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From the Files of the Lassen Historical Society: Jervie Henry Eastman

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

An iconic photo of Jervie Eastman with his photographic van stuck in the mud.

By Susan Couso

There’s undoubtedly no larger collection of vintage photos of our area than that attributed to Jervie Henry Eastman. Eastman was born in Michigan in 1880, to Felix and Esther ‘Etta’ Eastman, and came to northern California with his family in 1886.

In 1903 he married Nora Berta McClendon in McCloud, California. He and Nora had a daughter, Susan Etta.

Always creative, at age 19, he was listed in the 1900 Census as an ‘artist’.

He was of medium height, blue eyes, brown hair and slender.

Eastman’s first job as a professional photographer began in the Mt. Shasta area in 1898, where he later became a partner in the Shasta View Company in 1907.

In 1920, Eastman purchased the Susanville photography studio of P.J. Thompson, and in 1921 J. H. Eastman established Eastman & Company in Susanville, which did professional photography as well as the burgeoning business of postcard photography.

It is the postcard part of his business which keeps the J. H. Eastman name alive today.

As the business grew, Jervie Eastman hired additional photographers to help with the work. About 1935, he hired Donald Bovee, who moved to Ely, Nevada in 1942 to work in a photography studio there. In 1936, Mirl Simmons joined Eastman to help with the postcard section of the business.

Simmons and Eastman became partners in the business in 1947, and eventually expanded to sell photographic supplies to the southern Oregon and northern California area.

Eastman spent the better part of his life chronicling life in our area. In 1959, when Eastman was 79-years old and ready to retire he sold his part of the business to Mirl Simmons and enjoyed life until February 11, 1969 when he died in Susanville. He was buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery in McArthur, California.

Simmons continued to operate Eastman’s Studios until 1980, when he retired and sold the business. He died in Jamestown, California in 1987.

Most of the Eastman postcards and negatives were purchased by Anne Fisher in 1982. She retired in 1994 and donated most of the collection to the University of California, Davis.

Much of the collection can be viewed on the university’s website or easily viewed at the Calisphere website. Anne Fisher also donated many of the original photo postcards and negatives to our Lassen County Historical Museum.

Fortunately for us, Jervie Henry Eastman called Susanville ‘home’ for many years.

J.H. Eastman on his 83rd birthday. All photos are from the Eastman Collection at UC Davis

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