C. B. Waite

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Charles Betts (C. B.) Waite (December 19, 1861 – March 22, 1927) was an American photographer who worked in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. He signed his work C. B. Waite, and his full name is often mistakenly stated as Charles Burlingame Waite.[1][2]

Personal life and career[edit]

Men on Horses with Mountain in Background, ca. 1896-1913, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Born on December 19, 1861 in Ohio[3][a] to William and Ann (née Dawson) Waite.[6][7][b] Waite's brother, Frank Dawson Waite, was editor of the San Diego Sun newspaper from 1887 to 1910.[4][8][9] Charles Betts Waite moved to California by June 1881, when he was working with photographer Henry Ellis Coonley in the San Diego region.[10][11] In the 1890s, Waite's photographs of Southern California ranches and landscapes appeared in the magazine Land of Sunshine, and he was contracted by railroad companies to provide views of Arizona and New Mexico.[12] In 1885, Waite's only child, a daughter, was born.[4]

He worked in Los Angeles as a photographer for Burdick and Company in his late twenties.[5] Waite owned his own studio, having gained a reputation for his work as a landscape photographer. When he was 35, about 1896, he was married[5] to Alice M. Cooley, who was born in Missouri.[4]

Adobe village in Mexico, 1904, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

He traveled to Mexico City and in May 1897 established a photography studio there,[3][5] during the Porfirio Díaz government. He became part of Porfirian society, taking photographs of many in the ruler's circle. He was among a group of expatriate photographers (such as Winfield Scott and fellow San Diegans Ralph Carmichael and Percy S. Cox) working in Mexico in the first decade of the 20th century. Waite traveled throughout Mexico, exploring archaeological sites and the countryside.[1]

[Waite’s life] corresponds with that of adventurers, brave explorers with romantic spirits and materialistic outlooks, who toured the hitherto unknown world, discovering their riches and inventing paradises.

— Francisco Montellano, author of C. B. Waite, fotógrafo[1]
Calzada de Guadalupe, Morelia, Mexico, 1904, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

His works were published in books, travel magazines, and on post cards, having contracted with the Sonora News Company.[5] He also worked for several Mexican newspapers, and he documented United States scientific expeditions in Mexico.[citation needed] The images often included scenic Mexican images and the country's native residents.[5] Many of Waite's photographs depict railroads, parks, archaeological sites, and business enterprises.

Perhaps anticipating the development of a railroad line from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, linking Salina Cruz and Coatzacoalcos (Puerto México), he purchased about 7,000 hectares (17,000 acres) of land in Veracruz. The subject of many of his works, he lost the scenic property during the Mexican Revolution.[13]

Waite retained his American citizenship, traveling to the United States regularly from 1897 to 1918.[3] Alice Cooley Waite died in Mexico City in June, 1923.[14] Later that year, Waite moved back to Los Angeles,[5] where he died on March 22, 1927.[15]


Waite's photographs of the southwestern United States and Mexico can be seen in a number of collections, including the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens;[5] University of New Mexico's Center for Southwest Research;[16] Princeton University Library's Collections of Western Americana;[17][18] the Latin American Library of Tulane University;[19] the Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin;[20] the Eugene P. Lyle, Jr. Photographs, University of Oregon;[21] the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University;[22] and at the Tomás Rivera Library at University of California, Riverside.[23]

Waite's work has appeared in exhibitions, including "Mexican Life and Culture During the Porfiriato: The Photography of C.B. Waite, 1898-1913," at the Southwest Museum, Los Angeles (1991) and "Mexico: From Empire to Revolution" at the Getty Institute (2000-2001).[24][25] Some of his photographs are represented in the digital collection "A Nation Emerges: 65 Years of Photography in Mexico".[26]

Critical assessment of Waite's work focuses on his representation of poverty in Mexican society in relation to the industrialization and modernization projects of the Porfirio Díaz government.[27][28][29]


