Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

The photo above is a panorama taken by Arthur C. Pillsbury between the years of 1916 and 1919.  The image was assigned the number in the Pillsbury Catalog of '412121'.  I have in my possession a digitized copy, obtained from BYU 

The Hetch Hetchy Valley about 1916
​Just Diabolical Planning - or a Conspiracy?
by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

         Instead of quibbling about the definitions above, let's look at what happened, and why.  I will be moving between two periods of action.  The first includes the coalescence of a group with a common interest in keeping the means used to acquire the Hetch Hetchy Valley unacknowledged. My entry into this history came from my Dad, Dr. Arthur F. Pillsbury.  Professional Bio.  Dad asked me to take care of a matter which was distressing him.  I understood in 1987 this was a wish for a biography to be written about his father, Arthur C. Pillsbury, who had died in 1946.  My understanding, as it turned out, was badly flawed.  After several years of compiling information and interviewing Dad and others, it was clear something was amiss.  I became aware of the first hidden piece of history when Dad called me one morning and ordered me to call Virginia Adams, an old friend of his from their childhood years in Yosemite.  This took place in late November 1990.   This part of the story launched my real research.     ​​The Call

Stunned cannot convey my sense of shock.  My research was thorough, however, and the Adams family very unintentionally assisted by their attempts to continue a cover-up I realized had been going on for generations.  Let's go back to the beginning and take a look at what really happened.  

Back to John Muir, in the years before 1906

            As President and 'Founder' of the Sierra Club, John Muir believed he would be speaking for the preservation of the wilderness, then under continuous attack by water interests, extraction industries, and developers.  The reality was very different. 
                 The Sierra Club was founded on June 4, 1892, in the office of Warren Olney, an attorney, in San Francisco.  

The Names of the Individuals Who Founded the Sierra Club
(What you will see is the names of SF elites, members of the Bohemian Club &
those involved in Real Estate Development)

       In 1893, Muir met Gifford Pinchot, whose wealth was built on logging, an extractive industry.   For a time, Pinchot and Muir were friends.  This ended over the issue of Hetch Hetchy.  As a Conservationist Pinchot supported the use of Hetch Hetchy as a water source for San Francisco.  Muir, a Preservationist, opposed this, and the relationship was severed.  Today, most people think of Muir as a Conservationist.  He was the opposite, a Preservationist.   Notice how the term has been changed to misrepresent the beliefs of John Muir. 
      There are occasional references to there being two founders - but the name of the other individual does not appear and would likely be illuminating. 
        Despite the many wealthy people who participated in its founding the number of Sierra Club members was small.  In 1900 the Sierra Club reported having 384 members after eight years of existence.  The rise in membership would begin when Pillsbury started filming Sierra Club events and showing them during his lectures.  Pillsbury showed his first nature movie , the first of its kind, in late autumn 1909.  The next year, 1910, these were a regular three times a week attraction on the porch of his Yosemite Studio.  This appears to be an action taken to show his friend and fellow Preservationist, John Muir, the impact of nature movies accompanied by lectures which took the audience into the life cycle of flowers and the flow of life through the natural world. 
         You ask, "What?  Sounds insane, right?  When anyone with an interest in Yosemite knows they note centennials for everything which happened in Yosemite.  But talking about AC Pillsbury is an exception.  I must mention it is not the only one.  They also fail to mention burning out the last Miwoks living in Yosemite Valley in 1969.  The date was supplied by Jay Johnson, the leader of the Miwok.  Mr. Johnson was the last Miwok tribe member living in Yosemite Valley and was burned out, by his report.  I met with Mr. Johnson in December 2016 and his memories of the event were very clear.
          The first Pillsbury Nature Movie, produced by standards higher than any then in use in the nascent movie industry was stunning.  Another film Pillsbury made was shown to the National Press Club in 1915.  Here is the news release.                    Eventually, Pillsbury would take the message of Preservation around the world through his lectures and movies.  His films were licensed for Global distribution by Pathe, Universal, and Paramount in 1919. 

