One Family, Four Generations, Ten Men, and a Ton of Film

In less than a century, Los Angeles grew from a coastal enclave to one of the world’s most influential cities. The Watson Family of photographers recorded it all – big disasters, small everyday triumphs, world leaders, petty con men, sports legends and infamous trials.  Across four generations, a Watson photographer (or two) has been present at most of the significant events in Southern California, and on occasion through-out the world.

Spanning the entire 20th Century, the exhibition presents more than a historical chronology. It also illustrates how advances in photo-technology changed the texture of news photography.  The Watson family’s tradition of technical innovations (dating to the early 1910’s in both the motion picture and still photography) are highlighted throughout the exhibition.

The Watson’s vintage cameras and historical memorabilia (such as press passes,event programs, etc,) are also available for exhibition by special arrangement.

Publications & Museum Collections

The Watson’s Photographs have been published world-wide for close to a century in newspapers, magazines and books.  Watson photograph are held in the permanent collections of The Getty Museum and The Hollywood Heritage Museum, and one of George Watson’s original 4X5 cameras is in the permanent collection of the Newseum in Washington D.C.

Selections from the Family Archive have also been exhibited at Los Angeles County Museum of Science and Industry (1972), Los Angeles County Public Library, Getty Gallery (2003), and The Forrest Lawn Los Angeles Museum (2007).  In 1999, the Watson Family received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame honoring their contributions to the film industry.

Installation Images
Watson Family Photographers Exhibition

Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 07/09

Exhibition Facts

Dates Available:  2009-2011

Contents:             50 framed photographs, text panels, labels
                           vintage cameras and historical memorabilia (such as press
                            passes,event programs, etc,) are also available for exhibition by
                            special arrangement.

Space Req:         200 running feet approx.

Loan Fee:             Price on request  

Insurance:           Exhibitor responsible 

Shipping:             Exhibitor responsible 

Req:                    Appropriate security

Contact:              Jeffrey Landau -310-397-3098 - jlandau@a-r-t.com

Watson Biographies

James Watson (1863-1925)

Born in England, James immigrated to the US in 1885 as a Salvation Army minister and made his way to Los Angels in 1901.  Having acquired a US government photography manual published during the Civil War, James became the first of the ten Watson photographers. As a hobbyist he photographed Buffalo Bill in Los Angeles in 1903,   Beach goers at Santa Monica and four masted ships in San Pedro Harbor on 5X7 glass plate negatives.  In 1910 he photographed the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building.  James’ passion for photography would lead 3 more generations of Watsons into life long careers as professional news and commercial  photographers into the 21st century. 

Three of James’ sons lived and worked in Hollywood.  William H. Watson started as a film editor for Christies and worked  as a director  on action scenes in motion pictures through out his career in Hollywood.  George Watson was a news still photographer covering the Hollywood scene as part of his daily assignments as photographer and manager of ACME News Pictures – L.A. division.  Coy Watson Sr. worked just about every job available in the early rough and tumble days of the silent movie business.

The Hollywood Watsons 

Coy Watson Sr. was a pioneer in front of  as well as, behind the camera.  Even his wife Golda played bit parts with her babies in her arms in the early silent movies  The nine Watson children, Coy Jr., Vivian, Gloria, Louise, Harry, Billy, Delmar, Garry and Bobs – worked in motion pictures from the time they were babies through adolescence.   Coy Sr. allowed his three girls to work in family groups in movies such as “TAXI 13,  and LIFE BEGINS AT FORTY”  but didn’t want his daughters to work in the business after the age of 12 or 13.  The boys worked continuously through the 1930’s and 40s with family members credited in over 1000 movies, earning them the title of “The First Family of Hollywood”.   The Watson family received a star on Hollywood Blvd.  in 1999 for their accomplishments in motion pictures.

