Wesley B. Churchill was born on February 24, 1873 in Middletown, Connecticut. He established the Wesley B. Churchill Company in 1889 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The focus of the business was the manufacture and sale of high-end bicycles, which were called "Churchill Wheels". Numerous models were developed, for men and women, for both casual transportation and also for racing. The business prospered and grew, becoming incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts in 1898. Also, during that time Wesley graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Wesley B. Churchill

The bicycle shop

A hobby of Wesley's was the fairly recent innovation called "photography". Being mostly self-taught, he began using a 4x5 box camera. Though being quite occupied with his thriving business, Wesley loved this new hobby and pursued the art of photography with a passionate enthusiasm.


Eleanor Alice Churchill
Wesley married Eleanor Alice Hurl on October 6, 1897 in Somerville, MA. The pretty wedding took place at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. T. Hurl. Among those in attendance where the groom's parents, William and Jane Churchill. After a three-week honeymoon, the couple resided in Somerville.

Wedding in Somerville, MA

The Churchill Ranch
William and Jane Churchill were living in California when, in September of 1898, William died. The elder couple had a residence on a large property in Sierra Madre, which is about 15 miles (as the crow flies) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The property encompassed many acres of land, had flourishing orchards and groves, and was called the "Churchill Ranch". Widow Jane was living there a short while when Wesley and Eleanor Alice decided to move to Sierra Madre, to be near to his mother. The young couple travelled by train over the Rocky Mountain divide and set up their residence very close by his mother, in South Pasadena. In 1904 the young couple had a baby boy, named Hurl, and then in 1906 had another boy, whom they named John.
All of the photographs which are depicted in this website were taken by Wesley B. Churchill in and around Los Angeles, with the exception of one shot taken from Wesley's "room" in their house in Somerville, and one shot taken from the train as Wesley and Eleanor Alice traveled over the Rockies to their new home in Southern California. Wesley was a prolific photographer, especially considering the difficulties and expense of taking pictures with the large bulky cameras of that time. His images of downtown Los Angeles and the areas surrounding that exciting new city exhibited his special gifts of artistic composition & lighting, along with meticulous attention to detail. Many modes of transportation of that day were captured on his 4x5 negatives, including trains, trolleys, horse drawn carriages, ships, bicycles, and walking. Many shots were taken of his family, including humorous photos of his boys during a 4th of July party at the Churchill Ranch. (Yes, that's young John in the dress and bonnet. My have times changed!) There are also interesting shots of his boys pretending like they are shooting pictures with Dad's camera, and also a shot that depicts John with an old Edison cylinder phonograph. There are several shots taken from Catalina Island, just off the coast of Los Angeles, including images of the little resort town of Avalon. Most all of the shots were taken with available light. Wesley had a unique skill with his portrait photography, combining an artful use of natural light with a knack for fun and interesting props, such as an old grandfather clock. Lastly, there are a few images included here which portfolio his skill at capturing beautiful images of nature, which also conveys his love of the great outdoors.

The Churchill Ranch House

4th of July at the Ranch

Orchards on the Churchill Ranch

Wesley at the Churchill Ranch

The photography of Wesley B. Churchill is truly an inspired artistic expression, comparable to the best photographic work of the early 20th century. His images also captured an important slice of American history in the City of Angels, for all of us to enjoy and appreciate now.

 

Steven Churchill
(Great grandson of Wesley Churchill)

 


Bicycle Catalogue

Angel's Flight, Downtown L.A.

The Churchill Ranch