A Commitment to Beauty

by Barbara McCandless




The Amon Carter Museum holds the Karl Struss Collection of photographs, negatives, and miscellaneous papers and equipment, acquired from the Karl Struss Estate. In addition, photocopies of materials in sources listed below can be available to researchers. The following individuals have graciously allowed access to their collections of Struss-related papers:

Craig Struss Rhea, Karl Struss' grandson, has a large collection of letters between Karl and his family and Paul Anderson, written from September 1917, when Struss entered the U. S. Army, until shortly after he married Ethel Wall. Unless noted otherwise, Struss Family Papers are in the possession of Craig Struss Rhea, Los Angeles, California

Stephen White, Los Angeles, California, was Struss' photography dealer from 1976 until his death, then represented Struss' heirs until he closed his gallery in 1991. He has a large collection of exhibition catalogues, Struss' scrapbook, interviews with Struss, and other miscellaneous papers. Researchers need White's permission for access to this material.

John and Susan Edwards Harvith, Syracuse, New York, curated and authored Karl Struss: Man with a Camera and have a large amount of research material accumulated while working with Struss on these projects.

Other collections relating to Struss are:

Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Clarence White Collection, The Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Cecil B. De Mille Collection, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, California

National Archives, Washington, D.C., U. S. Army Military Intelligence file on Struss. Containing all interdepartmental communication and correspondence with Struss and other parties regarding his case and synopses by both investigators and Struss, this file was helpful in reconstructing the events.

1. Unless otherwise noted, the biographical information on Karl Struss comes from taped interview sessions with John and Susan Edwards Harvith from December 3, 1974, through September 16,1976, and with Stephen White on November 12 and 26, 1976.

2. Karl Struss' siblings, Lilian (1876-1965), Elsa (18781959), Harry (1880-?), Hilda (1882-1927), and William (1883-1906), were all born in a house on 15th Street near Eighth Avenue. Henry Struss designed and built the house at 126 W. 73rd Street. In later interviews, Karl fondly remembered the atypical design with bay windows on each of three floors, which was quite elegant and modern for its day. He always mentioned this house with evident pride and with admiration for his father as the architect.

3. Karl's mother may have spoken German at home, and in her letters to Karl, she frequently addressed him as Karlchen. However, the children went to public schools, and although they may have spoken some German to their mother, their status in New York society influenced them to drop this habit. Remaining letters from Karl to his mother, written when he was only fourteen years old, include phrases in French, but none in German.

4. The Strusses moved to 53 Convent Avenue, near 143rd Street; the area, known as Hamilton Heights, was named after the Alexander Hamilton homestead. At the time, this was almost a country setting, and Karl Struss remembered playing around the "thirteen trees" supposedly planted by Hamilton. In 1898, the Strusses purchased a house at 729 St. Nicholas Street, at 146th Street near Convent Avenue. Karl lived there with his family until entering the service in 1917, and this house remained the family home until well after Henry Struss died in 1940. The house on 73rd Street was torn down with the entire block to make room for a high-rise.

5. Karl expressed regret that his father never received "credit for his part in the development of the automobile" (Karl Struss to [editor], 1952, in Amon Carter Museum). The patented Struss automobile, produced in 1897, is listed in several histories of early American automobiles: Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc., Automobiles of America (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1962), p. 100, and Editors of Automobile Quarterly, The American Car Since 1775: The Most Complete Survey of the American Automobile Ever Published (New York: L. Scott Bailey, 1971 ).

6. Struss to [editor), 1952, Amon Carter Museum.

7. Rochester Optical Company, The Premo Camera (1898), p.65.

8. John Dorr, interviewer, Recollections of Karl Struss: An Oral History of the Motion Picture in America (Los Angeles: The Regents of the University of California, 1969), p. 5.

9. Dorr interview, p. 6.

10. Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1977.

11. In September 1908, American Photography, a journal devoted to the amateur photographer, included a notice on p. 526 that "The success of the photographic instruction course conducted by Mr. Clarence P. White at Columbia University, N.Y. last winter, was so great that the university authorities have engaged him to conduct two courses this year."

