Henry King Nourse (October 17, 1880 – May 11, 1963) was an insurance clerk and an amateur photographer in Oakland c.1900. All photos on this page are from Henry King Nourse collection at the California State Library 3 unless otherwise noted.


Nourse was born in 1880 in Eden Township (now part of San Leandro and Hayward) to Stephen Henry Nourse and Florence Lorraine Stark (Nourse). Through his father, he was related to Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged during the Salem witch trials in 1692. 1 Henry was the oldest of 4 children, with brother Charles Cecil Nourse (September 29, 1882 – December 3, 1969), sister Grace Martha Nourse (Barber) (April 7, 1885 – September 13, 1977), and brother Clarence Edward Nourse (November 19, 1889 – November 18, 1919).

By the time of Grace's birth in 1885, the family had moved to Oakland. Henry was a member of the class of 1899 at Oakland High School, 2 and the 1900 census lists the family at 1551 - 12th Avenue (2103 - 12th Avenue after renumbering).

StephenFlorenceCharlesGrace 3Clarence with cat

c.19002022 CC SA-BY Our Oakland

In 1916, Henry married Mary Marguerite Hosmer (Nourse) (July 1, 1888 – April 12, 1958). She was related to Titus Hosmer, who was part of the first Continental Congress in 1774. 1 They had 5 children: Barbara Elizabeth Nourse (Adams); Henry King Nourse, Jr.; Stephen Hosmer Nourse; John Allen Nourse; and Robert Stark Nourse. Robert was too young, but during WWII, Barbara volunteered with the navy WAVES, Henry served in the army, Stephen served and died in the navy, and John served in the army air force. The family lived mostly in Walnut Creek.


Many of Henry's photos are dated in the early 1900s before his marriage in 1916, and the Henry King Nourse collection at the California State Library says: "Photography was a lifelong hobby and his photographs reflect those areas important to him: greater San Francisco Bay area, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the north Coast." 3 While this is true, his early work in the collection includes a lot of photos of his family, photos around his neighborhood, and photos of cats. In 1906 following the earthquake, he ventured into San Francisco to try to rescue the Hosmer family dog, and documented some of the devastation he saw there. It's unknown whether he found the dog.

681 - 25th St.1906 earthquakeOakland Transit Co. car #106, 1902letter carrier Harry LeberUSS New York on SF Bay

So what about the cats?

In addition to photographing family and houses in his neighborhood, many of Henry's early subjects were cats. The photograph of his brother Clarence suggests the family had a cat; and clearly a nearby cat had kittens, because there are many photos with kittens, too. But Henry was not content with sleeping felines for subjects; he began posing the cats and kittens in different settings. Which as cat owners will tell you, is generally not an easy feat.

Henry and various members of the Nourse family are buried in plot 34 at Mountain View Cemetery.

Links and References

  1. She was a free spirit who loved history and literature Sacramento Bee February 2, 2006
  2. 1899 OHS Memorial
  3. Henry King Nourse collection California State Library