C.F. Ironmonger, Photographer

Charles Frederick Ironmonger (1868-1915) was born in Ohio but moved to Los Angeles in 1892, where he worked in the photography studio of Charles Betts Waite (1861-1927). When Waite moved to Mexico, Ironmonger set up a studio in Avalon, on Catalina Island, in 1895. The island’s first photographer, he captured images of everything from landscapes to visiting fishermen standing next to their record catches, such as the black sea bass. Although not as strong a fighting fish as the tuna, “the giant of the bass tribe” was the largest fish to be caught with a rod and reel, and made quite a subject for the photographer.

B 1900 Sea Bass

Franklin S. Schenck, of Brooklyn, N.Y., with a 384 lb. black sea bass, in 1900

B 1901 Bass Dickerson

On July 30, 1901, the Los Angeles Herald reported that “Mrs. E. N. Dickerson landed a black sea bass this morning that weighed 363 pounds. She was fifty-five minutes bringing her prize to gaff.” Charlotte Dickerson was in her early thirties when the photo was taken, the mother of a toddler named Lilian, and the wife of Edward N. Dickerson Jr., a millionaire, all vacationing on Santa Catalina Island. Charlotte’s brother had taught her to fish in a stream he owned in the Catskills; her husband, like his father, was a member of the New York Yacht Club. E.N. Dickerson Sr. had been a patent attorney; his clients included Cyrus McCormick, Samuel Colt, Charles Goodyear and Alexander Graham Bell. Junior was an attorney as well, but primarily a clubman. In 1911, 10 years after this photo was taken, Charlotte returned to New York City from Europe on February 10th, and died February 23rd. She was 43 years old, survived by two young daughters and her husband, who auctioned off the furniture from their townhouse, along with 1,000 bottles of wine from their private cellar, and moved to a villa in Monaco, where he died in 1923.

B 1902 Bass

Edward Beach Llewellen with a 425 lb. black sea bass, in 1902

B 1905 Bass

Levin Graham Murphy, a lumberman of Converse, Indiana, with a hickory rod of his own creation and 436 lb. black sea bass, in 1905

It should be noted that, in August of 1901, Mrs. Dickerson also brought in a 216 lb. tuna, “a seemingly impossible feat, as smaller tunas have worn out and utterly demoralized strong men.”

Zane Grey once caught a 758 lb. tuna with his prized L.G. Murphy rod. And that Edward Beach Llewellyn played cornet and trumpet with Brooke’s Band on Catalina Island, was the principal trumpet player with the Chicago Symphony for 22 years, the U.S. national champion cyclist in 1907 and ’08, a wrestler, boxer and “passionate golfer.”