The Battle for the Hetch Hetchy Valley Begins Publicly
It was planned in the 1880s
        In the wake of the 1906 Earthquake & Fire, San Francisco began its move toward obtaining Hetch Hetchy as a source of water.  Using the Earthquake to build sympathy for their plight became a powerful cudgel.  In truth, their own stupidity and incompetence were responsible for an enormous amount of additional damage done and lives lost.  As is too often the case, those responsible were never held accountable for this.  Along with whining for pity, these same elites made their support of Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election contingent on him handing over the federally controlled Hetch Hetchy to San Francisco's interests.  The maneuvering for this appears to have started in 1908.  Many asked why this was necessary.  There were other sources; much closer such as the 200,000-gallons per minute Sacramento River, but now, they saw the time had come to push for the pristine waters of the high mountains.  If water was on its way the land speculators were well been able to continue their sales.   
              From 1903 until March 1906, Arthur C. Pillsbury was working for William Randolph Hearst.  He was hired to 'organize' the photographic department for the Hearst Papers as well and to work as a photojournalist.  The first effective transmission of photographs via telegraph was used by Underwood and Underwood, for whom Pillsbury provided services and for Hearst papers, for whom Pillsbury was also working.  Pillsbury already had invented the first specimen slicer for the microscope (1895), was routinely designing and building engines and motors, had designed and built the first circuit panorama camera (1897).  He also designed a camera specifically for photojournalism during this period.  Camera Craft   An All-Round Newspaper Camera , June 1903.  
               The evidence available indicates that Pillsbury was the source of this improvement in technology, which today, is still in use.  Photography and film, as technologies, are the foundation of today's move to the Internet and essential to how we see the world.  Other inventors patented designs earlier but these failed to work reliably.  Both Thomas Alva Emerson and Alexander Graham Bell had patents on technologies that did not work and there was another patent on photographic transmission.  Grandfather appears to have fixed the problem and made it available to the two largest companies who had need of it.    So the San Francisco Earthquake & Fire would be the first major disaster to be seen around the world in photographs within hours of the event, these taken and sent by Arthur C. Pillsbury's Pillsbury Picture Company, founded March 27, 1906. 

                     Grandfather made a point of only patenting inventions which he deemed to be entirely commercial.  For human innovation to continue he believed our forward progress must be cooperative.  So his 'extending human vision' inventions, the lapse-time camera for plants (1912), the microscopic motion picture camera (1925), the X-Ray motion picture camera (1929), the underwater motion picture camera (1930), the stereoscopic motion picture camera (1935), he instead published how his invention worked and never patented them.  He referred to this as building the 'Knowledge Commons'.  Today, this is called Open Source.
              By contrast, both Edison and Bell not only patented all their inventions but attempted to control the inventions of others by action in court.   Pillsbury was the first to see the need for this form of human cooperation in modern times.  
            The first High Trip for the Sierra Club was made up of 56 campers, including 15 women who participated in an ascent of Mt. Rainier in 1905.  This would become an annual outing.  High Trips would continue until 1929.  

Stephen Mather, the Model for an Elitist Today

         Stephen Mather, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and a reporter for the New York Sun until his father, Joseph Mather, persuaded his own employer to give him a job so the wealthy socialite he wanted to marry could get approval from her family.  Mather attended his first High Trip in 1905 but never met John Muir.  By then Mather had recovered from a year languishing in depression, which began in 1903 when his employer, Francis Marion Smith, owner of Pacific Coast Borax, generally known as Twenty Mule Team Borax, began to ask him why his clients were vanishing.  
      Mather and his father were well aware of the answer to this question.  Both were heavily invested in the company started by Stephen Mather and his friend and associate, Thomas Thorkildsen, Thorkildsen - Mather Borax. The company was founded in 1898, the same year Thorkildsen was fired by Smith, having been caught stealing from Pacific Coast Borax.
     While Mather stayed with his job with Pacific Coast Borax, Thorkildsen took the investment funds entrusted to him by the Mathers and went to California to found Thorkildsen - Mather Borax.  Thorkildsen and Stephen Mather had decided to make their fortunes stealing Pacific Coast Borax's clients.  But by 1903 Francis Marion Smith, the owner of in 1905 was asking increasingly searching questions and this caused Mather's 'emotional break-down'.  This reaction to the fear of being caught in a crime would be replayed by Mather in 1917 as his efforts for creating his monopoly on the concessions through the NPS hit the skids due to Mather's profligate spending. ​ To recover, Mather arranged to steal the profitable Curry Company from the heirs of David Curry. 

Mather and Thorkildsen's explicit correspondence on this plot is archived. as is that of Mather's correspondence with an ever-more worried Francis Marion Smith.  

What is a group of wealthy men willing to do to get what they want?  Dam Near Anything 

       San Francisco real estate interests wanted Hetch Hetchy as a source of pristine water for its developments. One of the reasons this eluded them was the voice of John Muir, whose powerful writing and speeches were impacting public opinion.  As you saw, the Sierra Club was incorporated in 1892 with an original membership drawn from the rich and powerful of San Francisco.  Muir had been persuaded to become the first president. A stumbling block to their plans, they decided to co-opt him.  Muir had become too influential through writing and speaking, much of this in Oakland and Berkeley to be ignored.     

