Near Rawlins, Wyoming, Weston went through a downpour that lasted 69 minutes. “I was thoroughly washed and saved a laundry bill.” He said that the daily drenchings were getting monotonous. The recent storms had damaged the railroad so much that trains were delayed by 12-15 hours, causing his manager to fall behind unable to make arrangements for him ahead. He also didn’t eat regularly when needed because the towns were so far apart. Railroad workmen along the way tried to provide him help, but the section houses did not have much to supply for his needs. His manager with his baggage still had not caught up on the train and his shoes were badly worn out. The Union Pacific officials worked to eventually get his baggage to him that contained other shoes.

Aspen Tunnel

Weston wrote, “Another great annoyance is the hoboes who travel along the railroads stealing rides on freight trains whenever possible and some of them don’t look good to me. I am now carrying a revolver, but for what purpose I hardly know, believing that if I were attacked they would also take my gun.” Local deputies started to drive out the hoboes ahead of him which helped.

Weston faced going through the single track Aspen Tunnel near Evanston, Wyoming that had been completed in 1902 which was 1 ¼ mile long. The Union Pacific kindly made arrangements to escort him through the tunnel. He wrote, “With two workmen leading with torches, I started through the dark passage and reached the western end. We passed a great many men working in this tunnel laying a bed of cement and concrete of four feet thickness.”

On June 16 th Weston entered Utah. West of Wahsatch, he tripped over a railroad spike, took a fall and broke the bottle he was carrying for his liquids. The glass fragments went through his clothes and cut him badly near his stomach. It frightened him and he returned to Wahsatch where he received first aid from rail men. He continued down through long, hot, Echo Canyon, went to Morgan, Utah and closed out his 13 th week arriving at Ogden, Utah for a total of 3,161 miles.

At Ogden, he met with officials of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company to discuss using their railroad to walk on toward San Francisco. They agreed to have an experienced railroad employee follow him on a velocipede (three-wheeled human powered vehicle used to inspect rail lines.) It was propelled with a rowing motion and foot pedals could also be used. This was a great solution to supply him food, fluids, and ice every few hours as he traveled across the barren desert ahead.

Weston had decided to change his plans and not head for Los Angeles. Instead he would go directly to San Francisco. He explained that he had underestimated to challenges that slowed him down and thanked the Union Pacific for letting him walk about 1,500 miles on their transcontinental railway.

Weston was excited that arrangements had been made for the rest of the trip and he crossed over Great Salt Lake on “the greatest and longest trestle in the world” which was 12 miles in length. He walked over what was called the Lucin cutoff that was built in 1904 with a station in the middle of the lake called Mid Lake where he stayed at for an hour. (The trestle was replaced with a causeway in 1959).

Of the west side of the lake, Weston wrote, “I am now and will be for the next two days walking on the great American desert, which is absolutely barren, and when the wind blows I am in a sandstorm, the particles filling my nose, eyes and mouth, almost choking me.”


Weston crossed over into Nevada late at night on June 22 rd . The railroad bed was very good to walk on and he walked many miles each day but avoided walking during the heat of the afternoon. In Nevada he had one of his highest mileage weeks and he gave credit to how well he worked with the railroad velocipede and its operator, Joseph Murray, who was the best helper he had ever had.

About 2-3 times per day, the conductors of freight trains dropped him off a piece of ice as they went by helping battle the desert heat. One day his hat blew off in the dark and it just couldn’t be found. The next day a train engineer saw it at the bottom of a ravine and returned it to him.

Continuing on, he really struggled because of fierce mosquitos. “Fancy one being on a broad, almost uninhabited prairie, not a tree to be seen, nothing but sage brush and black clouds of mosquitos.” The heat was oppressive. If he stopped at a house or hotel during the day, it was difficult to get rest because they were even hotter inside the buildings.

On July 1 st , it was oppressively hot, 102 degrees in the shade at 6 p.m., so he didn’t walk during the afternoon. The next day it was just as hot. “At Rose Creek, I rested under a shade tree with a tub of water and ice to cool my head and feet.” There were no grand receptions when he arrived at Humboldt at 11 p.m. He said, “No one in these parts attempt to do anything in this furnace-like heat, nor are there any refreshing showers to change the conditions.”