12. "Day and Evening Courses in Art Photography, School of Industrial Arts, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1911," in Amon Carter Museum.

13. "Have You an Artistic Impulse? If You Can't Paint Be a Photographer," New York Evening Sun, January 16, 1917.

14. Struss' Christmas gift list of 1911 lists photographs as gifts for Willa Collison, Amy Whittemore, Eleanor Pitman Smith, Mrs. Chas Byron Bostwick (Francesca), and others. He went on photography excursions to Metuchen, New Jersey (with Amy Whittemore and Grace Halsey) and to Tarrytown, New York (with Amy Whittemore and Eleanor Pitman Smith, who lived in Tarrytown). In 1922, when Struss was living in Los Angeles and Eleanor Smith in San Diego, Amy Whittemore visited with both of them.

15. Catalogue, International Exhibition Pictorial Photography, February 2-20, 1909, National Arts Club, New York City.

16. Struss also visited his family at the cottage at Arverne that summer, making many photographs.

17. This summary of Struss' trip to Europe is taken from Narvith interviews, inspection of photographic negatives of the trip, and from the Military Intelligence officer's synopsis of his interview with Judge James Drew [1st Lt. Grayson Metz, Military Intelligence, Pittsburgh, to Director of Military Intelligence, December 19, 1918].

18. Willa P. Collison may have been one of the friends he visited. For Christmas 1910, Struss constructed an album of Nova Scotia views for a Willa Collison. Negatives in the Amon Carter Museum collection show Karl with Hilda, one older woman approximately Hilda's age, and a younger girl, perhaps Willa.

19. William Innes Homer, Alfred Stieglitz and the American Avant-Garde (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1983), p. 145.

20. Harvith interview, September 1, 1975.

21. It is unknown whether Struss went up for the opening or after, but the fact that he met no other photographers implies that he was not there for the opening.

22. Augustus Thibaudeau to Alfred Stieglitz, November 7, 1910, in Alfred Stieglitz Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University.

23. Albright-Knox Museum Archives, Clippings scrapbook, December 31, 1910. Neither the buyer's name nor the titles of the photographs purchased are mentioned.

24. Christmas list, 1911, Struss Family Papers.

25. Karl Struss to Alfred Stieglitz, September 17, 1912, in Alfred Stieglitz Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University.

26. Karl Struss, "The Field of Modern Photography," in Art and Industry in Education (New York: Arts and Crafts Club, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1913), p. 37.

27. An advertisement in the December 1913 issue of Platinum Print listed Struss' address at his parents' home and said he was doing "illustrations for magazines, books, poems, advertising and calendars." Other than his Saturday Magazine covers, he actually did not publish much illustration work until the following year.

28. Charles Barnard, the original associate editor, left in early 1914 to return to Montreal.

29. D[onald]. B. MacMillan, Crocker Land Expedition, under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History and the American Geographical Society, March 14, 1913, Stephen White Papers.

30. Karl Struss to Alfred Stieglitz, June 13, 1912, in Alfred Stieglitz Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University.

31. Alfred Stieglitz to Karl Struss, June 14, 1912, in Alfred Stieglitz Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University.

32. John Wood, The Art of the Autochrome: The Birth of Color Photography (Iowa City: The University of Iowa Press, 1993), pp. 10,34.

33. Richard Butler Slawzer(?), to Karl Struss, January 24, 1914, in Stephen White Papers. This letter clearly states that Struss had contacted Mr. Slawzer, who worked with the advertising firm that handled the tourist campaign for Bermuda, and implies that it was Slawzer who had seen his Hamilton, Bermuda - Moonlight at the Montross Gallery in 1912. However, Struss later claimed in an interview with John and Susan Harvith that B. Hope Willard, the godson of one of the chief officers in the Bermuda government, had seen photographs he had taken on a previous trip.