  1. ^ On passport and consular documents, Waite named his birthplace as Plymouth, Ohio,[3] and alternatively Auburn Township, Crawford County, Ohio,[4][5] (raised in Plymouth, Ohio).[4]
  2. ^ Ann Waite was deceased by 1907.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Jason Ruiz (January 1, 2014). Americans in the Treasure House: Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empire. University of Texas Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-292-75382-2.
  2. ^ "Waite, C. B. (Charles Betts), 1861-1927" (MARC Field 670, note 2). Library of Congress Name Authority File. Charles Betts Waite identified himself as C.B. Waite; many of his photographs have been erroneously identified as taken by Charles Burlingame Waite.
  3. ^ a b c d "Charles Betts Waite, passport certificate number 20470, June 5, 1918", U.S. Passport Applications, January 2, 1906-March 31, 1925, Roll 529, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,571,199.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Charles Betts Waite, Application to the Consulate General, Mexico City", U.S., Consular Registration Applications, 1916-1925, Department of State, Division of Passport Control Consular Registration Applications, February 26, 1918
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Michelle Sanchez. "Collection of Southern California and Mexico Photographs: Finding Aid". The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Retrieved July 31, 2017 – via Online Archive of California.
  6. ^ a b "Charles Betts Waite, Consular Registration, with attached notarized statement from William Waite and the town's mayor", Consular Registration Certificates, compiled 1907–1918. ARC ID: 1244186. General Records of the Department of State, 1763–2002, Record Group 59. National Archives at Washington, D.C., December 19, 1907
  7. ^ "William Waite and Ann Dawson Marriage, Richland County, Ohio", Richland > Marriage affidavits 1854-1858 vol 7 > image 71 of 405; county courthouses, Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013, February 5, 1855 – via Family Search The data came from Richland County, Ohio Marriages, 1851-70. County court records located at Mansfield, Ohio.
  8. ^ "Deaths". Evening Tribune. October 27, 1927.
  9. ^ "Personal". Editor and Publisher. 10: 15. December 24, 1910.
  10. ^ "Local Intelligencer". San Diego Union. June 12, 1891. p. 5.
  11. ^ Coonley, H. E.; Waite, C. B. "The "Charleston" and "Ilata" anchored in San Diego Bay. 385". Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  12. ^ Benigno, Casas (January – April 2010). "Charles B. Waite y Winfield Scott: lo documental y lo estético en su obra fotográfica". Anthropological Dimension. 48: 221–244.
  13. ^ Jason Ruiz (January 1, 2014). Americans in the Treasure House: Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empire. University of Texas Press. pp. 24, 62. ISBN 978-0-292-75382-2.
  14. ^ Notices of Deaths of U.S. Citizens Abroad, 1857-1922. Publication A1 849, NAI: 1227673. General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.
  15. ^ "California Death Index, 1905-1939" (Charles B. Waite, March 22, 1927; citing 13803, Department of Health Services, Vital Statistics Department, Sacramento; FHL microfilm 1,686,047.). FamilySearch.
  16. ^ "Inventory of the Mexico Photograph Collection, 1853-1980". Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  17. ^ C. B. Waite. "Photograph album, Mexican Ephemera Collection 1890-2000". Collections of Western Americana, Princeton University. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  18. ^ C. B. Waite (1900). "Visitas de Mexico. Indelible Photographs, Mexican Ephemera Collection 1890-2000". Collections of Western Americana, Princeton University. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  19. ^ "Donald and Martha Robertson Collection of C.B. Waite Photographs, c. 1904". The Latin American Library at Tulane. Tulane University. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  20. ^ "Rene D`Harnoncourt Photograph Collection, 1900-1925". Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved July 31, 2017 – via Texas Archival Resources Online.
  21. ^ "Eugene P. Lyle, Jr. photographs, 1874-1950s". Historic Photograph Collections. University of Oregon Libraries. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  22. ^ "Search: Waite, C. B." Digital Collections, DeGolyer Library. Southern Methodist University. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  23. ^ "Search: C. B. Waite". Calisphere, University of California, Riverside. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  24. ^ McKenna, Kristine (September 17, 1991). "From Mexico, Photography With a Social Conscience". Los Angeles Times.
  25. ^ "Mexico: From empire to revolution". La Prensa San Diego. October 20, 2000.
  26. ^ Guynn, Beth Ann (2010). "65 Years of Photography in Mexico". Getty Research Institute.
  27. ^ Ruiz, Jason (2014). Americans in the Treasure House: Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empire. University of Texas Press.
  28. ^ Pougher, India (April 30, 2015). "19th Century photographs draw similarities among traditional dress and the portrayal of women across different cultures". Edges of Empire.
  29. ^ Mraz, John (2012). Photographing the Mexican Revolution: Commitments, Testimonies, Icons. University of Texas Press.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to C. B. Waite at Wikimedia Commons