Coy Watson Sr. (1890-1968)

Coy worked  as actor,  stunt rider, prop man,  special effects man,  and became Assistant Director for Mack Sennett in 1915.  He was head of casting at Fox Studios in the 1920s.  Due to his reputation for “making things fly” in the movies,   he worked as special effects man for Douglas Fairbanks in “THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD” (1924),  “THE BLACK PIRATE” (1926),  and “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 MINUTES”(1931).  Through the 1940’s Coy Sr. worked as an agent for his nine children who all acted in motion pictures.

George R. Watson  (1892-1977)

George received  his first camera from his father at age 8, and built a darkroom out of an old shipping crate.    His first newspaper photos were published in Oregon by the Grants Pass Courier in the early teens where he scratched out a meager living as a photographer.  George was hired as one of the first staff photographer of the Los Angeles Times in 1917 and covered the big news stories of the roaring 1020’s; such as,  the Parker - Hickman kidnapping(1927) , the first around the world flight(1924) and is credited with the first published news photos taken from the air of Los Angeles in 1919.   He left the Times in 1929 to manage  Pacific+Atlantic News photos, which became ACME News Pictures, (and later UPI) where he and his staff covered the 1932 Olympics, transmitted  L.A.’s first wire photo,  and documented the major achievements  of the golden years of aviation.  George stayed at ACME until 1940 when he retired.  As an inventive young man George created many products and techniques to improve the photographic equipment and processes of his time.  In 1913, he patented a process that was the forerunner of microfilm, but due to financial difficulties sold the patent right

Coy Watson Jr. – (born Nov 16, 1912 -

Coy Jr. apperard in his first movie  “THE PRICE OF SILENCE”(1913),  at the age of 9 months for Selig Studios. Coy worked so much in the Keystone Comedies of the teens and 1920’s that he was dubbed “The Keystone Kid”.  Coy acted with all the major Sennett Studio stars of the era,  Gloria Swanson and Mabel Norman, The Keystone Kops, and Fatty Arbuckle.  Photography was always a large part of Coy’s life.  At the age of 4 years,  Coy remembers  watching his grandfather,  James developing film in their pantry and how magical it seemed to him.  When Coy’s uncle George Watson discovered  that young Coy Jr. was interested in photography he gave him a job sweeping the floors at Pacific + Atlantic Photos,  and with it,  an opportunity to learn photography.  Coy’s first news picture was published at age 16 and soon after he was hired as a photographer at Pacific+Atlantic.   In the following years he worked at the newspapers of the day including, The Post Record , the LA Herald , the L.A.Times and back to Pacific+Atlantic(ACME)News Pictures.  Coy covered the big news stories of the 1930s including Thelma Todd’s mysterious death,  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s visit to Los Angeles in 1932, and the 1932 Olympics,    During this time he invented  a light beam focuser that was the first application of a battery mounted on a camera  to assist in focusing.  Coy headed a Coast Guard photography unit during WWll, and started his own commercial  photo business after the war  where he began to shoot 16mm movies for the fledgling television industry.  Coy’s “HOLLYWOOD REEL”(1949) were the first “made for T.V.” syndicated episodes to air featuring the Hollywood stars of the era.  Coy continued in television news at KTLA, CBS,  ABC,  and KCRA Sacramento .  Coy is now retired in San Diego.

Harry Watson – (Aug. 31, 1921 – June 8, 2001)

Harry played WC Fields’ son Ronald in “THE BARBER SHOP”(1933), with Wallace Berry in OLD HUTCH (1936) and with Fred Astaire and Joan Fontaine in “A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS” directed by George Stevens  (1937).  He rode Shirley Temple on his handlebars in “LITTLE  MISS BROADWAY(1938),  and worked with Mickey Rooney in “ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN (1939)  Harry’s first job was at ACME News Pictures and then joined his brother Coy as a Coast Guard photographer  during WWll.   He was stationed in the Washington DC photo lab, on submarine chasers in the Caribbean,  and then assigned to the South Pacific as a combat photographer where he photographed three major landing invasions and the 1944 return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur to Leyte  Island in the Philippines.  Harry worked in commercial  photography with his brother Coy after the war  until he joined the Los Angeles Daily News  in the 1950’s.  When the paper folded he worked as a KTTV television newsreel  cameraman  through the 1960’s and 70’s leaving to man his own commercial  photography business until he retired in the 1980’s 

