Say Cheese!

By Lauren Amundson

I was looking at a portrait of Percival Lowell today, and I noticed a stamp in the lower right hand corner. It says “Copyright 1904 by J.E. Purdy, Boston.” I did a quick web search and discovered that James Edward Purdy was a professional photographer in Boston around the turn of the century. He and his business partner, C.H. Howard, opened a studio in Boston in 1896, and they specialized in photographing famous people. Benjamin Orange Flower, an early twentieth century cultural critic, described Purdy as “The famous Boston photographic artist, who has undoubtedly taken more portraits of really distinguished statesmen, authors, educators, artists, clergymen, diplomats, journalists and persons eminent in various professions than any photographer in New England.”

Lowell was in good company! Read more about J.E. Purdy here.

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Flagstaff It Is

By Lauren Amundson

In 1894, wealthy Boston mathematician Percival Lowell sent his assistant, A.E. Douglass, west to the Arizona Territory to choose a location for an astronomical observatory. Lowell had become fascinated with the planet Mars, and he wanted to build his own observatory to study the Red Planet and other astronomical objects. Douglass arrived in Arizona on March 7 and spent the next six weeks testing potential sites in Tombstone, Tucson, Tempe, Prescott, and Flagstaff. On April 16, Lowell sent Douglass a letter stating, in part, “Flagstaff it is.” Following a month of preparations, Lowell arrived in Flagstaff from Massachusetts on May 28 and immediately began observing with borrowed 12-inch and 18-inch telescopes.

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As part of our 125th anniversary celebration, we’ve added a new digital collection to the Arizona Memory Project called “Flagstaff It Is – The Founding of Lowell Observatory.” It consists primarily of letters and telegrams between Douglass and Lowell from 1894 to 1901. Topics include Douglass’ reports from the various locations where he was testing sites, weather and atmospheric conditions, travel plans, moving the observatory to Mexico and back to Flagstaff, finances, and astronomy.