Friday, December 2, 2016

76 Amazing Vintage Photographs Documented a Road Trip Through Death Valley in 10 Days in 1926

The Death Valley Automobile Trip photograph album containing 76 prints appears to be the record of a sightseeing trip made from Los Angeles to Death Valley in 1926.

A written record--in the form of diary entries--is also included and consists of a series of detailed captions describing the landscape, landmarks, and individuals encountered in Death Valley. Neither the diarist nor the photographer is identified.

The photos and captions offer tantalizing but limited clues to an adventure we can only imagine; a risky mixture of moxie, foolishness and technology that only the first decades of the 20th century could meld. They chronicle a 10-day camping and sightseeing vacation, presumably round trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley, aboard a trio of early 1920s Ford Model Ts: two Touring Cars and a Runabout/Pickup. The photos are dated January 8-17, 1926.

DAY 1, 142 miles: The first night was spent at Black Hawk Mine near Randsburg, California; the mileage indicates that L.A. is one likely starting point.

DAY 2, 88 miles: Their trek east begins in earnest as they "start for the red hot pit, Death Valley." The first available water was in Atolia; then to Owl [Hole] Springs, "one of the water holes of the twenty mule-team borax days." They "arrive at Confidence Mills, a very aged mining venture" where one of the gents spies a most excellent but enormous souvenir: a three-foot-diameter cast-iron cog wheel which likely weighed several hundred pounds. "But when he came to pick it up decided for his flivver's sake to leave it."

Our first picture, a dry lake Jan. 9, 1926.

Start for the red hot pit Death Valley.

We dine on Sweet Bread, Jan. 9, 1926.

Our first water after leaving, Atolia was named Granite Springs; Granite Springs.

One of the mounds of Granite from which the Springs derived its name.

What the sign said: Owl Springs--Death Valley--Saratoga Springs 45 m, Silver Lake 42, Shoshone 5, Automobile Club, So. Cal.; Meet Mrs.Perrelet and Miss Muth.

We arrive at Owl Springs, here an abandoned water wagon was found the front wheels sunk in sand, the rear ones almost all cut away by desert wanderers for fire wood; Owl Springs -- one of the water holes of the twenty mule team borax days.

We select a camp site.

We arrive at Confidence Mills a very aged mining venture the driver of the grub wagon upon spying the cog...


DAY 3, 57 miles: The caravan left Confidence Mills, headed northbound to Ashford Mills, then through "dust so deep here that the flivver almost sank out of sight" and had to be pushed out by hand. The group posed by a survey marker at the lowest elevation in the U.S., then passed the site of the former Eagle Borax Works. Next up was the unworldly "Devil's Golf Course, a mixture of many minerals in which salt leads...so hard that a sledge hammer was needed to break off specimens. We passed through miles of country composed of nothing but lava, black and glistening in the sun," stopping to marvel at "the Mushroom rock or the Devil's Throne." They explored the area and camped at the mouth of Superstitious Canyon.

We leave Confidence Mills Sunday Jan. 10, 1926 10:15 a.m.; The scenery at Confidence Mills.

A camp site on the desert.

Mrs. Perrelet -- the fliver. Miss Muth.

A sample of desert road.

We pass Ashford mills -- A deserted hope -- Thousands of dollars of equipment left here. This mill was of the roller type and the building has a 75 horsepower engine in it in the foreground out of sight of the cameras eye is a big truck the rubber slowly rotting away. Mr Billyon and A. E. Dimock sitting on top; Ashford Mills.

Dust so deep here that the fliverer almost sank out of sight.

A little help needed.

The grave of James Dayton; A driver of a twenty mule team Borax wagon.

The lowest spot in U.S.A.

The one time site of the Eagle Borax Works.

We have now reached the Devils Golf Course; Mr Billyon -- Mr. Puck -- Miss Muth -- Mrs. Perrelet -- Mr. Abbott and his bouquet.

The Devils Golf Course. A mixture of many minerals in which salt leads.The evaporation of the water in the Summer fills the solid matter in pinnacles which were so hard that a sledge hammer was needed to break off specimens; the Devils Golf Course a close up view.

Crossing the Devils Golf Course.

The road at the entrance of the Devils Golf Course.

The rock on the next page is composed of lava of unusual hardness as it has not disintegrated like the surroundings. We passed through miles of country composed of nothing but lava black and glistening in the sun; The Mushroom rock or the Devil's Throne.

We have now reached the mouth of Superstitious Canyon where we stopped to make camp at 5:15 p.m. -- milage 57; Our camp, Jan. 10, 1926.