Bill Watson – (Dec. 25, 1923 -    )

In 1934,  Billy played Alan Hale’s son Micah Dow in “THE LITTLE  MINISTER”,  starring Katherine Hepburn.  He worked twice with  director,  John Ford, in “THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS”(1936),  and in “YOUNG MR. LINCOLN”(1939) staring Henry Fonda.  He played Bobby MacDonald for directors Otto Preminger and Alfred L. Werker in “KIDNAPPED”(1938).  During WWll, Bill joined his brother Coy at Long Beach Naval  Station as a Coast Guard photographer.  After the war he worked as an artist at the Los Angeles Daily News,  and then as one of the “6 Watson brothers”,  in their Los Angeles commercial  photography business.  Bill worked on his own commercially through the 1970s, and into the 1990s.   Bill continued to act in local theater and in character parts in television on shows like “HILL STREET BLUES” and “GENERAL HOSPITAL”.  He is retired and lives in Washington Sate. 

Delmar Watson– (July 1, 1926 –     )

Delmar started acting in movies at age 6 months in early westerns with Tom Mix and George O’Brien, and in the Hal Roach “OUR GANG COMEDIES”.  He played Tad Stanley with Randolph Scott and Shirley Temple in her first feature film, “TO THE LAST MAN”(1933) and again with Temple as Peter the Goat General in “HEIDI”(1937).  Delmar shot a glass ball out of the hand of WC Fields’ with a slingshot in the classic comedy “YOU CANT CHEAT AN HONEST MAN”(1939)  Delmar learned photography from his father, brothers and worked  at ACME news Pictures before the war.  He entered the Coast Guard on his 18th birthday and 6 months later joined his brother Coy’s photography unit at Long Beach Naval Station until his discharge.  He worked in his brothers’commercial  studio and then was hired as a staff photographer by the Mirror-News,  in 1948 .   He left the Mirror ten years later  to join  the “6 Watson Borthers “ phtography studio until he opened his own studio in 1967.  Delmar has stored the Watson’s historic collection of photographs, negatives and memorabilia at his Hollywood office until moving the archive to Glendale in 2007. 

Garry Watson (Sept. 27, 1928 –    )

At age 11, Garry worked with brothers,  Delmar,  Harry and Billy in ,”MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON”(1939) staring James Stewart ,  and with six Watson family members in “LIFE BEGINS AT FORTY”(1935) with Will Rogers.   He worked again with brothers Delmar and Billy in WILD GIRL(1932) with Joan Bennett,  and with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in “THE EXILE”(1947).    He sang on his own ABC radio show in the 1950’s and became know as the “singing photographer”.  Garry learned photography from his father and brothers during the 1940’s earning his first dollars as the official school photographer during his high school years.   His first photographic job came  in 1948 as he manned the wirephoto machine at ACME news pictures.   One of Garry’s first photo assignments at ACME was to photograph test pilot, Chuck Yeager  who had just broken the sound barrier.  He moved from ACME to the Los Angeles Daily News until 1954 when he went on to the L.A. Times.  Garry left newspapers in 1957 to join “The 6 Watson Brothers” commercial photography business through the 1960’s.  He worked as a commercial photographer until 1977 when he joined the Valley News and Green Sheet which became the Daily News of L.A.  Garry retired in 1986s.

