On Monday morning, August 21, Foundation Board Member Mead B. Kibbey dedicated a beautiful granite monument dedicated to pioneer photographer Alfred A. Hart. The ceremony took place before an appreciative audience at Sacramento’s Historic Old City Cemetery. The monument is adjacent to the Kibbey Family Plot.
Hart (1816-1908) was the official photographer for the Central Pacific Railroad (1863-1869) and photographed with a dual-lens camera thousands of men rushing to build the transcontinental railroad from Sacramento, over the High Sierra, and to Promontory, Utah, a distance of 690 miles. In so doing, Hart created a series of 364 views documenting the most challenging construction project in California history. In 2014, Mr. Kibbey donated to the Foundation the only known complete set of Hart’s original stereo views.
Unfortunately, Hart died in poverty in the Alameda County Hospital and his body was sold to a medical school. Mr. Kibbey, long fascinated by Hart’s stereographs wrote a superb book documenting his life. Highly acclaimed, it was published by the Foundation in 1995. It had been a cherished goal of Mr. Kibbey to provide a burial monument to this great photographer.
He conceived the idea of creating a granite monument in the shape of a stereo camera, similar to what Hart would have used in the 1860s. The granite camera includes two lenses and bellows and a photograph of Hart along with a short biography. To create such an extraordinary tribute, Mr. Kibbey commissioned the Ruhkala Monument Company of Sacramento. Weighing over 2,000 pounds, the company first moved the heavy monument to the Center for Sacramento History until the site could be prepared.
On hand at the ceremony were many Kibbey family members, State Library and Foundation members, staff from the Center for Sacramento History, and members of the Old City Cemetery Committee. Through Mr. Kibbey’s effort, a great-great granddaughter of Hart, Sarah Zimmerman, also attended. All listened with rapt attention as Mr. Kibbey gave a beautiful account of Hart’s life and the story behind the creation of the monument. Thanks to Mr. Kibbey’s generosity, Alfred A. Hart now has permanent memorial recognizing his storied career as a pioneer California photographer.
By Gary F. Kurutz, Executive Director
Stereograph photos courtesy of California State Library, Special Collections