Isaiah West Taber
Light-house at Farallone Island, Pacific Ocean.
Pacific Coast Views, Taber, No. 8 Montgomery Street, San Francisco.
From the California Views collection.

Isaiah West Taber went to sea at the age of fifteen and spent several years working on whaling ships in the North Pacific. Before his adventurous youth, his home was New Bedford, Massachusetts where he was born August 17, 1830.

Taber migrated to California in 1850 in the footsteps of others seeking their fortune in the gold rush. After spending four years as a miner he returned to his hometown where he studied dentistry and opened a dental practice. His work must have sparked an interest in amateur photography.

Photography was to become I. W. Taber's life work. He settled in Syracuse, New York, where he opened his first studio. At the urging of Bradlely and Rulofson, two photographers Taber worked for until 1871, he returned to California. There he established the Taber Gallery at No. 12 Montgomery Street that same year. (Bradley & Rulofson operated a studio at 429 Montgomery St, San Francisco, California).

In 1864 he returned to California at the inducement of the photographers Bradley and Rulofson, whom he worked for until 1871. Taber established the "Taber Gallery" at No. 12 Montgomery Street in 1871. Taber became a successful gallery operator well-known for portraiture and his vast stock of California and Western views. As it often was in the early photographic industry, many views on Taber's list were the unacknowledged works of other photographers.

Evidence of his success in California and his growing stature abroad is found in the many awards and concessions he gained. He was awarded the photographic concession of the Midwinter Fair of 1893-94 in San Francisco. He was sent to London in 1897 to photograph the pageant of the Queen Victoria Jubilee, awarded commission to photograph King Edward VII.

A new style of photograph, called the Promenade Card was introduced by Taber in 1875 from his San Francisco studio. The dimensions of the card measured 3 3/4 x 7 inches, allowing for a wide horizontal print capable of taking in a panoramic view. The intention was to capture views of the well-to-do middle class promenading down the San Francisco waterside. The card style was mildly popular and likely remained so until the early 1900s. It was one of Taber's most unique contributions to photography, coming at a time of increased innovation between the introduction of the Victoria and Boudoir styles.

Taber later moved his gallery to 8 Montgomery St over the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco (The recently introduced elevator was required for access as his imprints state). In 1906, Taber's entire catalog of views and portraits consisting of glass plate negatives, the heart of any photographer's business, were destroyed in the fire following the San Francisco earthquake ending his career. He died February 22, 1912.

Related Books

California in Depth: A Stereoscopic History by Jim Crain.

About 1860 to 1871 Syracuse, New York
1871 to 1906 San Francisco, California
Born August 17, 1830. New Bedford, Massachusetts
Died February 22, 1912 San Francisco, California

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