Bob Watson – (Nov. 16, 1931 –  June 27, 1999)

Bobs,  who  became known as “The Crybaby of Hollywood”,  played Pee Wee in “BOYS TOWN”(1938) and “MEN OF BOYS TOWN”(1941) starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.    In 1939 Bobs played in three major movies - as Pud in “ON BORROWED TIME” with Lionel Barrymore,  as Harry Cole in “DODGE CITY” with Errol Flynn,  and as George Sanders in “THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL’ starring Don Ameche and Henry Fonda.  Bobs was drafted into the army during the Korean war, but continued acting through the 1950s and 60’s on television shows such as “BONANZA”,  “THE TWILIGHT ZONE”, “THE BEVERLY  HILLBILLIES”,  and “GREEN ACRES”.  He became a Methodist Minister but still did occasional rolls in movies like “FIRST TO FIGHT”(1967) with Chad Everett  and TV shows such as “LOU GRANT” and “M.A.S.H”.  His last feature film credit was as a minister in Ron Howard’s “GRAND THEFT AUTO”(1977).  Bobs worked with is brothers in the commercial photography business between acting jobs in the 1960’s, and used his photographic knowledge to enhance his acting career .  In 1959,  Bobs photographed an up and coming actor,  Burt Reynolds doing stunts on horseback, on motorcycles and in cars to build Burt’s acting portfolio.  Photography was even a large part of Bobs’ Methodist ministry as he used movies and photography in his sermons.

Daniel W. Watson (1957 -     )

The fourth generation,  and the tenth Watson to become a photographer,  Daniel learned photography from his father,  Garry.  During Jr. high, and high school summer vacations he spent time at his father’s and uncle’s commercial photo studios hearing stories of the golden years of news photography.  In 1976 Dan rented a small office from his Uncle Harry and started his own photo business.  In the 1970s and 80’s He worked as a contract photographer at Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita Race tracks as one of the official track photographers.  The seasonal work allowed him to work on staff at small community news papers such as The Valley News and Green Sheet, Burbank Daily Review,  and The Glendale News-Press.  In the 1980s and 90’s he began working in the television industry, printing in the photo lab at CBS and shooting episodic television for ABC TV, covering shows like “Rosanne” and “Home Improvement”.   In 1994 he was hired as a staff photographer at the L.A. Museum of Natural History until the position was eliminated in 1996.  In 1997 he joined The Signal Newspaper as Chief Photographer,  and then went back to the Glendale News-Press in 2003.  In 2007 he left to manage the Watson Family Photographic Archive.


Brown Bomber by Coy Watson Jr., 1935,
Joe Lewis training at the Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles for his fight with Lee Ramage at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.  Louis won by TKO 2:11 into the second round.

