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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Painting by Kerrville artist and pioneer photographer shows up in Albuquerque

Landscape by Spencer Hinsdale Huntington, undated.
The artist lived in Kerrville until his death in 1949.
Click on any image to enlarge.

A little over 120 years ago, Dale Huntington, a young man in his mid-twenties, arrived in Kerrville with his two aunts. Orphaned at 12, he was raised by two of his paternal aunts, and the three of them made a family and lived together in Kerrville for the rest of their lives. Their home, in the 200 block of A Street, has been gone for many years.
This week, thanks to the kindness of a fellow in Albuquerque, I received an original oil painting by Dale Huntington.
Although I have several photographs in my collection which were taken by someone named “Huntington,” I never knew very much about Kerrville’s Spencer Hinsdale ‘Dale’ Huntington until I was searching through U. S. patents a few years ago, just to see how many brilliant inventors had lived right here in Kerrville. I was surprised to find well over 100 patents awarded to local inventors, ranging from a ‘cat restrainer’ to a ‘vaned rotor engine and compressor.’ There were many clever and complicated inventions listed, and all were invented right here.
Huntington's patent
Dale Huntington’s invention intrigued me. It was a patent for a coding device, for sending secret messages. It had two disks, one attached on top of the other, the top disk smaller than the one below. Etched on each disk were the letters of the alphabet. Kerrville’s S. H. Huntington was awarded patent 1,500,077 for the device July 1, 1924.
Honestly, the critical working parts of the device looked a lot like the “secret decoder” rings we used to find in boxes of cereal back in the late 1960s.
Postcard with image taken
by Huntington
The patent intrigued me for two reasons: first, secret messages are automatically intriguing; second, I recognized the name, S. H. Huntington. He was a pioneer photographer here.
Spencer Hinsdale ‘Dale’ Huntington was born on 1877 in Ohio. He lost his mother and a sister in 1879 when he was a toddler. His father and grandfather were civil engineers who designed and built railroads; his father, George Spencer Huntington, was the constructing engineer on the cogwheel railroad which travels up Pike’s Peak, and died there during its construction in 1889. 
So our Kerrville inventor, Dale Huntington, was an orphan by the time he was 12. I think he was raised by two of his paternal aunts, Fannie and Sarah Huntington, and all three arrived in Kerrville in 1901, when Dale was around 24. 
Huntington photography studio, 
corner of Water and Sidney Baker Streets
That would put Dale Huntington in Kerrville at the same time a photography studio stood on the corner of todays’ Water and Sidney Baker Streets, where the municipal parking building is located today. 
I have several copies of a photograph of that studio, which has an elaborate sign reading “Huntington/ Photographer.” I believe Dale Huntington was that photographer, and I have several of his historic photographs in my collection, some of which are ‘signed,’ and several I strongly suspect were taken by him.
I don’t think Huntington would consider himself a photographer. Most of his creative work went into oil paintings, which he often showed at local fairs. In fact, his occupation is listed as artist in several places. 
This week, one of his artworks returned to Kerrville.
He had a varied career. On his World War I draft registration card, when he was 41, he listed his occupation as “show card painter,” for a company in San Antonio. A 5,000 acre ranch, on Kelly Creek, in west Kerr County, was called the “S. H. Huntington Ranch,” so at least at one point in his life he had some capital, and was a rancher. He was interested in a new technology: radio. He had a store selling and repairing radios, and, according to a front-page story in the Kerrville Times, built ‘the world’s largest radio,’ with 23 tubes, and taking up one side of a room.
He served as the city secretary of Kerrville; he was the enumerator of the 1920 census; he was an avid golfer who was on the very first board of directors of the first golf course and country club here in 1924 (now Scott Schreiner Municipal Golf Course); he competed in chess championships; he taught astronomy to local boy scouts. Just a typical guy.
The Huntington's home, 
232 A Street, Kerrville, in 1934
Dale Huntington died in Kerrville in 1949, and was buried next to his aunts at Glen Rest Cemetery.
The Huntingtons were faithful members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, here in Kerrville. After his death, the church held an “Art Exhibit & Auction” to benefit the guilds of the church. On Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25, at the Blue Bonnet Hotel, and later in front of the Charles Schreiner Company, the auction was held, with Earl Brewton serving as auctioneer.
Some of the paintings were raffled off.
In handwriting, on the paper on the back of the framed painting, is this message:
“One of Dale Huntington’s paintings. Father [L. W.] Eldridge won from St. Martha’s Guild raffle, and gave to me – Lucille Eldridge.” Lucille and Louis Eldridge had several children, including Eloise Eldridge Henry, and Everett “Cotton” Eldridge. Cotton is famous locally for the waterskiing shows he produced in the narrow river lake at Louise Hays Park. Eloise Eldridge Henry, his sister, lived most of her life in New Mexico, including a time in Albuquerque. 
I’m guessing that’s how Dale Huntington’s painting ended up in Albuquerque.
“[Huntington] was a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church when I was a girl,” Eloise Henry wrote on the back of the painting’s frame, “and lived about 2 blocks from us.”
I like it when a Kerrville item makes its way back home, and I’m glad this little painting returned to the town where it was created.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is always looking for Kerrville items to bring back home to our community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 17, 2022.

You can help by sharing this story with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)




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