He finally admitted publicly that he would not make it to San Francisco within 100 walking days. “My health is good and I do not feel that I should take the chances that many others have taken on the desert to their sorrow.” He was detesting the western Nevada desert. “These is nothing here that tends to encouragement or induce pleasant walking. The natives themselves do not spare the unkind words about their desert.” He was discouraged that his original goals were shattered. He knew he was receiving criticism but he said, “The fearful conditions cannot be realized by any except those who have experienced something of them.”

As Weston approached Reno, Nevada, sandstorms pelted him and he couldn’t see 100 feet ahead of him. Thankfully he wore sand glasses. When he arrived at Wadsworth he was very pleased to see a river, trees, and grass again. He arrived at Reno on the night of July 6 th . “Words fail me to express my appreciation in again being in a country where grass, and where the hospitable people of this place, 200 strong came out three miles and escorted me into this beautiful city.”

Weston walked into California on July 8 th . “I passed through the most beautiful canyon in the world, crossing the line into California at 4:58 a.m. The scenery is simply grand. The Southern Pacific Railroad running beside the Truckee River, between gigantic mountains, presents a panorama.”

A Snowshed During Construction

Weston’s greatest obstacle of his journey was going through about 42 miles of snow sheds protecting the railway from avalanches. He averaged just two miles per hour in them and wrote, “To exert one’s self to the utmost for nearly two days and nights, dodging the loose stones in nearly 42 miles of snow sheds over a series of mountains interspersed by standing between shed posts about every half hour to allow a train to pass and realize that it was less than twelve inches from your breast, while the terrific puffing of two immense engines nearly deafening you is certainly enough to make one nervous. Then add to this the walk along a narrow path for thirty miles during the night, having only a small lantern to show that a false step or a slip will plunge you into a canyon 1,000 feet below.”

As the final days of his walk approached, Weston lamented that his walk was a “crushing failure.” He said his mistakes included going east to west against the wind, starting out with a bad automobile, and doing slow walking on the railroad beds.

The summer heat was oppressive. “I am kind of tuckered,”Weston admitted. Ice and cool drinks were brought from Auburn, California by the velocipede. To keep cool, he rolled some ice in several cabbage leaves and placed in his hat.

Finally, the roads became very good as he walked through Sacramento and beyond. He continued walking on the railway. Railroad orders were sent to “keep a careful lookout for Mr. Weston on all trestles and come to a stop if necessary when finding him on a trestle to allow him to get to the end of it.” He had to cross over five long trestles and straddled a log within twelve inches of the track to allow a train to pass.

Nearing the finish

On July 14 th his walk came to an end. Knowing that he would need to take a three-mile ferry ride to San Francisco, he walked extra miles in Oakland. He then was ferried to his finish at San Francisco and arrived at 10:50 p.m. A crowd went with him on his way to his hotel. He looked to be a bit lame but still walked in his natural stride. After a good night’s sleep, he delivered a letter to the postmaster from the postmaster of New York that he carried with him.

He counted his walking days at 104 days, 5 hours, and his distance 3,898 miles. But his total time, including his Sundays and other days off, was 122 days. He said, “Regarding my feeling and condition, I would say that I feel like uttering bitter words, but do not feel inclined to make excuses.” He received hundreds of letters and telegrams of congratulations. He at once started talking about walking back to New York and this time meeting his goal of 100 days. But he took a train and returned to New York on August 16, 1909.

The press cheered his accomplishment. “It had always been Weston’s ambition to make a walk across the American continent, and the fact that he has succeeded in his seventy-first year is a fitting culmination to the long career of pedestrian triumphs with which the name of Weston is associated”

It truly bothered Weston that he didn’t meet his goal for his 1909 of 100 walking days. Just the next year, in 1910, he set off again, this time from Los Angeles, California to New York City. He successfully finished in 78 walking days and 89 total days. But Paul Lange, another legitimate transcontinental walker quickly stole away his victory that year by doing the same crossing in just under 77 days.

