Harry L. Standley
By Leah Davis Witherow
Curator Of History
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
Harry Landis Standley was a renowned photographer and avid mountain climber. His two passions combined to make some of the most stunning scenic photographs taken in Colorado. Born on July 28, 1881 in Arkansas City, Kansas, his family later moved to Pueblo, Colorado, and by 1893 lived in Cripple Creek. It was here where the young boy fell in love with the mountains of Colorado and photography.
Standley left school after the sixth grade and began work at the F.A. Colburn Stationary Store. With a borrowed camera, Harry began photographing mines, miners, and the surrounding landscape. By age fourteen he purchased a Pony Premo #7 camera and built a darkroom. Despite the rapid changes in photographic technology throughout his career, he preferred glass plate photography due the detailed print quality.
After ten years of freelance photography in Cripple Creek, Standley moved to Colorado Springs. In 1905 he went into business with local photographer Will Sode, and later C. H. Auld. Finally, in 1921 Harry opened his own studio at 224 North Tejon Street where for decades he sold framed, hand-tinted mountain scenes to tourists and residents alike.
Mountain climbing dominated much of Standley's personal and professional life. In addition to photographing dozens of mountain ranges throughout Colorado, the Southwest, Pacific Northwest and Alaska; Standley is credited with being the first person to ascend and photograph all of Colorado's 14,000 foot peaks. He joined the local Saturday Knights Hiking Club, the Colorado Mountain Club, and in 1922 was one of the original "frozen five" members of the AdAmAn Club.
Standley also used his photographic talents to capture everyday life. The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce commissioned him to photograph the region throughout the year. These prints depict busy street scenes, schools, parks, churches, and people enjoying the scenery and area attractions. They served as an effective marketing tool - and are as distinctive and vividly detailed as his mountain views.
Of the thousand of photographs Standley took, only twenty-one were copyrighted. When asked why, Standley replied, "I love these old Colorado mountains and it pleases me to see pictures of them get out into the world." Standley sold his business in 1947 to Stanley Balcomb and John C. Turner. He continued to work there every day until he died in March 1951.
Harry Standley on the First AdAmAn Climb (1922)
Background photo courtesy of The Gazette/Mark Reis.