          We have been propagandized to think of the National Park Service, authorized by Congress in 1916, as committed to preserving America's wild places.  The idea for a National Park Service was the brainchild of Stephen Mather - whose only success in life was self-dealing.  First, he stole from Borax Smith, then he targeted the National Parks, then under the Department of Forestry.  Then, he went after the Parks with the intention of building posh hotels for his friends, combining business with pleasure.  
           This faulty assignment of motivation - and the battle over the use of the Hetch Hetchy - bring their role into question at the time the Hetch Hetchy was lost.  This should remain an open question for us today   

Pillsbury Buys a Studio in Yosemite Valley - 1906

              In 1912, a conference took place in Yosemite for all of the Superintendents of the National Parks.  At the end of the event, which lasted three days, the group viewed a short film and voted unanimously to end the mowing of the meadows in all of the National Parks which was then a common practice.  The film was one of the 500 lapse-time studies of plants, allowing the human eye to see plants in an entirely different way.  These studies and the lapse-time camera was the work of Arthur C. Pillsbury. A few months earlier, March 27, 1912,  John Muir had arrived back in the US to discover the Hetch Hetchy Valley had been lost.   Although he struggled to change what had happened, he failed.  Many have said this is what killed him on Christmas Eve, 1914.
                 What would the outcome have been if Muir had not believed the battle for the Hetch Hetchy had been won?  If someone, unnamed, had not enticed him to leave the country, paying all the costs for his journey?  Another important question is - who paid to get Muir out of the country and unreachable as his campaign to save Hetch Hetchy Valley was undone?  
                  The Sierra Club was created to co-op and control John Muir with the immediate goal being to ensure control of the Hetch Hetchy Valley for San Francisco. By positioning themselves as pro-environment they were able to achieve their long-stated goal. 
                    Until 1912, their membership was only a few hundred people.  Their activities became the means for rewriting the facts.  Muir was misrepresented as a Conservationist.  Pillsbury was never mentioned, despite providing the publicity which grew their organization.  
                   My Dad told me his father took the High Trips every year, photographing these in several ways, including for films but also using his panorama camera.  Dad and Aunt Grace were accompanying him.  During the six months, Dad spent in Yosemite each year, until 1925,  Dad slept in a tent a few inches behind the Yosemite Chapel.  At the time, Old Village was located there and the Pillsbury Studio and its cluster of small buildings for use as darkrooms, kitchen, and storage were situated in a complex which surrounded the Chapel and included living quarters in tents similar to those available at Camp Curry.   Those orchestrating Pillsbury's disappearance from history were led by Stephen Mather, Horace Albright, and William E. Colby.  Others also included Ansel Adams and his wife, Virginia Best Adams.  
                 Among other odd omissions, the Sierra Club does not provide dates for the High Trips during which Pillsbury took these panoramas and multiple other photographs.  They also claim not to have a copy of any of the films Pillsbury made of these events.   When the Dog does not Bark, there is also a story to be learned.  Flyer for Movies

              This deliberate disappearance from history of facts regarding Arthur C. Pillsbury pre-dates  'the famous man who wasn't there; The designation of the NON-PERSON in the Soviet Union; 1984 revisionist history; and the newer Chinese Communist Social Indexing as to your value to the State and the Society.  And now consider Facebook's similar criteria for censorship and shadow banning and the recent proposals for gun control as social indexing of people's mental, ideological and religious views for gun-ownership qualification.  Falsifying history to cover-up facts which include crimes is a criminal act and should be prosecuted.

Muir self-portrait

Gifford Pinchot

Stephen Mather

Photos of the Mt. Lyell High Trip of the Sierra Club - either 1917, 1921 
Photos by Arthur C. Pillsbury​​

High Trips by members of the Sierra Club appearing in the newspapers in the years 1917 - 1928 
LINK to copies of articles