By 1926, at the age of 87, Weston had lost his life savings and lived on his daughter’s slim income. He was worried about the thought of being destitute, becoming a ward of the state, and was seeking a job as a messenger. Friends and admirers stepped in to help.Twice in 1926 he was found walking through the streets of New York City in a daze. Once he was lost for three days in Philadelphia. He still talked about plans on doing another transcontinental walk soon.

In 1927 he was struck by a taxicab in New York City on his way to church and was nearly killed. He didn’t see the car coming nor hear shouts of warnings. “A crumpled gray haired figure lay sprawled upon the pavement. Weston was carried into St. Vincent’s hospital close by and it was found that he had suffered head injuries which it was feared were critical for a man of his age and infirmity.” Weston spent three weeks in the hospital and never fully recovered, but was able to walk again, and three months later asked the court to dismiss assault charges against the driver which they did. Good people stepped in to pay for his hospital expenses, and arrange for him to live in Brooklyn. A celebrated play writer, Anne Nichols set up an annuity to support him with $150 per month.

Weston celebrated his 90th birthday on March 15, 1929. His adoptive daughter said, “Daddy spends most of this time in bed now, although he sits up for his meals every day.” She had to watch him carefully for fear he would go off wondering in his wheelchair. “It is hard for any one who has been so active to have to sit still now and sometimes he just has to be up and moving about.” He did enjoy sitting in his church watching the candles and worshipers coming and going. He had a birthday cake and said, “lots of nice people came to see me.” His final advice was “Don’t forget to walk every chance you get and keep out of automobiles. If you do, you’ll live to be 90 the same as I have.”

Two months later, Edward Payson Weston died on May 12, 1929 at the age of 90 in Brooklyn, New York. He was buried in Saint John Cemetery in Queens, New York.

Read the entire transcontinental series:

  • The New York Times, Jan-July, 1909
  • The San Francisco Call, Jul 15, 1909
  • The Atchison Daily Globe (Kansas), Mar 20, 1909
  • The Hutchinson Gazette (Kansas), Mar 23, 1909
  • Buffalo Morning Express (New York), Mar 27, 1909
  • The Des Moines Register (Iowa), Jun 27, 1909
  • Sioux City Journal (Iowa), Jul 3, 1909
  • Salt Lake Telegram, Aug 24, 1909
  • The Oregon Daily Journal , Sep 28, 1909
  • The Tennessean, Apr 7, May 23, 1909
  • The Buffalo Enquirer, Apr 2, 1909
  • The Buffalo Times, Feb 8, 1909
  • Abilene Weekly Reflector (Kansas), May 27, 1909
  • Ogden Standard, Jun 21, Jul 8, 1909
  • Nevada State Journal (Reno), Jul 11, 1909
  • The Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), Apr 23, 1926
  • Times Herald (New York), Jun 9, 1926
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar 16, 1929

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Edward Weston - History

Edward Weston

A detailed chronology, compiled and edited by Dick Rinehart

Edward Weston at Point Lobos | Photo by Cole Weston

Edward Henry Weston is born March 24, in Highland Park, Illinois.
Parents: Dr. Edward Burbank Weston (1846 – 1918) – Obstetrician, Alice Jeanette Brett (1851 – 1892) – Shakespearean Actress.

January 25: Edward’s mother dies. Alice Jeanette’s dying wish is that Edward become a businessman and not an educator or doctor in the family tradition. He is raised by his sister, Mary “May” Jeanette Weston (1877 – 1952).

August 20: Edward is given his first camera by his father while summering on his aunt’s farm in Michigan. Camera type: Kodak Bulls-Eye No. 2 3.5” x 3.5” format (12 exposures).

Edward drops out of school and never returns. He follows his mother’s wishes and works for three years as an errand boy and salesman for his uncle, Theodore Brett, at Marshall Field & Company in Chicago.

Edward’s sister, May, moves to Tropico, California.

Edward’s first photograph is published in the April issue of Camera and Darkroom. Photograph: “Spring, 1903.”

May 29: Edward arrives in Tropico, California to visit May. He decides to stay and California becomes his home for the rest of his life.

