Who Was Henry Wonacott?

Henry Wonacott was a tenacious and adaptable commercial photographer working in Mendocino County between the years of 1908-1947. Equipped with the capacity to cater his skills to a changing market, his photography chronicles an evolving economic landscape.

Left: Photograph of Henry Wonacott Courtesy of Fern Mosier, Private Collection

Wonacott’s photographic career takes us on a journey through Mendocino County. With his camera he documented the evolution of the logging industry, explored the beauty of the countryside, and recorded the development of roads, bridges and businesses. His slogan, “Wonacott the Photographer in Your Town,” is a declaration of his marketing strategy. In his early career, he traversed the rough and rugged roads of the county to secure customers in every possible location. He would go as far as Eureka, offering his services at lumber camps and small towns along the way. He often developed and printed pictures on site in his portable darkroom.

The Willits News May 1, 1915

During his life in Mendocino County he owned and operated multiple portrait photography studios in Willits and Fort Bragg, was employed as a photographer for the Union Logging Company, embarked on a “U Catch Em’ Trout Farm” business venture, and created invaluable, promotional tourism images.

The images preserved at the museum capture everything from spectacular scenery and events, to the mundane details of everyday life and business. In its entirety the collection provides a visual, historic record of early life in Mendocino County. The photographs in this exhibit are a small sample of work primarily generated during Wonacott’s occupation of his Laurel Street studio in Fort Bragg.

Right: H.H. Wonacott, Parkins Collection 96-2-222

Top Left: Russian Gulch Bridge Near Fort Bragg, Ogle Collection 2000-12-130 Top Right: Rockport Redwood Co., Ogle Collection 2000-12-118 Bottom Left: Delightful Navarro Highway, Mendocino County, California, Ogle Collection 2000-12-128b Bottom Right: Untitled, Ogle Collection 2000-12-133