Why do we have so few photos of Tombstone from the Fly studio? Supposedly, C.S. Fly and his wife took thousands of shots during their time in Arizona.
Actually, quite a few of the Fly prints have survived, but the glass plate negatives were reportedly destroyed in a fire at the Phelps Dodge Mercantile Company warehouse in Bisbee during the early 1900s. Other plates were destroyed through improper storage. Still other works were lost sometime around 1912 when flames engulfed Fly’s Photo Gallery in Tombstone. We just don’t know exactly what all was lost to history.
Fortunately for us, some negatives were purchased for $105 from Mollie Fly just before the gallery burned. Many of those photos were later published in a booklet called Geronimo the Apache Chief.
To learn more about C.S. Fly, Jeremy Rowe’s book Photographers in Arizona 1850-1920 has some information and James Serven wrote a story about him in the February 1970 Arizona Highways Magazine.