Important Early Photos of the Pribilof Islands and Their Settlements and Fur Seal Industry

[Historically Important Collection of 110 Original Gelatin Silver Photographs of the Pribilof Islands, Showing St. Paul Village and Orthodox Church, American Sealers, the Fur Seal Industry, and Native People].

Ca. early 1900s. 110 loose gelatin silver prints of various size, including thirty-three larger photos ca. 11,5x16,5 cm (4 ½ x 6 ½ in), thirty-two oblong photos ca. 8x14 cm (3 ¼ x 5 ½ in); the rest are from ca. 10x13,5 cm (3 ¾ x 5 ½ in) to ca. 9x9 cm (3 ½ x 3 ½ in). Twenty-five photos signed “H.D. Chichester,” “H.D. Chichester” or “H.D.” in negative, several additionally dated “06,” “07,” “08” or “09” in negative. Five images with period ink or pencil captions in English on verso. A few photos with minor tears on extremities, a couple of images mildly faded or with minor silvering on the margins, but overall a very good collection.

Historically significant extensive collection of early original photos of the Pribilof Islands, focusing on their settlements and fur seal industry. The photographer, Harry Denison Chichester, resided on the islands for over a decade and was closely involved with the sealing industry, at first working for the North American Commercial Co., and later as an agent of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.
The photos include several excellent views of the Pribilof Islands’ settlements, including St. Paul village and Orthodox church; three photos depict a festive Orthodox procession circling the church. Over forty photos (including seventeen large ones) show seals or fur seal industry operations on the Pribilof Islands, including seal family groups, hunters driving them to the killing ground, clubbing and skinning them, piling bundles of furs, loading them on boats etc. Other interesting photos show the sealers in wet suits on the seashore, tents and canoes of native people, volcanic eruption over one of the Pribilofs, a vessel of a fur seal company, portraits of a group of Alaskan gold miners (?) inside their tent (with the scale and some papers in the foreground), of an American man dressed in a fur seal coat, hat and boots (on board of a vessel), a dog sled, a wooden building with the sign “Kingsland villa” and the American flag waving above, etc. Three photos are captioned and relate to the other parts of Alaska or the Aleutians – “Port Clarence [coast of the Bering Sea just south of the Seward Peninsula] – Indian grave,” “Unalaska Reindeer,” and “Nome – native camp on Koozitreen River” [Kuzitrin River, Seward Peninsula].
Most photos from the collection are stylistically very close to the images from the series “Pribilof Islands Glass Plate Negatives, 1913-1921; Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1868-2008” deposited in the National Archives, Seattle (*:*&f.parentNaId=2555605&f.level=item&sort=naIdSort%20asc&rows=100&tabType=image). Two photos from the Seattle Archives’ collection, titled “Procession Leaving St. Paul Church” ( and “Outside church parade” ( depict the same Orthodox church procession like the one on our photos. The “Procession Leaving St. Paul Church” is signed “Lembke ‘07” in negative. Walter I. Lembkey was the chief agent of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries on the Pribilof Islands in the 1900s. He could have taken some of the other photos from our collection which would further prove their connection to the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and significance for the history of the sealing industry on the Pribilofs.
Over a dozen Chichester’s photos can be found in the C. Willard Evans photograph collection of the Historical Documents Department of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park ( Although the images themselves are nor available for the online view, they are supplemented with captions and annotations which may indicate that some of the images are the same as in our collection:
1) Box 1. Item No. 002. Bogoslof Island, Alaska, 1892. Steam and/or ash is rising from the island on the left side of the photograph.
2) Box 1. Item No. 046. Two men standing on a rocky beach in Alaska, 1909. The men appear to be dressed for wet weather. The men in Item 105 are wearing similar clothing.
3) Box 1. Item No. 050. Men rowing ashore at Saint George Island, Alaska, circa 1900-1911. A steamship is in the right background, port broadside view. In the left middle distance, men are rowing ashore. In the foreground, a group of men are waiting for the rowers' arrival at the landing.
4) Box 1. Item No. 051. Men unloading supplies from a rowboat at Saint George Island, Alaska, circa 1900-1911.
5) Box 2. Item No. 096. Group of fur seals being driven to the killing grounds on Saint George Island, Alaska, circa 1900-1911. Two men are in view, one of which is holding a long stick.
6) Box 2. Item No. 099. Men clubbing fur seals on Saint George Island, Alaska, circa 1900-1911. The fur seals are huddled together and the men are encircling them. Each man is holding a long stick.
7) Box 2. Item No. 110. Walrus in Alaska, circa 1900-1911. Close-up view of the head.
Overall a historically interesting collection of original photos giving a first-hand account of the fur seal industry and everyday life on the Pribilof Islands in the early 20th century.
Originally from Eagle Pass (Texas), Chichester was a nephew of Stanley Brown, a private secretary to US President James Garfiled (Bodies of Fishery Experts now on way to Frisco// The Washington Herald. Washington, D.C., 25 June 1911, p. 12). Chichester went to the Pribilof Islands to learn about the fur seal industry as early as in 1892 (The Seattle Post Intelligencer. Seattle, Washington, 25 May 1892, p. 4). In 1896, while an employee of the North American Commercial Company, he took pictures of the sealing operations for the Commission of Fur Seal Investigations on St. George Island (Jordan, D.S. Observation on the Fur Seals of the Pribilof Islands: Preliminary Report by … Commissioner in charge of Fur Seal Investigations for 1896. Washington: Government Press, 1896, p. 6; Jordan, D.S. The Fur Seals and Fur Seal Islands of the North Pacific Ocean. Part 1, Washington, 1898, p. 21). Since the early 1900s Chichester worked as an agent of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries on St. Paul Island. He was a personal acquaintance of George M. Bowers (1863-1925), US Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries in 1898-1903 and Director of the US Bureau of Fisheries in 1903-1913 (Two drown in seal service// The Washington Post. Washingon, D.C. 15 June 1911, p. 3).
In 1910 Chichester graduated from the George Washington University Medical School and started a government survey of living conditions of the Pribilof Islands’ population (housing, clothing, diet, living habits, diseases and parasites, alcohol abuse etc.). The survey was never completed as Chichester died on May 31, 1911, in a boat accident during a leisure trip on the saltwater lagoon near the village of St. Paul (see more: Martin, F. Before the Storm: A Year in the Pribilof Islands, 1941-1942. University of Alaska Press, 2010, pp. 111-113). Several Chichester’s photographs of fur seals were used as illustrations to D.S. Jordan’s book “Matka and Kotik: a tale of the Mist Islands” (San Francisco, 1897, 1900, 1903, 1910 &c). His photo of a St. Paul Island beach covered with guillemot eggs, was published in the National Geographic Magazine (cit. ex.: The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts, 26 October 1903, p. 6).

Item #279

Price: $2,250.00 USD