May’s husband, John Seaman (1877 – 1961), arranges a job for Edward as a surveyor by the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad for $15 a week.

Edward quits his railroad job to become an itinerant photographer, working door-to-door.

Edward returns east to attend the Illinois College of Photography in Effington, Illinois. He completes the 9-month program in 6-months. Edward learns darkroom techniques he will use for the rest of his photographic life.

Edward returns to California and works as a retoucher for George Steckel Portrait Studio in Los Angeles.

January 30: Edward marries Flora May Chandler (1879 – 1965).

Edward leaves George Strekel Studio and is hired by Louis A. Mojoiner Portrait Studio in Los Angeles, as a negative retoucher and photographer.

April 26: Edward’s first son, Edward Chandler Weston (1910 – 1995), is born. He is called Chan.

Edward builds his first photographic studio for $600 at 113 Brand Boulevard in Tropico, on land owned by Flora’s parents. This will be Edward’s base of operations for the next two decades.

December 16: Edward’s second son, Theodore Brett Weston (1911 – 1993), is born. He is called Brett.

Edward begins submitting work to national and international photography salons. He gains a reputation for high key portraits and modern dance studies. By the end of the decade, he garners more than 30 awards.

Autumn: Edward meets Margrethe Mather (1886 – 1952), when she stopped at his Tropico studio. Mather becomes Edward’s business assistant, partner, model and lover over the next decade. Edward will later describe her as, “the first important person in my life.”

May: Edward and Margrethe Mather help found the camera club, Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles.

Edward begins his personal journals, the “Daybooks.”

Edward travels to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. He wins a Bronze Medal for his photograph: Child Study in Gray. Edward is also exposed to the European avant-garde works of Cezanne, Rodin, Picasso and Matisse.

December 6: Edward’s third son, Lawrence Neil Weston (1916 – 1998), is born. He is called Neil.

Edward travels to Cleveland, Ohio to demonstrate his printing techniques to the National Convention of the Professional Photographer’s Association.

Edward is elected to the London Salon of Photography. It is acknowledged as the highest honor in pictorialism. Of its 37 members, at the time, only 6 are from the United States and Edward is the only member on the west coast.

February: Edward meets photographer, Johan Hagemeyer (1884 – 1962), in his Tropico studio. They become very close friends for the next two decades.

January 30: Edward’s fourth son, Cole Weston (1919 – 2003), is born.

With Margrethe Mather’s connections to the Los Angeles Bohemian community, Edward meets Tina Modotti (1896 – 1942), Roubaix de l’Abrie Richey (1890 – 1922), Ramiel McGehee (1885 -1943), Miriam Lerner and Betty Katz-Brandner (1895 – 1982) among others.

Edward ceases submitting work to photographic salons and begins his transition to modernism.
Important Photographs:
“Epilogue, 1919”
“Prologue to a Sad Spring, 1919”

Edward experiments using cubist, abstract angles in combinations with advancing and receding light as a subject. These technique result in what Edward calls his “Attic” series.
Important photographs:
“Ramiel in His Attic, 1920”
“The Ascent on Attic Angles, 1921”
“Sunny Corner In An Attic, 1921”
“Betty in Her Attic, 1921”

Margrethe Mather becomes an equal partner in Edward’s Tropico studio. Portraits and other personal work is dated and signed by both Edward and Mather. It is the only time in his photographic career Edward shares credit.

Tina Modotti becomes Edward’s primary model and lover. Edward’s most significant image of Tina, at this time, is titled “White Iris.”

March 9: An exhibition of Edward’s work opens at the Academia de Bellas Art, in Mexico City. It is organized by Tina Modotti’s husband, Roubaix de l’Abrie Richey.

October: Edward travels east to visit his sister, May, in Middletown, Ohio. His brother-in-law, John Seaman, takes him to see the American Rolling Mill Company – ARMCO Steel. Edward creates one of his most lasting images: “Pipes and Stacks, Armco Steel, 1922.”

November: Edward continues east to New York, to meet photographer, Alfred Stieglitz (1864 – 1946). His meeting with Stieglitz confirms the modernist direction of Edward’s work.

