From sign painter to photographer, the work of Fred R. Wolcott and his now abandoned home

Pictured above is 1317 Carbon Street. The research of Jack Carpenter tells us that the street was so named because of the many families living along it who used charcoal burners.

This specific house is the former home of Fred R. Wolcott. In 2006, local writer Dick Case wrote that Wolcott was born in 1862 in Jefferson County and later moved to Syracuse to work as a commercial sign painter. Wolcott ultimately switched fields to work with both still and motion picture photography in 1904. His photographs were occasionally featured in Syracuse newspapers including his work on local parks, such as Onondaga Park in the Strathmore neighborhood.

His most famous work was the images he captured of daily life on the Onondaga Nation territory in the early 1900’s, some of which can be seen below. They come accompanied with this message:

It is not known whether Wolcott took the photographs because of a personal interest in the Indians or for a commissioned project. It is possible that Wolcott was working on a book entitled Onondaga Indians and Their Homes, which was never published. It is believed that several of the photographs may have been taken when a filmmaker by the name of Logan made a film, “On Gibson Road by the Creek.” He had certain Onondagas dress in their special occasion costume for the film. Wolcott may have taken advantage of the occasion to shoot a series of photographs.

Wolcott would pass away at the age of 84 in 1946.

  • Jen

    Awesome post!