1917 - San Francisco Examiner on July 8, 1917, titled, "Snows To Keep Falls Flowing",  carried as a subtitle, "Yosemite To Run Full
          Later Than Usual Because Of Heavy Snow In Mountains".   The article goes on to give details on this unusual condition.
1918 -  No High Trip because of the War
1919 - Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1919 - Trip will commence July 11 for Four weeks.  150 members will visit Mt Ritter, Thousand Island Lakes,
            Shadow Lake, Devil's Post Pile, Rainbow Falls, and Ten Lakes Basin.
1920 - Oakland Tribune July 30, 1920 - Triap was to Huntington Lake 235 Sierra Club members left on July 2nd for Yosemite Valley, Kings
            Canyon, South branch of the San Joaquin River, and Evolution Gorge. Lead by W. H. Colby.
1921 - Hanford Morning Journal July 15, 1921 - 160 members left Yosemite for four weeks among the peaks and glaciers and Alpine Meadows
            of the Matterhorn Country.  Led by William H. Colby. 
            Tonopah Daily Bonanza runs AP Release - Heavy snows replenish glaciers at 13,000 &14,000 peaks.  Falls will stay full.
1922-  Los Angeles Times September 21, 1922 - 300 members returned from their annual "High Trip" taken to the Mt. Whitney Region to enjoy
            the Round-Up dinner at the City Club.
1923 - San Francisco Examiner July 8, 1923 - 50 Sierra Club members will leave on July 7 to explore the Mudd Creek Glacier at McCloud and
            will visit the Ice Caves, Coquette Falls, and the Brewer Creek Glacier.  In the second week, the climb to Mt. Shasta will be made with a
            visit to the crater at the top and ending with a stay at the Lodge. Led by William E. Colby.
1924 - Oakland Tribune April 3, 1924 - Sierra Club Trip to go to Glacier National Park in late July.  Cost   $175.00 - 1924 ($2,625.73 2019)
1925 - Oakland Tribune July 30, 1925 - Sierra Club Trip is to Mt. Rainier to break a record for mountain climbing.  They are encamped at the
            base of Mt. Rainier. 
1926 - Visalia Times-Delta July 20, 1926 - The Sierra Club's 250 arrived in Yellowstone Park and will explore there until August 4th. 
1927 - Visalia Times-Delta - Sierra Club members left Giant Forest July 10 on route for Kern River Country and the Eastern section of Sequoia 
            National Park which contains the precipitous slopes of Black Kaweah the highest peak.  Sierra Club member Garth Winslow of Oakland
            was killed in a fall.
1928 - Oakland Tribune September 20, 1928 - The annual High Trip Reunion will be held in Muir Woods.  Ansel Adams is named as one of
            those in charge.  

Until November of 1927, when Ansel Adams stole the negatives, films, correspondence, d'orotones, and other items from the Pillsbury Studio in Yosemite and then torched the building he was employed there as the janitor.  The photos below were taken during a Sierra Club High Trip to Mt Lylle by Pillsbury.  

Arthur Francis Pillsbury

Grace Sylvia Pillsbury

Ernest Sargent Pillsbury, Jr

The Pillsbury Family
           The family was on their way to celebrate Ernest and Sylvia's anniversary when both of them were killed when their car encountered a washed-out section of the road going over Casitas Pass into Santa Barbara on September 4, 1911.  The longer story can be found at the link above.  Their grandmother, Dr. Harriet Foster Pillsbury immediately called her younger son, Arthur C. Pillsbury, who started south from Berkeley to help his mother and pick up the children, then being held in Ventura California.  All three suffered minor injuries.  
          To protect the children "Uncle" Arthur moved the children to his home in Berkeley.  There, he adopted them on November 14, 1911.  ADOPTION RECORD   My father, Arthur Francis Pillsbury, the youngest of the three, described to me in detail how his "Uncle" Arthur became his father.  Arthur C. sat down with Dad, then just turned six, and asked, a few days before the hearing he, Dad, wanted him to be his father.  I was looking at Dad's face as he spoke and even after more than seven decades you could see the happiness this memory held for him.  "Uncle" would involve Dad in everything he did, taking him even as a small boy into the world of nature. Along with learning came work.  Generations of Pillsburys grew up with strong work ethics; Dad was sweeping the porch where the Pillsbury movies were shown when he was eight.  By the time he was 12 he understood the technology of photography and was developing his own photos and assembling framed photos for customers.  Not long later, he was operating the projector for the movies. When "Uncle", his father, finished building the mass-production photo postcard machine, Dad also ran that.  
             Hetch Hetchy was a frequent destination for Pillsbury, with the children accompanying him to shoot photos.  Some of these made their way into the personal albums of Grace and her friend, who married her older brother Ernest, Jr., had kept.  
             Yosemite was a place for healing for all three children, a place away from the discomfort of the time spent in Berkeley in the house with AEtheline, Arthur C.'s wife of five years, who was so very different from anyone else they had known. 
              Ernie, Jr. ran away because of this; Grace, with Little Arthur, my Dad, spent six months of the year in Yosemite.  
              Dad began college at Stanford University in 1924, paying his own tuition by working summers.  But contact with his father, AC, was regular.  Dad also went to graduate school at Stanford, there obtaining his Pd. D. in Civil Engineering from that institution which both Pillsbury brothers, Dr. Ernest and Arthur C. Pillsbury had attended.  

             AEtheline played an interesting part in this story.  You can read about this HERE

The Story Moves on - Next Chapter

The Pillsbury Family

Arthur Francis Pillsbury