34. Although Struss later discussed this event repeatedly and reproduced a photograph of himself using this camera in advertisements for his business and his lens, the Struss Collection at the Amon Carter Museum includes no negatives that could have been taken with this camera. It is likely that the negatives were turned over to his employer to produce the guidebook. The photographs finally used in the tourist guidebook appear to have been taken with several cameras, including some with his 4x5-inch view camera.

35. In an advertisement in Platinum Print (November 1914), Struss stated he had been making his pictorial lens for artists for a while and now, certain that there was a value in them, was marketing them (Platinum Print 2, no. I, p. 14). At the New York Exposition, held at the Grand Central Palace in March 1915, manufacturers of photographic products set up booths displaying their products and Struss was there promoting his lenses. He filed a patent application in June 1915, but similarities between individual elements in his invention and others would have required him to appear personally in Washington, D.C., in order to pursue his application. In October 1916, rather than file for an extension, he dropped his efforts. See Briesen & Knauth [& Schrenk] to Karl Struss, March 6, 1915, to October 27, 1916, Stephen White Papers.

36. Although Struss and Anderson had stationery made with the heading Struss-Anderson Laboratories, they were partners only in their marketing of Kalogen and never shared the studio any other way. When Struss entered the army during World War I, Anderson took over his studio. Harvith interview, August 31, 1975.

37. Mergenthaler Linotype Co. exhibition brochure, October 5-8, 1914, Amon Carter Museum.

38. Quoted in Frederick C. Luebcke, Bonds of Loyalty: German-Americans and World War I (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 1974), p. 86.

39. Luebcke, Bonds of Loyalty, pp. 119-120,229-231.

40. Ibid., pp. 211-212, and Emerson Hough, The Web: A Revelation of Patriotism (Chicago: Reilly & Lee Co., 1919), p. 23. The Web, "the authorized history of the American Protective League," was "published by authority of the National Directors of the American Protective League, a vast, silent army organized with the approval and operated under the direction of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation."

41. Holmes Mallory, report on Carl [sic] Struss, November 16, 1917, quoting statements by Clarence White and Mary Brown, Military Intelligence Files, National Archives. This is discussed in detail later in this essay.

42. Martin Mayer, The Met: One Hundred Years of Grand Opera (New York: Simon and Schuster and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, 1983), pp. 135-136.

43. "The Call," Pictorial Photographers of America [Annual Report] (New York: Pictorial Photographers of America, 1917), p. 8; "Founders Meeting," Bulletin of the Pictorial Photographers of America (January 1937), n.p.

44. Ibid.

45. "The Effect of the War on Photography," American Photography (September 1914), p. 580; "Enlist Your Lens in the U.S. Army!", Photo-Era (November 1917), p. 319.

46. Luebcke, Bonds of Loyalty, p. 257; registration certificate, Struss Family Papers.

47. "The Visit of Major Banning," Pictorial Photographers of America [Annual Report] (1917), p. 24.

48. Karl Struss to Responsible Authority [then Major John M. Campbell], December 20, 1918, Military Intelligence Files, National Archives.

49. Ibid.

50. J. M. Bischoff, report to War Department, Army Intelligence, Governors Island, "In re Carl Struss (Karl Struss), German Activities," October 10, 1917. The National Archives in Washington, D.C., holds the Military Intelligence file on the Bureau's investigation into Struss' supposed pro-German feelings and activities. My thanks to Meg Hacker of the Southwest Center, National Archives, for directing me to this file.

51. Nicholas Biddle, Office of Military Intelligence, New York, to Chief, Military Intelligence Section, November 5, 1917, National Archives.

52. Holmes Mallory, report on [Karl] Struss, November 16, 1917, National Archives.

54. There is very little known about Struss' personal relationship with his accusers that might explain their motives. Clarence White's diaries apparently imply that White was unaware of these developments. Little is known of Dickson, except that he left his career in engineering for the Otis Elevator Company in 1917 to pursue photography full-time. He died in 1922.