January: Edward leaves his wife and moves into his Tropico studio with Tina Modotti.

July: Edward creates a nude series of Margrethe Mather on Redondo Beach. These images will be his best selling photographs in Mexico.

Prior to leaving for Mexico, Edward destroys his “Daybooks” dating back to 1915.

July 29: Edward, Tina and 12-year old Chandler Weston departs San Pedro, California docks aboard the S.S. Colima bound for Mexico.

Edward and Tina set up a portrait studio in Tacubaya, for a brief period, before settling into a permanent studio in Mexico City.

August 23: Llewelyn Bixby-Smith (1901 – 1951), the son of Edward’s cousin, Sarah Bixby-Smith (1871-1935), arrives in Mexico. He is apprenticed to Edward.

Chandler begins using Edward’s Graflex camera, the first of Edward’s sons, to learn photography. Before leaving Mexico, Chandler has a personal portfolio of 43 photographs.

Edward is introduced, by Tina, to the artists of the Mexican Renaissance. These artists include: Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957), Jean Charlot (1898 – 1979), Jose Clemente Orozco (1883 0 1949), David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896 – 1974) and Xavier Gurrero (1896 – 1974).

Edward begins a series that will extend throughout his stay in Mexico. These unposed portraits use the head as a sculptured object he calls “heroic heads.” Most occupy three-quarters of the photographic surface.
Photographs from the series:
“Nahui Olin, 1923”
“Guadalupe Marin, 1923”
“Manuel Hernandez Galvan,1924”
“Tina Reciting Poetry, 1924”
“Rose Roland de Covarrubias, 1926”

October 22 – November 4: Edward’s work is exhibited at the Aztec Land Gallery, Mexico City. He sells 8 prints 6 being nudes of Margrethe Mather from the Redondo Beach series .

October 15-31: A second exhibition of Edward’s work at the Aztec Land Gallery, Mexico City. All 70 photographs on display were created during the first year of his Mexico sojourn.

December 31: Edward and Chandler leave Mexico and return to the United States.

January: After a brief stay in his Tropico studio Edward moves north, to San Francisco and sets up a portrait studio with Johan Hagemeyer. Over the following six-months his most productive work is two nude series using Miriam Lerner and his eight year-old son, Neil, as models.

August 21: Edward and his 13-year old son, Brett, sail for Mexico aboard the S.S. Oaxaca.

August 27: A 10-day exhibition of Edward’s work, organized by Tina, is presented at the Jalisco State Museum in Guadalajara. The Governor, Jose Guadalupe Zuno, purchases 6 prints for the Museum.

October: Edward’s new work in Mexico includes: Excusado (toilet), still-life of juguetes (Mexican toys) and pulquerias (saloons).

March: Brett becomes the second of Edward’s sons to learn photography. With brief instructions in use of his dad’s Graflex camera, Brett begins a photographic career that extends for 6-decades.

May 14: Edward signs a contract with Anita Brenner (1905 – 1974), to illustrate her book, Idols Behind Altars. The contract, for $500, requires 4 finished prints from no more than 200 8×10 negatives. The project requires Edward, Tina and Brett to travel to little known areas of Mexico. Sculptures and native arts and crafts are the primary subjects. Edward also accepted $500 from Arquitecto magazine for an additional 230 negatives, to be worked on, concurrently.

Idols Behind Altars and Arquitecto magazine trips:
June 3 – July 3: Eastern leg of travel produce 110 – negatives.
July 18 – August 26: Western leg of travel produces 150 – negatives.
September 14 – November 6: Various travel locations produces the final 140-negatives required for the project

November: Edward and Brett leave Mexico and returns to Glendale, (formerly Tropico) California.

February 14: Edward meets, Canadian born post-impressionist painter Henrietta Shore (1880 – 1963). Edward is influenced by her paintings of shells. He borrows several of her chambered nautilus shells to photograph.

February 26: Edward and Brett open a dual exhibition at University of California. This is Brett’s first exhibition, at 15 – years old. 100 prints of Edward’s are hanging with 20 of Brett’s.

