William J. Harris, Photographer
At the turn of the twentieth century, William J. Harris was busy photographing eastern Pennsylvania mining communities and the vacation resorts of central New York and Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey.
Harris was born in Herefordshire, near the Welsh boarder in western England in 1868. He came to America with his family in 1870, settling near Wilkes-Barre and began to explore photography as a profession.
In 1890 William J. moved to West Pittston with his parents where his father began a floral business setting up greenhouses near their home at 315 York Avenue. W. J. continued exploring his interest in photography and maintained studios both at his home and in Pittston at 5 Main Street. The railroads made it convenient for Harris to pack up his camera and move from one resort area to another, creating cabinet photos of local attractions and selling them to tourists who were happy to buy, at a modest price, views of their vacation spots. Photography was still relatively new at this time and the images were considered quite a novelty.
The invention of postcards in 1898 was spurred by Congress authorizing the use of "private mailing cards" as they were called at the time. The post card craze swept the country and people began to keep postcard albums with their collections. The cards were the method of choice for communication but many folks began to simply exchange cards in order to accumulate a collection.
William J. Harris capitalized on the idea of postcards by printing smaller postcard size views of his photographs. "Harris the Post Card Man" was the name by which he became known and W. J.'s business continued to grow.
It is these postcard views that have made it possible for us to look into the very early years of life in West Pittston. How fortunate we are that Harris and his family chose to live here during the time that the postcards were so popular. Through Harris' cards we are able to see scenes of everyday life a century ago, we can experience the excitement of the Golden Jubilee which celebrated the 50th anniversary of West Pittston and we might even find a century old photo of our own home.