Sunday, January 8, 2017

Outdoorsman, Writer, Photographer, and Game Warden Otto Jones [otd 01/08]

Outdoorsman Otto Jones.
J. H. Hawley photo.

Photographer and journalist Otto M. Jones was born January 8, 1886 on a ranch near Dillon, Montana. Two years later, his father sold the Montana property and they relocated to a sheep ranch on Dry Creek, about twelve miles northwest of Boise City. The family moved into the city about 1892.

Rather than attending high school in Boise, Otto went to a military academy in Virginia for a year and then spent two years in prep school at Washington State College (now University). He traveled around a bit, and then settled for two years in Ashland, Oregon. During this period, Jones began making his living as a writer, publishing articles on hunting, fishing, and other outdoor sports.

Otto returned to Boise in 1909 and was married to a native Boisean two years later. She became an indispensable assistant as he collected photographs of outdoor life and scenery to illustrate his articles. They became active in the “sporting life” in and around Boise. Both were outstanding skeet shooters, placing high or winning in many city and regional matches.
Fisherman and lady photographer on Big Creek. Otto M. Jones photo, Library of Congress.
Jones also served as an official for professional boxing and wrestling bouts. (Professional wrestling was then "straight," not a show.) His sports knowledge and credibility were such that the Idaho Statesman reported (April 26, 1916), “One of the best drawing cards for the Friday night wrestling match … will be the referee, Otto Jones.”

Otto’s sporting articles, with photographs, appeared in national publications, such as Field & Stream magazine. He also submitted material to the Idaho Statesman in Boise. For a time, he “owned” a page or two of the Sunday edition. There, he wrote about various outdoor activities, supported by his own sketches and photos.

His spread for Sunday, April 21, 1918 was about “Motor Touring” in the West. His text surely invoked nostalgic memories for many still-living pioneers. His comments about the old mining camps ring true today. He said, “These fast disappearing camps fairly teem with sentiments and reveries for the traveler who halts long enough in his whirling pilgrimage to explore and conjecture as to the life of the ghost towns … ”

In January 1919, Idaho Governor D. W. Davis appointed Jones to be the top state Fish & Game Warden. By then his stock of photos had “more than twenty-five hundred negatives” on file. The Library of Congress catalog notes that several hundred of his vintage images are archived in their files.
Shotgun Rapids, Salmon River, Idaho. Otto M. Jones photo, Library of Congress.
Jones held the Idaho Game Warden position into 1923. For three years starting in 1924 he served as Educational Director for the Oregon State Game Commission. After a period as a freelance and contract photographer, in 1931 he took a similar position with the Washington State Game Conservation Association.

After about 1936, in addition to his commercial photography, Otto spent four years taking real estate photos for the King County Assessor’s office in Seattle. He passed away there in August 1941 from an apparent heart attack.
References: [Hawley]
“First Idaho Game Law when Buffalo Ran Wild,” Idaho Statesman, Boise (March 11, 1919).
“Otto M. Jones, Photographer, Dies at Home,” The Seattle Times, Washington (August 27, 1941).    
"Sports Magazine is Planned," Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon (July 24, 1924).

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