55. The memo mentioned that the meetings were held in studio of the photographer Peter Juley.

56. The Military Intelligence file on Struss at the National Archives includes telegram communication almost daily from December 20,1917, until February 19, 1918, between officials in the War Department in Washington, D.C.; the Signal Corps at Langley Field, Virginia; the School of Military Aeronautics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; and the Disciplinary Barracks Guard at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. On December 20, 1917, Special Order No. 296, from the Secretary of War, specified that Struss should 'he transferred as a private from Langley Field to the Disciplinary Barracks Guard at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Officials at Langley responded that Struss had already left for the School of Military Aeronautics at Cornell University. Officials at Cornell must not have received correct orders, for they placed Struss in confinement and then asked what to do next. They were told to hold him until orders were forwarded to them. When they finally received a copy of Special Order No. 296 on January 5, they asked for the Quartermaster to furnish transportation and sustenance for Struss and guards to accompany him to Kansas, but this request was denied. After a number of additional requests were denied, on February 1, the officials at Cornell asked if they were to keep Struss in confinement indefinitely. On February 4, officials at Fort Leavenworth communicated that Struss had never appeared for duty as Special Order No. 296 specified. At this point, direct telephone calls instructed the Cornell officials to release Struss from confinement and transfer him to Fort Leavenworth. Struss reported for duty in Kansas on February 11.

57. Paul Anderson to Karl Struss, January 7,1918, in Struss Family Papers.

58. John Wallace Gillies, "Amateurs I Have Known -- Karl Struss," American Photography (September 1915), p. 533.

59. All of the letters are in the Military Intelligence file on Karl Struss, National Archives.

60. Paul Anderson to Karl Struss, February 15, 1918; Judge Drew to Karl Struss, February 28, 1918; Judge Drew to Congressman Morin, February 28, 1918, in Struss Family Papers.

61. Karl Struss to Hil [Hilda Struss], February 17,1918, in Struss Family Papers.

62. Karl Struss to Elsa [Elsa Struss], February 18, 1918, in Struss Family Papers.

63. Karl Struss to Lil [Lilian Struss], February 23, 1918, in Struss Family Papers.

64. Karl Struss memo written to add documentation to his request for a military appeal, December 20, 1918, in Struss Family Papers and in Struss' military intelligence file in the National Archives. It was Imogen (Partridge) Cunningham who told Struss that both Francis Bruguiere and Sadakichi Hartmann had informed her that Struss was interned at Fort Leavenworth.

65. Karl Struss to Lil, February 23, 1918.

66. W. D. Moffat to Paul Anderson, June 24, 1918, in Stephen White Collection.

67. Anderson was incorrect about this. Arnold Genthe was born in Germany, but Alfred Stieglitz was born in New Jersey.

68. W. D. Moffat to Paul Anderson, June 24,1918; Paul Anderson to W. D. Moffat, June 26,1918; Karl Struss memo, December 20, 1918, in Stephen White Collection.

69. Karl Struss memo, December 20, 1918.

70. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], May 16 and 19, 1918, in Struss Family Papers.

71. Ibid.

72. Paul Anderson to Karl Struss, December 3, 1917; January 4, 1918; and January 23, 1918, all in Struss Family Papers.

73. Karl Struss to Mother, April 14, 1918; Dorr interview, p.72.

74. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], June 2,1918, in Struss Family Papers.

75. Ibid. In all, 400 conscientious objectors, of whom 130 were German-American Mennonites, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from ten to thirty years at Fort Leavenworth (Luebcke, Bonds of Loyalty, p. 259). See Winthrop D. Lane, "The Strike of 2300 Prisoners at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas," The Survey (c. February 1919), and Political Prisoners in Federal Military Prisons (New York: National Civil Liberties Bureau, November 21, 1918), in Struss Family Papers.

76. Karl Struss to Mother, June 2, 1918.

77. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], June 29, 1918, in Struss Family Papers.

78. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], August 4, 1918, in Struss Family Papers. Unfortunately, Struss did not disclose the subject of the scenario, and the summary no longer exists.

