Friday, April 30, 2010

J. W. Bledsoe Photo Co. L. A. Cal: Salt Tram Photographer

As the years pass, researching the true story of the Salt Tram is getting more difficult, as the abundant photos and written first hand accounts from that era find their way into landfills (instead of museums). We  are striving to rediscover the efforts of those who built and ran the Salt Tram, in order to give proper recognition to their hopes, dreams and abundant sweat from an era that is rapidly fading from our memories.  
We are actively seeking out information about the mining of Salt in Saline Valley between 1903 and the 1950's, including: documents, photos, articles, stories, artifacts, etc. If you can help us out, please email us at the address above - Thank-you! --Tim and Brian Waag, the Waag brothers (aka E. Clampus Waagus).
Caution (PLEASE READ): Climbing around on the tramway is dangerous because its really old and defnitely unsafe, so don't even think about it. Shoot, just getting to it requires some perilous hiking, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the Zig Zag Access Trail (or what's left of it). Plus, climbing on it weakens it and endangers your life. Also, the Saline Valley Salt Tram is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be treated with the respect that it deserves. What little remains is of great historic value, and should not be disturbed in any way. Heck, its probably against the law to move parts of the tram around, and certainly a crime to take home some of the few bits of it that remain (though you'd have to ask your friendly local BLM agent for details). So please treat it with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can enjoy whats left, without you messing it up. Really. Please. You can see its listing on the National Register of Historic Places at these web links:
National Register of Historic Places 1          National Register of Historic Places 2

QUESTION1: Find out more about Bledsoe Photo Co. L. A. Cal. We know that "Bledsoe" photographed the Salt Tram, as the 2 photos below show. Are there more? Who is Bledsoe? There is even less out there about "Bledsoe" than there is about A. A. Forbes, who himself is somewhat obscure (though we hope to change that - see A. A. Forbes Website). 

QUESTION2: Track down Bledsoe photo collections, and see if there are any more Salt Tram photos out there. Any help out there? Please? According to J. W. Bledsoe's great grandson, "there is a good sized collection that belongs to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (that is now archived in the USC library)." So we need to track 'em down!

We have 5 Salt Tram photos attributed to "Bledsoe Photo Co L. A. Cal.". Here are 2 of them - Courtesy of the Eastern California Museum (click to enlarge):

Photo 1: Salt Lake workers at north east end of the lake.

Photo 2: Station 7 (note cabin and horses in lower right corner).

Update June 2010: We recently received an email from the great-grandson of Salt Tram photographer J. W. Bledsoe of Los Angeles, Cal. Here is a summary of that email:
"JW Bledsoe was my great-grandfather, and was a photographer active in the west in the late 19th and early 20th century.  He was a commercial photographer, meaning that many of his photos were taken on contract for one or another company, and he often did not retain the negatives or the copyright, hence the sparsity of information on him.  One of his panoramas is held in the Library of Congress, [and] there is a good sized collection that belongs to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (that is now archived in the USC library), and we have a few in the extended family.  I'd love to see full-resolution scans of the images you posted. Charles F. Delwiche, Professor, Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland."
Unfortunately, the J. W. Bledsoe photos of the Salt Tram are small (in physical size), and are probably "proofs" of much larger panoramas. We will send Professor Delwiche what we have, which unfortunately is not of the greatest quality. We do thank the professor for finding our website, and we will follow-up with him.


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