Martin Mason Hazeltine was born to Asa and Fanny Bancroft Hazeltine in Vermont on July 31, 1827. The family briefly relocated to Cattaraugus County, New York, before eventually settling in St. Charles, Illinois. At age 23, he and his younger brother George headed to California at the height of the gold rush. However, like many of their contemporaries, their dreams of wealth turned to dust, and after two years of futile mining, they returned to St. Charles where the siblings received daguerreotype instruction. In 1853, the brothers moved to New York, where a tour of New York City’s Crystal Palace Exhibition encouraged them to again head west to make their fortune, this time as daguerreians. A steamship took them to San Francisco via the Isthmus of Panama, where the brothers opened their first photographic studio..
Within a few years, the Hazeltines ended their partnership, and Martin married Barbara Fabing, with whom he would have six children. After working as a farmer during some particularly lean years, Mr. Hazeltine renewed his photography license, and by 1867 was living and operating a studio on Lansing Street in Mendocino, California. In Mendocino, he seemed to find his creative niche, and sold several of his landscapes to J. P. Soule and Lawrence & Houseworth, companies that transformed stereographs into postcards. He also supplied negatives for a pair of New England firms, Kilburn Brothers (Littleton, NH) and John S. Moulton (Salem, MA). His growing regional recognition led to lucrative contracts with Southern and Union Pacific railroads.
Despite relative security in Mendocino, further strengthened by his partnership with one-time competitor John J. Reilly, photographing Yosemite and other local landmarks soon lost its luster. Mr. Hazeltine moved his family north to Baker City, Oregon, so as to be closer to his brother and former partner, George Irving Hazeltine. Concentrating exclusively on stereographs, Mr. Hazeltine would frequently travel to Nevada and Idaho, thus earning him the nickname “the traveling photographer.” His fully equipped horse-drawn mobile unit allowed him to make and develop pristine stereo views on the spot.
By 1888, Mr. Hazeltine’s professional reputation was clearly established in the Pacific Northwest. His impressive roster of future photographers included Wesley Andrews, Josephine Rea, and Rata Allen. He also announced his instant-release shutter, which he claimed could “faithfully reproduce any object in motion, from a restless infant to a 2:10 trotter.” Meanwhile, his son Leland was also making his living as an Oregon-based photographer; and daughter, also a photographer, opened a Baker City gallery with her husband Roland T. Parker. According to city directory listings, Mr. Hazeltine continued operating his two Baker City studios until 1901. Seventy-five-year-old Martin Mason Hazeltine died after a brief illness at his Baker City home on February 16, 1903. At the time of his death, he was believed to have “the largest and most valuable collection of scenic views on the Pacific Coast.” Many of Martin Mason Hazeltine’s photographs can be found within the archives of Oregon’s Baker County Library; the Kelley House Museum in Mendocino, California; and the Bancroft Library at the University of California’s Berkeley Campus.
2018 Alaska and Pacific Northwest Early Photographers Collection, circa 1860-1943 (http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv52062/pdf).
2013 Discovering Gold in Baker County Library’s Historic Photo Collection by Gary Dielman (URL: https://www.bakerlib.org/files/archive/dielman-essays/Discovering%20Gold%20in%20Library%20photos.pdf).
2003 George I. Hazeltine and Martin M. Hazeltine Photographs, 1866-circa 1920 (URL: http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv55069).
2013 Hidden History of Portland, Oregon by JD Chandler (Charleston, SC: The History Press), p. 29.
2018 Martin M. Hazeltine (M. M. Hazeltine), Photographer - Fine Art Prints of Historical Photos (URL: https://www.oldoregonphotos.com/photographers/m-m-hazeltine.html?location=117).
2000 Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 by Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), pp. 283-285.
2017 Pioneering Images: The Photography of M.M. Hazeltine by Tonia Hurst (URL: https://www.kelleyhousemuseum.org/pioneering-images-the-photography-of-m-m-hazeltine).
1993 Yosemite and Sequoia edited by Richard J. Orsi, Alfred Runte, and Marlene Smith-Baranzini (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press), pp. 61-62).
Copyright © 2002 - 2019 Historic Camera