Clarence E. Bisbee came to Twin Falls in 1906, two years after the city was incorporated. As one of very few photographers in the area, he was much in demand for photographs that documented the growth of the area, the canal system, and the abundant agriculture. He sold his photographs to companies who were selling land in this flourishing new region, and his works appeared in newspapers and brochures sent to the eastern U.S. and Europe.
He and his wife Jessie built a studio in Twin Falls and roamed around the Magic Valley, taking photos of area towns and landmarks to develop as postcards. At his peak, he was selling as many as 50,000 postcards in a year. In the 1920s, after the era of promotion faded, he began to do more portrait work. An increase in competition and the Great Depression caused business to dwindle, and the death of Jessie in 1936 led to his retirement from photography in 1939.
After his death in 1954, his relatives sold about 2000 of his original glass plate negatives for $1500 to a local group interested in preserving history: Betty and O.A. “Gus” Kelker, DeWitt R. Young, and Dr. Wallace Bond. The negatives were donated to the Twin Falls County Museum, found their way to the Idaho State Historical Society, and eventually made it back to town, rescued by Twin Falls Public Library. In 2001, the Library and Blip Printers digitized the collection; the Library still owns the negatives.
Clarence Bisbee poses with his horse and photography kit in front of a tent restaurant in Jarbidge, NV; circa 1907.
Bisbee Collection Preview
Transportation_1099A man stands by one of three automobiles inside a garage; a rack of tires stands on the corner
Transportation_1098A man stands by one of three automobiles inside a garage; a rack of tires stands on the corner
TFBuildings_1097A woman and two children pose in the front yard of a house surrounded by trees
TFBuildings_1096Two men standing in the doorway of the Coburn Auto Company; next door is the C.M. Gates Auto Company; filtered gasoline pump on sidewalk; other signs read " Ford Repairing Parts and Accessories" and Automobile Oils
TFBuildings_1095Man standing among stacks of tires in front of the Lind Automobile Company building