March: Edward begins a nude series of his friend, Christel Gang (1892 – 1966). The static nude, of her back are reminiscent in texture to the porcelain, Excusado (toilet) series in Mexico.

March: Edward begins working with Henrietta Shore’s chambered nautilus. Negative S1, “Shell, 1927,” was the first image of this classic shell series. Exposure: 4-5 hours at f/256.

March – April: Edward begins a second nude series of avant-garde dancer Bertha Wardell (1896 – 1974). This series, known as the “Dancing Nudes,” is shot over a three week period and includes 24 negatives.

July 16: Ramiel McGehee and Christel Gang begin editing Edward’s “Daybooks,” from Mexico, for possible publication.

August: Portions of the “Daybooks” are published for the first time in Creative Art Magazine.

August 25: Edward writes in his “Daybooks” he has begun working with peppers for the first time. The series will eventfully total 43 negatives shot over a three year period. Edward will eventually destroy 11 negatives from the series.

July: Edward closes his Glendale studio and moves to Johan Hagemeyer’s studio at 117 Post Street in San Francisco.

January 3: Edward meets Bauhaus architect and designer Richard Neutra. He is asked to curate the west coast photography contribution to the Deutsche Werkbund Film un Foto exhibition in Stuttgart.

January 7: Edward moves to Johan Hagemeyer’s studio in Carmel to be closer to nature. He places a sign in studio window that states, “Edward Weston Photographer, Unretouched Portraits, Prints for Collectors.” Edward meets Sonya Noskowiak (1900 – 1975), who has been working as a receptionist in Johan Hagemeyer’s studio.

March: Edward tries to reestablish contact with Margrethe Mather. He wants to include her work in the Film un Foto exhibition. Mather never responds.

March 20: Edward visits Point Lobos and begins a series of kelp, rocks and cypress studies. His work at Point Lobos will last until the end of Edward’s photographic career.

April: Edward and photographer Sonya Noskowiak becomes partners and lovers.

February: Edward switches to glossy photographic paper for his personal work. He is influenced in the decision by Brett.

July 19: Jose Clemente Orozco and Alma Reed visit Carmel. Edward creates a portrait of Orozco using a similar approach to his “heroic head” series from Mexico. Orozco responds to Edward’s work by describing him as, “the first surrealist photographer.” Alma Reed proposes a show for Edward in New York.

August: Edward creates Negative 30P, “Pepper No.30, 1930.” It will become the most famous photograph of his career. He sells 25 copies during his lifetime.

October 15: Edward’s first One-Man Show in New York opens at Alma Reed’s Delphic Studio Gallery. 50 photographs are displayed.

Talks break down between Edward and Johan Hagemeyer over the rent of the studio. Hagemeyer requests a rent hike from $60 to $75 per month. Edward moves out of Hagemeyer’s studio and their friendship is forever broken.

September 2: Group f/64 forms at Willard Van Dyke’s gallery at 683 Brockhurst in San Francisco. The straight photography manifesto will influence photography for the next six decades.

October 24: The Art of Edward Weston, is published. The book is edited by Merle Armitage (1893 – 1975). The introduction is written by photographer Charles Sheeler (1883 – 1965). The book includes 39 reproductions. The book is the earliest monograph devoted to an American photographer.

November 15: An exhibition of Group f/64 work opens at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. 80 prints are displayed. Group members exhibiting include: Ansel Adams, (1902 – 1984), Imogen Cunningham, (1883 – 1976), John Paul Edwards, (1884 – 1968), Sonya Noskowiak, (1900 – 1975), Henry Swift, (1891 – 1962), Willard Van Dyke (1906 – 1986) and Edward Weston. Non-member invited exhibitors include: Preston Holder, (1907 – 1980), Consuela Kanaga, (1894 – 1978), Alma Levenson, (1897 – 1989) and Brett Weston.

February: Edward purchases a 4×5 Graflex camera. He begins a close-up, body fragment, nude series of Sonya and various other models. The series extends through 1935.

July: Edward, Sonya and Willard Van Dyke travel to New Mexico. Edward discovers the open landscape. It will be an important part of his body of work for the rest of his photographic career.

