Camera Workers, 1858-1950

The British Columbia, Alaska and Yukon Photographic Directory, 1858-1950

Harbeck, William H.

Harbeck, William H.[1, 2]

Male Sep 1863? - 1912

Personal Information    |    Media    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    Event Map    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Harbeck, William H. 
    Born Sep 1863?  Toledo, OH Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) Portland, OR Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) Seattle, WA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) May 1907  Vancouver, BC Find all individuals with events at this location 
    visit 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) May 1907  Victoria, BC Find all individuals with events at this location 
    visit 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) Sep 1909  BC Find all individuals with events at this location 
    visit 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) 1911  BC Find all individuals with events at this location 
    visit 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) 1911  Pendleton, OR Find all individuals with events at this location 
    visit 
    Died 15 Apr 1912  Atlantic Ocean near Newfoundland (sinking of SS Titanic) Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Woodlawn, OH Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I866  Camera Workers | H, vol. 2, 1901-1950
    Last Modified 9 Mar 2017 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsWhere Active (Non-Specific Address) - visit - May 1907 - Vancouver, BC Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    W.H. Harbeck and his camera in front of Takakkaw Falls, Yoho Valley, BC, 1 Oct 1909
    W.H. Harbeck and his camera in front of Takakkaw Falls, Yoho Valley, BC, 1 Oct 1909
    Courtesy of British Columbia Archives, call number F-02317.
    W.H. Harbeck and his motion picture camera, ca. 1911
    W.H. Harbeck and his motion picture camera, ca. 1911
    Published in Moving Picture News, 27 Apr 1912, following the report of his drowning in the Titanic disaster.
    W.H. Harbeck's letterhead, 1911-1912
    W.H. Harbeck's letterhead, 1911-1912
    Public Archives of Nova Scotia, RG 41, vol. 75, no. 35, John S. Harbeck to Deputy Provincial Secretary, 25 Sep 1912.

  • Notes 
    • STATUS: Commercial (cinematographer/visit).
    • BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY: Harbeck's importance to British Columbia cinema emerged from three visits in 1907, 1909 and 1911. Only the 1907 footage survived, found in Australia in 1994 and eventually transferred to the Library and Archives Canada. According to Bottomore's thorough biography, before taking up filmmaking Harbeck had worked as "a bookkeeper, journalist [in Anaconda, Colorado], inventor, travelling book agent, baker, and owner of a steam laundry." (p. 27). Although it is unknown where and when he learned how to use a motion picture camera, the earliest record of his work as a cinematographer was in 1906 when he filmed the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake, possibly on assignment from the Miles Brothers (Bottomore, p. 27). He also filmed in Yellowstone National Park in 1906 for the Selig Polyscope Company, a Chicago company who had a cameraman named H.H. Buckwalter working out of Denver, Colorado, and who had shot a film in 1904 in the Cripple Creek mining district where Harbeck worked.

      Harbeck's first visit to BC occurred in May 1907: on 4 May he visited Victoria to film the city from a streetcar loaned by the B.C. Electric Railway Company. A member of the local tourist association also assisted his work by taking him to scenic locations in Victoria not served by the streetcar line. On 5 May 1907, after his day in Victoria where he shot 600 feet of film, he took the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway to Nanaimo, and then by boat to Vancouver, where he planned to take the Canadian Pacific Railway as far as Lytton, compiling a further thousand feet of film. He spent two days (6 and 7 May) filming Vancouver from another B.C. Electric Railway streetcar. The article noted that he would also drive through Stanley Park in an automobile. The Province article hilariously described the effect of his filming on those who encountered the streetcar as "kinetoscopitis". Both the Colonist and Vancouver World articles noted that Harbeck was working on behalf of the Hales Tourist Association of Portland, Oregon. Hale's Tours, also known as Scenes of the World, was an early form of cinematic amusement in which customers experienced a simulated railway car ride, with the film projected in front of them. The 1907 Vancouver film shows the outside of the Vancouver outlet at 131 Cordova St., also known as the Edison Grand Theatre, which was operated by James D. Williams (Bottomore, p. 30). In two articles on Hale's Tours and Vancouver theatres, the Moving Picture World noted that Williams was "now a leading Australian vaudeville and moving picture magnate", which could explain how the Harbeck film of Vancouver and Victoria ended up in Australia.

      Harbeck's fall 1909 visit to BC saw him filming more scenes along the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the results of which, combined with his 1907 footage, resulted in a 4,000 foot film that was exhibited at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle (Bottomore, p. 33). Some of this footage depicting aspects of the C.P.R.'s operations between Victoria and Calgary was also shown in Revelstoke in early Nov 1909. During his 1909 trip, Harbeck also had himself and his camera photographed in front of Takakkaw Falls, Yoho Valley, on 1 Oct (BVIPA photo no. HP017034).

      Harbeck's 1911 trip to BC was a coastal voyage on one of the Grand Trunk Pacific Coastal Steamships. This trip was likely part of his journey to Alaska in Jul.

      Harbeck's last working trip resulted in his death by drowning when the Titanic sank. Details of this voyage and some of the mysteries surrounding his presence are recounted in the Web site article about him on Encyclopedia Titanica.

      Harbeck's body was recovered, returned to his mother (Mrs. Catherine Harbeck), who administered his estate, and he was buried in his birthplace. A photograph of his gravestone appears on the Encyclopedia Titanica Web site.

      Harbeck married Catherine (Katie) L. Stetter in the 1880s and they had two sons, John S. and Stanley. John S. Harbeck, named after his grandfather, assisted his mother in gathering information from the Nova Scotia Deputy Provincial Secretary's office on the disposition of his father's personal effects, and the identity of the mysterious Mrs. Brownie Harbeck of Seattle, WA, who was also interested in Harbeck's effects and identified the owner of a purse Harbeck was carrying when he died.
    • REFERENCES: Daily Colonist, 1907 05 05/3 ("Views of Victoria in Realistic Form"); Vancouver World, 1907 05 06/7 ("Vancouver Scenery in Moving Pictures"); Vancouver Daily News Advertiser, 1907 05 07/12 ("Will Take Moving Pictures of Vancouver"); Province, 1907 05 08/18 ("Many Citizens Will Figure on Screen"); (Revelstoke) Mail-Herald, 1909 09 11/4 ("Local and General"), 1909 10 30/1 ("Revelstoke Illustrated"), 1909 11 06/1 ("Special Attraction - C.P.R. Mountain Tour at Edgar Parlour Theatre"); Motion Picture News, 1912 02 17/20 ("Interesting Interview with Mr. W.H. Harbeck, of Seattle"); BVIPA photo no. HP017034 (self-portrait at Takakkaw Falls, Yoho Valley, BC, dated 1 Oct 1909); BVIPA Sound & Moving Images Vertical File (Harbeck, W.H.); Encyclopedia Titanica (Web site; URL [accessed 9 Mar 2017]: https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/william-harbeck.html); Duffy (1986); Bottomore (2000).

  • Sources 
    1. [S152] COLLECTION: OOA.
      1907 Vancouver and Victoria footage

    2. [S156] COLLECTION: ORHSOC.
      Pendleton Round-Up film