Photographer J.D. Givens? : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I'm currently researching the career of James D. Givens, a San Francisco photographer who had a studio in the Presidio in the early 1900s. (The archives at the Presidio has dozens of Givens' photos in its collections.) So far I've found several addresses for him in old City directories and learned he actually lived in the Presidio for many years, but I can't seem to find any personal information about him -- especially his portrait. Any ideas where else to look?


-- John Martini (, November 02, 2001


You may want to check out a book by Carl Mautz that is a bibliography of Western Photographers. It might well have biographical info on Givens and might also give leads to other information about him.

-- GlennKoch (, November 03, 2001.

John, I pulled a 3X5 card out of my undergraduate files circa 1970 and it says: "S F in Ruins, Photo by JD Givens, Presidio, Copy-1906 AM Allison & JD Givens, Pub - Leon Costeyee, 1370 Sutter". The back of the card says "675 Van Ness, Camera, Ponder & Best", and that's probably where I saw the photo. I remember being very impressed by the photography. Hope this can help. Ciao, Walt Stephenson

-- Walt Stephenson (, December 30, 2002.

John, I have an album entitled "Scenes [from] the Philippines, China, Japan, and [the] Pacific" by J. D. Givens (ca 1910). I recently found the title is actually "Scenes taken in the Philippines, China, Japan, and on the Pacific, relating to soldiers". San Francisco, Hicks-Judd Co., 1912, by Givens, James David. ASSUME these are the same books. However, some of the graphic photos are labled "Rockett" San Francisco and dated; about 28 of the photos are numbered and signed by J. D. Givens. For many years I thought the J. D. was John D. Givens.

A John D. Givens, Co A 315 Supply Train, Camp Travis, TX was written in the back of my grandfather, Jesse G. Sanders' field Bible. The Bible has a written date of May 12, 1919 Germany. Jesse Sanders was a Wagoneer in Co A 315 Am Train (1917-1924), from Clinton Co. IN.

I am aware of Purdue family members serving in the Spanish American War, and in the Philippines; later a great uncle Egan served in the Philippines and Hawaii. ASSUME these people may have known J. D. Givens personally.

However, after reading your 2001 message, I need to revisit J. D. Givens and determine which I need to know more about--perhaps both, John D. and James D. Givens.

Hope this info helps.

-- Virginia Dieterle

-- Virginia Dieterle (, August 06, 2004.

These are two different fellows. Since my original posting I learned quite a bit about Givens. James Davide Givens was born in 1863, moved to San Francisco in 1899, and lived on the Presidio until 1933 where he served as the civilian "post photographer" for the army. He took innumerable portraits of soldiers passing through the Presidio, and traveled around the west and oversea documenting military activities. These trips included a visit to the Philippines in 1900 where he documented the on-going "insurrection", out of which grew the book titled "Scenes [from] the Philippines, China, Japan, and [the] Pacific" which he republished several times.

Givens later accompanied General John "Blackjack" Pershing to Mexico in 1915 when the army was pursuing Pancho Villa. Out of this trip he produced yet another booklet, this time about the border fighting. He also put out a book about the 1906 fire and earthquake, as well as uncounted postcards, stereo views, panoramic photos, specialty albums for various Presidio commands, and other photographic works. He also operated a studio on Angel Island, where his staff took photos of soldiers passing through the replacement depot there at Fort McDowell.

Givens sold his business in 1933 to his lab assistant, Mrs. Nita Palla Evans, and he and his wife moved to Watsonville, CA, where he died in December 1939. Mrs. Evans and her husband continued to operate the "Givens Studios" at the Presido until the early 1950s when the army evicted her and demolished the aged studio building.

-- John Martini (, August 07, 2004.

Ran across your August 2004 message. My husband and I own a copy of the book San Francisco in Ruins (photos by Givens.)

The book gives no information about the photographer other than identifying him with the Presidio. The book is listed with the Library of Congress, but I haven't found a copy for sale on any of the common used book sites.

-- Larilyn Stenkamp (, January 10, 2005.

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