January-April: Edward leaves Carmel to works in Los Angeles for the Public Works of Art. He received $38.50 per week to copying art work.

Edward photographs the Oceano Dunes with Willard Van Dyke for the first time.

Early April: Edward is introduced to Charis Wilson (1914 – 2009) at a Carmel concert by her brother, Harry Leon Wilson Jr. (1913 – 1997).

April 22: Edward photographs Charis Wilson for the first time.

Edward separates from Sonya after 5 years together and begins his life with Charis.

Summer: Edward stops writing in his “Daybooks.”

January: Edward closes his portrait studio in Carmel. He moves to Santa Monica Canyon, California to open a studio with Brett.

August: Charis joins Edward in Santa Monica Canyon. Edward switches from 4×5 to 8×10 format on a new nude series of Charis. His most famous photograph from series: Negative 227N, “Head Down Nude, 1936.”

Edward initiates the “Edward Weston Print of the Month Club.” 8×10 prints are priced at $10.00 per month or $100.00 for a year subscription. Subscribers averages eight to eleven per year.

October 22: Edward composes a four line project statement for a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

Edward and Charis travel to the Oceano Dunes where he creates his “Nude on the Dunes” series of Charis.

February 4: Edward amends his Guggenheim Foundation application at the recommendation of Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor. With the help of Charis, Edward’s project statement is extended to a four-page essay.

March 22: Edward is awarded the first Guggenheim Fellowship ever presented to a photographer. The fellowship is for one year beginning April 1, 1937 with a stipend of $2,000.

Edward signs a contract with Phil Townsend Hanna, editor of AAA Westway magazine. Edward will produce 8-10 photos per month during his Guggenheim travels for $50.00. Charis will be paid an additional $15.00 to write photo captions and short descriptions. The fees make possible the purchase of a new Ford V-8 sedan for the trip.

Equipment used by Edward during the Guggenheim travels:

8×10 Century Universal view camera Paul Ries tripod with tilting top triple convertible Turner Reich lens 12” 21” 28,” with Zeiss Protar element 12 film holders lens shade Weston Lightmeter K2, G A filters.

Guggenheim Fellowship, Year 1:
17 Trips covering 16,697 miles in 197 days and producing 1260 negatives.

Edward divorces Flora May Chandler Weston after 16 years of separation.

March 25: Edward receives notification his Guggenheim Fellowship has been renewed for a second year.

Guggenheim Fellowship, Year 2:
Edward makes few trips into the field to photograph. He spends most of the year printing the Guggenheim negatives.

August: Edward and Charis move into their home on Wildcat Hill, Carmel Highlands, California. Wildcat is built by Neil Weston for $1,200. The property’s 1.8 acres was purchased from Harry Leon Wilson, Charis’ father, for $1,000. Bodie House, a building constructed behind the main house, as a garage, becomes Charis’ writing studio.

March: Edward begins printing a master set of 500 images from his Guggenheim travels. The project funds of $400 are provided by the Guggenheim Foundation. It will take Edward over three years to complete the set. They are housed at the Huntington Library in San Marion, California.

April 24: Edward marries Charis Wilson in Elk, California.

California and the West, is published. It includes 96 of Edward’s Guggeheim Fellowship photographs along with a text by Charis profiling their travels. The first edition sells for $3.75.

Edward meets Beaumont (1908 – 1993) and Nancy Newhall (1908 – 1974) at Wildcat Hill. The Newhalls propose a major retrospective of Edward’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

June: Edward teaches photography at the First Yosemite/Ansel Adams Workshop. He is paid $150 for the week long workshop.

February 7: Edward receives a letter from George Macy (1900 – 1956), Director of Limited Editions Club, New York. Macy proposes Edward illustrate Walt Whitman book, Leaves of Grass. Macy proposes a budget of $1,000 for the photographs and $500 for travel expenses. Edward accepts the proposal.

May 28: Edward and Charis travel east from Los Angeles to begin the Whitman project. The trip covers 20,000 miles through 24 states. Edward creates 700 8×10 negatives. Subjects included: straight portraits of the common man and accomplishments of modern industry (skyscrapers, train yards and hydroelectric dams are among the many subjects).