The mouth of Superstitious Canyon.

We explore Superstitious Canyon. The peak in the background is of soft white mineral into which a person sinks above the shoe tops.

Here Superstitious Canyon rivals Red Rock Canyon in its many colors and different forms; Superstitious Canyon.


DAY 4, 32 miles: "We left camp at 11 a.m. and arrived at Furnace Creek Ranch where we had lunch and fixed Minn's flivver." No repair details were offered. As now, the ranch was then a posh resort in the heart of the desert. Our travelers snapped photos of the opulent grounds, Shoshone families and "one of the wagons used to haul Borax in the days of the 20-mule teams. This wagon weighed seven tons and was loaded with 20 tons of Borax. The tires on the wheels were 10 inches [wide]." After an unsuccessful search for Stovepipe Wells over "terrible roads...a gullie every three feet," they made camp for the night.

We left camp at 11 a.m. and arrived at Furnace Creek Ranch where we had lunch and fixed Minn's fliver; Part of Furnace Creek Ranch the home of the 20 mile jennie[?].

One of the wagons used to half Borax in the days of the 20 mule teams. This wagon weighed 7 tons and was loaded with 20 tons of Borax. The tires on the wheels were 10 inches.

Furnace Creek -- used to irrigate Furnace Creek Ranch; Furnace Creek.

The Swimming Pool Furnace Creek Ranch.

Phoenix Canarensis Palms at Furnace Creek Ranch.

The Shoshone Indian Squaws playing a game by the Wickiup.

The Indian Children at Furnace Creek Ranch.

A Desert Scene.

The weather gauge at Furnace Creek Ranch.

Meet Mr. Billyan and Mr. Abbott and Mr. Billyan's stove (one cylinder).

We try to locate Stovepipe Wells but after wandering around some terrible roads the likes of which may be seen in the background we make camp here at 5 p.m. Jan. 11, 32 miles, falling down fast on that milage. Billyan's one cylinder stove is hitting on all the cylinder as may be seen on the left of the picture.

In the sand swept desert.

Wild Cat's Retreat.

No Caption - Death Valley

No Caption - Death Valley

No Caption - Death Valley

Mesquite Tree In The Sand.


DAY 5, 25 miles: And now we understand the dwindling mileage figures: "We leave the camp near the horrible road at 10:20 a.m. Jan. 12 and are [northeast-]bound for Rhyolite, Nevada, the Goat city. The road was found to be all up, no down, in fact 15 miles was Ford low [gear] and a hundred degrees. A stop every mile to let the clutch pedal cool off; 200 feet below sea level to 4,000 feet above..." At Rhyolite, they toured the deserted town's empty buildings, spending the night at the Bottle House, its mortared walls constructed of thousands of discarded glass bottles, likely provided by the former mining town's "30 or more saloons."



We leave the camp near the horrible road at 10:20 a.m. Jan. 12 and are bound for Rhyolite Nevada the ...

Death Valley 1908

We lunch on the way to Rhyolite.

We reach Rhyolite at 3:25 p.m. the first house we saw was the Bottle House a picture of which appears on the opposite page but we drove thru the town until we reached the railroad depot, here we left our machines and made a tour of the town. 25 miles this date; The Bottle House.

On the opposite page is a picture of the railway depot, Rhyolite, Nev. This building was constructed of stone but time is slowly doing its work as may be noticed on the sign facing the machines; The Railway Depot, Rhyolite Nevada.

On our hike thru the town we came across many shacks like this one. Rhyolite is surrounded by land that is full of gold but the main vein is yet to be found, the hills show many try-outs one may be seen on the hill back of this shack; The ravages of "Time."

The Church of Rhyolite, the only building that had all of its windows intact; The Church of Rhyolite.

The insides of these buildings were littered with glass evidently there were lots of brick throwers came thru Rhyolite after it was deserted; The National Bank Building.

The Hotel had fine stairways in it all rotting away for lack of care. These face the main street; The Hotel Building.

The School House with its tile roof; The Schoolhouse.

After seeing the town house we went back to the depot got in our machines and drove back to the Bottle House where we spent the night; the front porch of the Bottle House.

The back porch of the Bottle House. Bottles were free and many of them. Other building materials were scarce. There were about 30 or more Saloons in Rhyolite; the back porch of the Bottle House.

Here is another Bottle House. The weather here is so dry that lots of the bottles still had the labels on them. Note the workings in the hills; a Bottle House which has taken a tumble.

