Why do we have so few photos of Tombstone from the Fly studio?

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.

Mundo Osterberg

Peoria, 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.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.