December 7: The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Edward and Charis conclude the Whitman trips and return to Carmel via a southwestern route arriving at Wildcat Hill on January 20, 1942.

January 6: Tina Modotti dies in Mexico City.

March 19: Edward ships 73 mounted glossy prints to the Limited Editions Club for the Leaves of Grass book. Macy selects 54 photographs from the group with 49 of them making the final publication.

War Effort: Edward and Charis become Aircraft Spotters at Yankee Point, California for the Army’s Ground Observers Corp, Aircraft Warning Service.

September: Point Lobos is closed to the public. For the duration of the war, Edward’s photographic work centered around Wildcat Hill. He produces portraits, satires, nudes and a cat series. Important photographs from this period:
“Civilian Defense, 1942”
“My Little Gray Home in the West, 1943”
“Exposition of Dynamic Symmetry, 1943”
“Mary, 1945”

Edward is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

November 15: Edward and Charis separate.

February 11: Edward’s retrospective exhibition opens at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 250 photographs are exhibited along with 8 negatives. 97 prints are sold at $25 per print.

Cole Weston moves to Carmel and becomes Edward’s primary photographic assistant at Wildcat Hill.

August: Dr. George L. Waters, of Kodak, requests Edward produce Kodachrome color transparencies for Kodak advertising. He is offered $250 per transparency. Edward sells 7 images from Monterey and Point Lobos locations.

December 13: Edward and Charis divorce. Edward buys Wildcat Hill for $10,000.

Edward meets Dody Warren. She becomes a photographic assistant at Wildcat Hill.

Film: “The Photographer,” produced by Willard Van Dyke for the United States Information Agency. The production profiles Edward’s life in photography. Filming takes place at Wildcat Hill, Point Lobos, Death Valley and Yosemite. Dody Warren and Cole Weston assist Edward shooting color transparencies during the production.

Book: The Cats of Wildcat Hill, is published. The book includes 19 of Edward’s photographs with extensive text by Charis Wilson. The photographs are selected from a series of 140 negatives produced between 1943-1945.

Book: Fifty Photographs: Edward Weston, is published. The book is edited by Merle Armitage with an introduction by Robinson Jeffers (1887 – 1962).

Edward’s Parkinson’s Disease advances and he is forced to stop photographing. He creates his final image, “Rocks and Pebbles, 1948” at Point Lobos with Dody Warren.

A major retrospective of Edward’s work takes place at Musee d’art Modern, Paris, France.

Book: My Camera on Point Lobos, is published by Virginia and Ansel Adams. It contains 30 8×10 reproductions of Edward’s work along with excepts from the “Daybooks.”

Edward’s 50th Anniversary Portfolio is released. The 12 print portfolio, in an edition of 100, sells for $100. It was printed in 1951 by Brett Weston and assisted by Cole Weston, Dody Warren, Morley and Frances Baer.

1952 – 1955
Project Prints: Edward selects 832 negatives he considers his lifetime best. Brett Weston prints eight to ten photographs of each negatives. Dick McGraw (1905 – 1978) funds the $6,000 project. The only complete set is housed at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“The World of Edward Weston,” an exhibition directed by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall is circulated by the Smithsonian Institution.

January 1: Edward dies at Wildcat Hill. He has $300 in the bank and his prints are selling for $25.00.

His ashes are scattered by his sons into the Pacific Ocean at Pebbly Beach, Point Lobos. The beach will later be renamed Weston Beach.

Cole Weston is designated in Edward’s will to be the only person to print his work after his death. Cole prints from Edward’s original negatives for over 30 years. Prints are stamped on the back “Negative by Edward Weston, Printed by Cole Weston. They are known as EW/CW Prints.

Edward’s archive of more than 2,000 exhibition prints and over 10,000 negatives, as well as his “Daybooks,” correspondence and other records relating to his life and travels are acquired by the Center for Creative Photography, at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

April: Sotheby’s sells Nude, 1925(Miriam Lerner) for a record $1,609,000.00