Building material was so scarce in Rhyolite that most anything went, here an enterprising citizen made himself a house of the cans; A Tin Can House.

Stamp Mill at Rhyolite.


DAY 6, 59 miles: Driving east from Rhyolite to nearby Beatty, Nevada, and then south to the Pacific Coast Borax Company in Death Valley Junction, California, "we camp by the Amagro[s] river...an alkaline stream which goes down into Death Valley and flows underground until it stops under the Devil's Golf Course. The next morning it was so cold that it took us three hours to start the flivvers, the oil had frozen into chunks."

Jan 13 at 10:30 a.m. we leave Rhyolite and on the way out we stop at the Montgomery Shoshone mine the largest of its day. Here they had a blow hole, shaft with elevator and cyanide tanks; the Montgomery -- Shoshone mine.

Beatty Nevada six miles from Rhyolite. Rhyolite's water was all pumped from Beatty; Beatty Nevada.

We reached Death Valley Junction just at dusk and then we decide to drive a little ways further and camp; Death Valley Junction Building 600 feet long.

We camp by the Amagrossa river at 6:20 p.m. -- 59 miles. The Amagrossa is an alkaline stream which goes down into Death Valley and flows underground until it stops under the Devil's Golf Course. The next morning it was so cold that it took us 3 hours to start the flivers, the oil had frozen into chunks; the Amagrossa river.


DAY 7, 75 miles: "We departed from the Amagro[s]a river camp. Down to Shoshone California for gas, water etc. and departed for Cave Springs. We pass once more the old cog wheel at Confidence Mill." After driving to Bennett Wells, "we reached Cave Springs...one of the stopping places of the twenty-mule team Borax days, [which had a] corral with walls of stone to keep the stock in. An abundance of water is found in the caves in the banks. On the way we stopped at Saratoga Springs, a big bubbling pool of hot water in which little black fish lived."

Jan. 14 at 9:45 a.m. we departed from the Amagrossa river camp. Down to Shoshone Cal. For gas, water etc and departed for Cave Springs, we pass one more the old cog wheel at Confidence Mill; the Railroad Depot Shoshone, Calif.

We stop for "tea" at Bennett Wells.

We reached Cave Springs at 6:20 p.m. -- 75 miles. This was one of the stopping places of the twenty.


DAY 8, [mileage undocumented; estimated at about 75 miles]: "Left Cave Springs at 9:40 headed [southwest] for Yermo, from which place went to the old town site of Calico, the home of the famous Silver King mine from which 75 million dollars of silver was taken 30 years ago. Here through the courtesy of the one resident and old miner who provided us with carbide lamps, we inspected the mine after which we drove in the Canyon below the town and made camp. Calico burned down three times so they made their buildings out of earth."

Jan. 15 left Cave Springs at 9:40 headed for Yermo, from which place went to the old town site of ...

Entrance to the Silver King mine.

Our camp in the canyon below Calico.


DAY 9, 114 miles: At Calico, they met "Mr. and Mrs. John Lane, the sole survivors of a population of over 3,000. Mr. Lane came in 1884, here he met the lady who became Mrs. Lane. They married and have been here ever since." Heading southwest, they stay in Glen Avon.

A sample of breakfast.

We leave Calico, above on the bluff may be seen the ruins of the adobe houses. Sat., Jan. 16 left at 9:40 a.m.; the road in the canyon below Calico.

And arrived at the place in the picture on the opposite page at 5pm -- 114 miles. Sunday Jan. 17 left at 11a.m. and arrived at 3rd and Central Los Angeles 2:20 p.m. -- 55 miles; Glenavon.

Calico. Mr. and Mrs. John Lane the sole survivors of a population of over 3000. Mr. Lane came in 1884 here he met the lady who became Mrs. Lane. They married and have been here ever since.

Death Valley. Introducing the much talked of "Death Valley Scotty" whose correct name is Walter Scott. Scotty has surrounded himself ...

Death Valley. In 1876 Government Surveyors found this old wagon in the valley north of "Emigrant Wash". Since then this place has been marked on the maps as "Last Wagon". It was found 52 years ago but to this day nothing definite has been found as to how it came to be in Death Valley.


DAY 10, 55 miles: "Sunday Jan. 17, left at 11 a.m. [heading due west] and arrived at 3rd and Central Los Angeles 2:20 p.m."

That a trip of some 725 miles at that time and under those conditions should be recorded, tucked away and then forgotten by friends and family members is a shame, but perhaps our readers can provide clues to the mystery.

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