The Big Itch by Garry Watson, 19XX

Challenger Fly-back by Dan Watson
Los Angeles Civic Center by George Watson, 1927
The first Los Angeles Sky-Scrapper, the 13-story Civic Center under construction.
Cohen Gets Cuffed by Delmar Watson, 1951
 Mobster Mickey Cohen is convicted of income tax evasion in Federal Court House in Los Angeles.
Nixon & Graham by Garry Watson, 1962
VP Richard Nixon and Reverend Billy Graham golfing at the Bel Air Country Club.
Hula Hoop Queen by Garry Watson, 1979
Junior High student works 28 Hula Hoops in the San fernando Valley.
Iranian Protest by Garry Watson, 1979
Pro Ayatollah Khomeini marchers are greeted with distain by Los Angeles pedestrian.
Jack Johnson Surrenders by George Watson, 1920
Former Heavy Weight Champ Jack Johnson surrenders to US Marshals in Tijuana, Mexico.
Watson Photographers by Dan Watson, 2007
Photo Montage of Watson Photographers
MacArthur Returns by Harry Watson, 1944
General MacArthur stands on the beach of Leyte Island.
Magic Castle by Delmar Watson, 1954
The famous Magic Castle under-construction at Disneyland.
Jane Mansfield by Garry Watson, 19XX
Blonde Bombshell and family friend Jane Mansfield helps promote the Watson Bros. Business
Last of His Kind by George Watson, 195X
Funeral procession of Santio Jaucis, the last San Gabriel Indian.
President Wilson by George Watson, 1919
President Woodrow Wilson arrives in Los Angeles to build support for his League of Nation.  He is accompanied by presidential physician Admiral Gary Grayson.  Photo was shot on the platform of the Santa Fe Station.
President Roosevelt by Coy Jr. Watson, 1936
Incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt stumps on the campaign trail in Los Angeles.
Television by Garry Watson, 1949
The new television technology captures viewers on the street in Hollywood.
Watts Tower by Garry Watson, 19XX
Sabato Rodia poses proudly with his creation.
Flight Into Eternity by George Watson, 1937
Amelia Earhart at Lockheed Airport just prior to starting her globe-circling flight which ended with her unexplained disappearance over the Pacific.
Lucky Lindy and Anne by George Watson, 1930
Colonel and Mrs. Charles A. Lindbergh in heated suits before take-off on their record setting transcontinental flight of 14 hours and 45 minutes.  Note: Anne is carry their first child who was kidnapped and killed in 1932.
Downtime by Delmar Watson, 1952
US Submariners entertain themselves during maneuvers off the coats of Southern California.
Bert Reynolds by Bobs Watson, 1936
Struggling actor bert reynolds works the phone from his bedroom, the photographer was his roommate at the time.
Carl Sagen by Daniel Watson, 1980
Scientist , Carl Sagan speaks at JPL as Voyager 1 Passes Saturn.
John Williams by Daniel Watson, 1985
Composer John Williams concentrates during concert rehearsals in 1985.
Iron Lady by Daniel Watson, 19XX
Polio victim XX was the  last iron lung patient in Los Angeles
4th of July by Coy Jr. Watson, 1932
Watson Brothers playing watching “House Afire” firewoks. (l.-r. Garry, Bobs, Delmar, & Billy)
Pressroom Burnout by Coy Jr. Watson, 1936
Weege plays taps as the 1932 Olympics end for the Acme News team.  In the foreground is George Watson.
Steve’s Ride by Garry Watson, circa 1966
Steve McQueen poses with his at his home in Malibu.
Santa Barbara Quake, 1925Brother Michael stands on the steps of the Santa Barbara Mission.
Holdup Man’s Defeat by Delmar Watson,  circa 1955
Detective Christopher (who shot the holdup man) and police officer examine the body on Santa Monica Blvd. near Western Ave,  Herald Express reporter Niessen Himmel is in the background.
Wet Kiss by Coy Jr. Watson, circa 1930. Swimming and diving champions Harold “Dutch” Smith and Marjorie Gestrint kiss for the camera in the El Mirador Hotel pool in Palm Springs, California.  Photo was used to promote Catalina Swimwear.
Destroyer Hit Rocks by George Watson, 1928
Storm and radio confusion cause seven US Destroyers to run aground at Point Arguello, California, 22 lives and 10.5 million lost in the accident north of Santa Barbara.
Another Day’s Work by George Watson, circa 1933
LAPD Detective Earl O’Day surveys a murder-suicide scene.
WM34.jpgUnited Artists by George Watson, 1936
Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charles Chaplin waiting with theirarms around each other for a train.
Windjammers by James. Watson, 1901
Four-masted Windjammers call on the Port of San Pedro prior to massive dredging project, which created one of nations largest harbors.
LA Times Bombed by James Watson, 1910
The Los Angeles Times Building was destroyed in a labor war on October 1, 1910.  Within a few hours the paper published a four-page editorial, from another building, accusing unionizers of the crime which killed 20 and injured scores of the papers employees.
Folkker F-32  by George Watson, 1929
Dancing girls and Hollywood Starlets add to the hoopla at the dedication flight of the short lived Folkker F-32 at the Alhambra Airport.
Beverly Blvd. Oil by Coy Jr. Watson, 1936
Oil Wells on famed Beverly Blvd.
Heisman Trophy Winners by Garry Watson, 1965
OJ Simpson and Michael Garrett both from USC pose with their Heisman Memorial Trophies.
The Babe by Coy Watson Jr., 1932
Mildred “Babe” Didrikson, the 19-year-old track star, poses for the press at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.