British photographic history

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For decades I didn't know what Reuben Albertstone, pioneer Sitka photographer, looked like. The problem was W.H. Case's "Pioneers of Alaska 1887" collage photograph. Case assembled portraits from pioneers who were in Alaska before 1888 into one huge photo collage. One is on display at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Here is info from the Alaska State Library's collection: "In 1908, W.H. Case, a Juneau photographer, prepared a pictorial display of pioneer portraits. The photographs copied here are from a display that was at the New York Tavern, a Juneau bar. The original photographs were probably taken by Case and other photographers. It is not known how many photo displays were created. Other copies of the original display are at the Juneau Pioneers Home, Alaska State Museum and the Masonic Temple in Juneau, Alaska."

The problem is that Case had two different men identified as Reuben Albertstone in the three collages I was able to study in Juneau. Which man was the real Reuben Albertstone? The answer came a few years ago when a man on eBay was selling original photographs from Keller's drug store in Skagway. He had inherited these photographs, including a portrait of Reuben Albertstone, which I was able to purchase. 

W.H. Case and H.H. Draper became partners in the photography business in Skagway in 1898 (Klondike gold rush). Around 1907 the partnership dissolved and Case moved to Juneau, while Draper maintained the business in Skagway. The Draper photo shop was eventually purchased by the Keller Brothers Drug Company of Skagway, where this portrait of Reuben Albertstone remained for over 100 years. I believe it is the actual print that W. H. Case copied for his ‘87 Pioneers Association portrait collage.

“Reuben Albertstone has taken over from O. P. Baker, who left for the Sound on Wednesday, the agency for the Partridge Photo Co’s pictures. [Baker was proprietor of the Hotel Baranoff in Sitka; his wife was an artist]. Mr. Albertstone has a fine selection of views on hand. He contemplates opening out fully in the photographic business next spring. A glazed roof will be put into the Billiard Hall, [Albertstone was proprietor of the Old Reliable Billiard Saloon in Sitka] the top floor of which is to be fitted up as a studio. The Alaskan wishes all success in the new enterprise.” Alaskan (newspaper), Aug. 24, 1889.

Reuben Albertstone, an early Alaska pioneer, was in Wrangell, Alaska, in the 1870's. In Sitka, Mrs. Albertstone took in boarders, and later converted their house into a hotel. Reuben had a grocery and meat market in Sitka in 1885. He also tried his hand at mining. Mrs. Albertstone’s sister was married to Patrick Corcoran of Juneau. After both Corcorans died, the oldest child was placed in the charge of the Russian Priest. Two younger children were taken in by the Albertstones. The youngest was taken by a Mrs. Halstead. (Alaskan, Nov. 10, 1888).

I have a number of Reuben Albertstone cabinet cards in my collection. Dick Wood, Juneau, Alaska

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