79. Karl Struss to Major Kendall Banning (head of Photographic Division, Signal Corps), "Photography's Part in the War," August 30, 1918, in Struss Family Papers.

80. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], September 13, 1918, in Struss Family Papers.

81. Karl Struss to Major John M. Campbell, General Staff, War College Division, Washington, D.C., January 1, 1919, National Archives.

82. Col. Dunn, Acting Director of Military Intelligence, to Intelligence Office, Fort Leavenworth, January 1, 1919, in National Archives.

83. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], February 21 and 22, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

84. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], February 26, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

85. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], March 1, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

86. He had also hoped to sell the Grand Canyon images to the Santa Fe Railroad to advertise the area as a tourist destination, but he discovered that government regulations prohibited them from advertising. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], March 9, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

87. He instructed his family to take the photographs to Scribner's, Vanity Fair, Travel Magazine, Harper's Monthly, and even National Geographic in Washington, D.C., and told them whom to talk to in each office and how much they should pay. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], June 11, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

88. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], March 3, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

89. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], March 5, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

90. "A Bird's-eye View of the Lasky Studio at Hollywood, California," Photoplay 13, no. 6 (May 1918); Jesse L. Lasky, Vice-president of Famous Players-Lasky Corporation to Cecil B. De Mille, April 18, 1918, Cecil B. De Mille Collection, Brigham Young University.

91. John Chapman Hilder to Whom it May Concern, February 6,1919, Stephen White Papers; Harper's Bazaar (December 1916 and January 1917).

92. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], March 17, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

93. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], March 22 and May 4, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

94. Cecil B. De Mille to Elek John Ludvigh, Legal Department of Famous Players-Lasky Studios, May 9, 1918, in De Mille Collection, Brigham Young University.

95. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], April 1, 1919, and O. L. Griffith, Hess-Ives Corporation, to Karl Struss, c. 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

96. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], October 5, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

97. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], March 14, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

98. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], April 5 and 22, 1919, in Struss Family Papers.

99. On the twentieth anniversary of the Pictorial Photographers of America, the society held a founders dinner in New York City. Unable to attend, Karl Struss sent a telegram to Ira Martin, PPA president. He congratulated the members and said, "I am happy to have been able to contribute in a small way to its success." As evidence of the fond regard now felt for Struss, the PPA made the entire telegram the cover of their Bulletin for January 1937, under the heading "Anniversary Greeting by Western Union."

100. Stephen White interview with Ethel Struss, November 12, 1976, Stephen White Collection.

101. Karl Struss to Mother, February 15, 1920, and Karl Struss to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, February 15, 1920, in Struss Family Papers.

102. Brigadier General M. Churchill, Director of Military Intelligence, to Military Intelligence, Fort Leavenworth, April 12, 1919, National Archives.

103. Secretary of War Baker, March 26, 1920, National Archives.

104. Struss' photograph of The Faith Healer (see p. 148) is extremely soft-focus, only giving a sense of the crowd illuminated by the ray of light. He exhibited the image frequently for pictorial salons.

105. Karl Struss, The Pictorialist (February 23, 1924). He was hired by Thomas Ince to make pictorial stills with an 8x10-inch camera for Barbara Frietchie.

106. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], December 14, 1920, in Struss Family Papers.

107. Karl Struss to Mother [Marie Struss], October 26, November 3, and November 24,1919, in Struss Family Papers.

108. Karl Struss to Mortimer, July 25, 1921, in Stephen White Collection.

109. Cecil B. De Mille "To Whom it May Concern," November 22, 1921, in Cecil B. De Mille Collection, Brigham Young University.

110. "Karl Struss, Co-Winner of First Lensing Oscar, Dies," Variety, December 18, 1981.

Ill. Speeches at Academy Organization, May 11, 1927. Struss was seated at table 46.

112. James L. Fritz, "Struss' Photography Luxurious," American Cinematographer (April 1935), p. 52.


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