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Skagit River Journal

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Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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To promote her husband's photography success
Mrs. Darius Kinsey spent . . .

Fifty years in a darkroom

Rev. Erle Howell (1st Methodist Church), Seattle Times, June 14, 1953
(Kinsey and cameras)
Kinsey, his cameras and accoutrement, sometime after the family moved to Seattle.

      The work of Mrs. Darius Kinsey, 5811 Greenwood Ave., wife of one of Seattle's early day photographers, is an inspiring example of a woman who submerged personal identity and gave up individual ambition that her husband's name might be known far and wide. Her self-effacing labors also made possible her husband's success as breadwinner an businessmen.
      Darius Kinsey came to Washington from Missouri in [1889] and set up a portrait shop at Sedro-Woolley [in conjunction with the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad from 1896-1906]. Not content to wait for business to come to him and, fired by the promise of increased sales, he went into the forests to photograph loggers [and railroad men] at work. By 1892 he was giving most of his time to this lucrative enterprise.
      When the aggressive young photographer married Tabitha Mae Pritts of Nooksack in 1895 he promptly installed her in the darkroom. He hastily instructed his bride in the rudiments of photofinishing, then, with camera, tripod and loads of 11x14-inch glass plates, again took to the forests to capture likenesses of loggers by the wholesale. Exposures and orders were shipped to Mrs. Kinsey, whose job it was to develop and make prints for each person in the scene.
      With such reliable help in the studio, Kinsey was able to visit a greater number of camps and photograph an every-increasing procession of men of the forests. His favorit5e method was to arrange as many men as possible on a huge stump, photograph the crowd and, on the spot, take an order from each man. Finished pictures were to be delivered next pay day.
      The photographer quickly learned to be on hand the moment loggers received their gold. An hour's delay might result in the money having changed hands. So it was important to the success of the Kinsey business that the finished photograph should arrive on time. Yet Mrs. Kinsey remembers but one time in 50 years when finished prints were not delivered on schedule and through no fault of hers.
      The incident, to Mrs. Kinsey a near-tragedy, occurred one day when Darius the six miles from Sumas to the depot at Nooksack to pick up a package his wife had shipped to him there. When he arrived a few minutes after closing time, the woman in charge of the express office refused to deliver the bundle and Kinsey was forced to wait until the following day.
      When with changing styles in photography tinting of pictures came into vogue, Kinsey insisted that his wife learn the art. With characteristic thoroughness, she mastered the skill, becoming so proficient that her husband would permit no hired helper to apply color to his prints.

(RR Logging Crew)
A railroad logging crew as a large group, ideal marketing material and more profitable. The Timber Views stamped photo may well have been taken in Sedro-Woolley but we cannot identify the buildings in the background.

Moved to Seattle
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We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds and duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.

      Moving to Seattle in [1907], the Kinseys purchased a 12-room house at 1607 E. Alder St., which served as living quarters and studio. Here Mrs. Kinsey lost herself in the ever-growing task of meeting delivery schedules, classifying and filing plates and overseeing details of housekeeping.
      During this time the Kinseys' two children, Dorothea and Darius Jr., became old enough to take interest in the business. The daughter, now Mrs. Peter C. Parcheski, 13726 Second Ave. NE, retains vivid memories of the devotion with which her mother lifted her end of the load, which was a part of the fame of Darius Kinsey.
      "Mother always had a housekeeper and hired help in the studio," Mrs. Parcheski says, "so her time could be given to finishing and shipping prints. I recall how she tied and carefully addressed each huge package, then, with one in each hand set out from Alder Stree for the Yesler Way cable to take the prints to the express office a block south of King Street station. Sometimes I accompanied her.
      "The packages often were so heavy that Mother could not board the streetcar or lift them to the counter at the express office without aid. Yet, I do not recall that she every complained."
      Mrs. Parcheski says her mother was fond of friends and social contacts. But these were sacrificed in favor of her husband's business.
      "Mother never had time to visit relatives and friends," the daughter says, "so everyone came to our house and stayed overnight. The house often was filled with guests, but Mother never neglected the darkroom. Sunday was her time for relaxation, for Father permitted no one to work on the Sabbath. On that day she sang in the church choir, her chief diversion for years."

Technique: The 16 pebbles
      Mrs. Parcheski recalls with a chuckle how her father vainly tried to make of her an artists capable of tinting photographs. Finally, convinced that his daughter's interest lay in different lay in different lines, Kinsey turned this work back to his wife, who accepted it without a murmur.
      Father was a stickler for thorough work," Mrs. Parcheski recalls. "He insisted that each print be washed 16 times to prevent its turning yellow. For a time it was job to put the prints through the required number of waters. When Dad suspected that I was shortening the process, he laid out 16 pebbles, insisting that one be moved aside with each washing. Later he substituted a sliding number arrangement hung above the wash trays."
      "Washing prints was such drudgery that I dreaded it, but it paid off. Last summer [1952], while visiting an aged couple on Hood Canal, I saw some of Father's photographs hanging on the walls, still untarnished with age."
      Occasionally the Kinseys took long trips to procure views for stereopticon and stereoscope. On one such trip they visited Washington, D.C., and Niagara Falls. Although no developing was done on such treks, Mrs. Kinsey's presence was required to carry the huge quantities of 11x14-inch glass plates upon which most of the Kinsey shots were exposed.

Darius Jr. and the family vacations
      Darius Kinsey Jr., 8061 Lakemont Drive, recalls the great vacation trip the family took in 1919 to Yosemite in California. They traveled in a new Franklin automobile with the younger Darius at the wheel.
      Of this experience the son said, "It being a vacation, Dad would not have gone without the family, nor would he have gone without his cameras. Dorothea and I were interested in moving along to see many spectacles, but Dad wanted pictures. Every view must be photographed and it required endless time to size up the scene and set up the camera for the exposure.
      Mother was as eager as we to get under way, but feeling it her duty to support Dad in every venture she insisted that we wait patiently until each scene was exposed and camera returned in its case.
      In 1919 the Kinsey family moved to a new location, 5811 Greenwood Ave., where the second floor was outfitted with developing, finishing and enlarging rooms. From this house as headquarters, Kinsey operated his business until his death in 1945. Mrs. Kinsey still makes her home there.

Jesse Ebert secured the collection
(Darius and Tabitha Kinsey)
Darius and Tabitha Kinsey, Sedro-Woolley, circa 1900. Courtesy of Dave Bohn and Rodolfo Petschek, Kinsey Photographer, Chronicle Books, 1975.

      "The quantity of work that was turned out by the Kinseys is amazing," says Jesse Ebert, 5335 Wallace St., free-lance photographer and present owner of thousands of the irreplaceable Kinsey plates and negatives covering more than a half century of Pacific Northwest logging operations.
      "Not only did Mrs. Kinsey develop an unbelievable number of plates, but some of the views proved so popular that she often made hundreds of prints from a single negative. Of a shot of a 12-ox tam drawing a huge log, made in 1892, she copied many thousands of prints. The photograph was circulated all over America and was used on the face of a widely distributed calendar."
      Asked to comment upon her work in the darkroom, Mrs. Kinsey calmly observed, "there isn't much to say. I only did my duty. Any good wife would love done as much. Photography was my husband's business, and it was my job to help. I tried never to let him down. I can see nothing especially noteworthy about that." That is Tabitha Kinsey.

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Story posted May 25, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 55 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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