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EPS Wednesday Meeting

3 October 1883

Notes on a Trip from

Maine to California

EPS Lecture

After operating as a professional photographer from studios in Edinburgh, beginning around 1850, James G Tunny set out on his United States tour on 5 September 1882. 

 After spending almost a year travelling, he gave a lecture, illustrated by a large selection of views, to the EPS  on 3 October 1883.

[TEPS:  October 1883]

The Tour

This  lecture was received by a very large audience.

Mr Tunny  by means of a map indicated the extent of his tour, and pointing out the magnificent views with which he had adorned the walls, paid a high tribute to the untiring industry and artistic ability of Mr Watkins, who, with nearly two tons of impedimenta, mounted on sixteen mules secured  under the most trying circumstances secured these first photographs of the wonderful Yosemite Valley

[TEPS:  October 1883]

Here are a few of the places that Tunny visited visited;  starting in Boston, where his ship landed on 19 September:


"my old friend Mr Black, ... busy at work still using the strong acid bath.  Dry Plates not yet having become a favourite with  him, he appears to be doing large business in magic lantern transparencies.

Messrs Allan and Rowell of Windsor Street still continue to print all their large pictures in carbon.  There is very little of this work done in the States."

New York

"I found many of the familiar names above the show cases, telling me that the old pioneers were still in harness.

A visit to the Scoville Manufacturing Company's establishment will never be forgotten. On entering, I saw within the desk enclosure, the old familiar face of our friend JT Taylor, he who was the soul of this [Edinburgh] society for many years, and whose contributions to our art have been many and valuable."

The tour continued through Philadelphia, Washington, Kentucky, St Louis, Kansas, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains, Denver, Mexico, Las Vegas with the hot springs and mud baths, to Santa Fe

Santa Fe

"Nearly all the houses are built of adobe or sun-dried brick;  the streets are very picturesque.  There is not such a thing as a spoke-wheeled car in the city, the wheels are solid and drawn by oxen.

The dress of both sexes is very picturesque.  The toggery of the Indians is very fantastic. Everything indicates how firmly they resist all modern changes.   Three fourths of the inhabitants are Spanish, Mexicans and Indians."

They continued through Touson, Arizona, Los Angeles and on to Madeira where they took the stage for Yosemite, with views that delighted Tunny - and not because he had seen Ansel Adams' photos.  This expedition took place twenty years  before the birth of Ansel Adams. 


"On leaving Los Angeles, the train ascends the San Fernando mountains, and passes them by the mammoth tunnel , which is about 7,000 feet in length.   After passing through a beautiful rich agricultural country, we reached Madeira, the station from which we took the stage for Yosemite.

This journey was the most fatiguing that I encountered.  The first day's ride into the valley was 66 miles, and the second 24 miles.  The valley is six miles long and half a mile broad.   ...   The views that I have the pleasure of showing you will give you a better idea of that beautiful valley than any word painting that I could indulge in .

The tour continued through the Mariposa Grove of big trees to Madeira and San Francisco, a city whose population had grown from 10,000 to 300,000 over the previous twenty years.  He was impressed by the cable street tramways.

San Francisco

"Those who have not seen this mode of street travelling, and enjoyed its smooth, comfortable, and noiseless means

Some of the grades I travelled were as steep as our Arthur Street.  Your feelings were  not lacerated by the pulling, dragging, tearing of and swearing at the poor horses;  the ascent was as easily accomplished as if it had been a sleigh on ice.

If such means were adopted to overtake the steep streets of our New Town and Leith Walk, it would be a great boon to the citizens of Edinburgh."

[Cable cars were, in fact introduced into Edinburgh five years later, in 1888]

"Photography in San Francisco stands very high, both in regard to portraiture and landscape work.  I was fortunate enough to gain the friendship of Mr Tabor and Mr Watkins, names that are known all over Europe ..."

On 18 June the party left the Pacific coast, travelling by Central Pacific RR.  They passed through Sacramento, visited Salt Lake City and bathed in the Lake.

Rocky Mountains

"We entered the never-to-be-forgotten Royal Gorge. ... ... We had the surging river below and 3,000 ft of perpendicular rock above.  Every voice is hushed and the soul filled with awe.  The photographer has not yet been here.  

I was more overwhelmed with the awful grandeur of this mighty canon  than with the Yosemite Valley, and when the photographer has accomplished his task, the world will become acquainted with scenes overwhelmingly grand."

They continued to Denver, Chicago, Detroit where Tunny reported that photography was flourishing and that he saw dry plates in four or five of the leading galleries.  Finally they visited Niagara Falls.


James Good Tunny





Maine to California



Collections and For Sale

Early Negatives

Tunny &  Rodger

William Miller



Mrs Tunny

Edinburgh Views

Princes Street  1850s

Princes Street   c1880

Shakespeare Square



Early Days


Studio 1852

Studio 1876

JG Tunny & Co

Tunny & Asher

Family Photos

Cartes de Visite

A carte de visiet by James Good Tunny  -  1860-1870

Cabinet Prints

The back of a cabinet print by James Good Tunny  -  13 Maitland Street + 19 Salisbury Place  - Lady wearing a hat


Here is a link to a web page that gives details of a book, written and published in 2009 by Julian Bukits, on the life and work of James G Tunny

Cover of a book 'A Study of James G Tunny - 1820-1887'  by Julian Bukits