Harold A. "Jimmy" Erickson
"The Flying Photographer"

August 16, 1884 - February 26, 1962

America's first air show, or air "meet" was held in Dominguez Hills, California the week of January 10, 1910.   San Diego officials convinced a number of the fliers to come south the following week as a publicity stunt for their proposed 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.  I assume the photo below was taken at that time.

Coronado, North Island  January 1910
Charles Hamilton in his Curtiss Pusher Biplane
Photo: Harry A. Erickson

The snippet below is the first reference I could find of Jimmy's existence in San Diego.  It seems to fly in the face of the date written on the negative of the photo above.

San Diego Union, December 21, 1910

Hotel Arrivals
Lakeside Inn
H. A. Erickson, Oakland

San Diego Union, May 29, 1912
Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Erickson are residing at 1129 Eleventh street.  Mr. Erickson is connected with Taylor’s art studio at Hotel del Coronado.

San Diego Union, June 3, 1912

Crowd At Coronado Beach Much Larger Than on Day of Opening
View From Aeroplane
H. A. Erickson, who has the photograph concession this season, is exhibiting several scenes of Tent City and both sides of San Diego bay which he took from an aeroplane 700 feet in the air and while traveling 70 miles an hour.  The pictures are clear and sharp, and show how things look to a birdman.  Mr. Erickson’s studio is on the bay front, and is equipped for turning out high class work night or day with surprising rapidity.  With a new smokeless flash light apparatus Mr. Erickson is enabled to photograph in natural colors.  The studio has backgrounds of Tent City, the bay, Hotel del Coronado and an aeroplane, which are used for novelty pictures and post cards.

San Diego Union, July 19, 1912
Tonight at 7 o’clock H. A. Erickson of the Tent City photograph studio is to deliver a free lecture on color photography in the club rooms.  Mr. Erickson has experimented for years on color work and had produced some very wonderful pictures.  His talk tonight will be illustrated by slides made from photographs taken by himself and by Prof. Harold A. Taylor of Coronado.

Autochromes were a very labor-intensive early color process.   Here, Emma Jessop Scripps, the wife of Frederick Tudor Scripps, poses for an Autochrome photo at Braemar, the family estate where the Catamaran Hotel in Pacific Beach sits today.
San Diego Union, February 21, 1915
Mr. H. A. Erickson exhibited a number of autochromes of the Yosemite Valley and the High Sierras, which were made on an extended camping trip last summer, Thursday evening in the ballroom at Hotel del Coronado.  Mr. Erickson is assistant to Mr. Harold A. Taylor, who has done such wonderful work.

Evening Tribune, April 16, 1916

H. A. Erickson, Coronado photographer who has made many photographic studies of scenes throughout the west and has been assistant to Harold A. Taylor, of Coronado, whose photographic art is known in several countries has joined the John Borden Arctic expedition and will man a motion picture in the frozen north, employing his spare time to get photographic studies of his own choice.  Erickson has tried himself at the motion picture work at times for the past few years an devoted considerable time at it during the recent polo tournament at Coronado.  The Borden expedition will sail from Seattle in May.  Borden is a millionaire sportsman and explorer of Chicago.

Jimmy aboard the ill-fated Great Bear

San Diego Union, September 13, 1916
Daredevil “Jimmie” (H. A.) Erickson arrived at Seattle yesterday after his tough experience in the wreck of the John Borden exploration ship Great Bear off the Alaskan coast.  Jimmie at once wired Harold A. Taylor that he is coming back to Coronado quicker that Warren Beckwith’s Pipsqueak can slip through water.  That’s going some, we’ll all admit, so Jimmie will rejoin the congregation very soon.  I hope he didn’t lose that Crown in the wreck.  Joshua Hammond lost one preparedness parade day and really, we haven’t enough to go to the North Pole and everywhere else, if they’re going to be lost.

This photo of the magnificent Hotel del Coronado was taken in the 1930s by Lee Passmore.  The hotel was built in 1888 and is about 20 miles from the Mexican border.  Fans of the movie Some Like It Hot will recognize it.  Imagine flash photos being taken at night when you read the snippet below.  (San Diego History Center photo)

San Diego Union, January 15, 1917
Praise Is Warm for Those Who Staged Great Spectacle at Coronado
Those whose habitat is below the international boundary must have thought from the frequency and intensity of the flashes that a great battle was going on near Hotel del Coronado.  Harold A. Taylor and his lieutenant, H. A. Erickson, were busy for some hours with their blinding flashlights.  They improvised a gallery on the front veranda where they photographed the costumes of many of the ball patrons.  It was rather a wholesale “mugging,” but both those who were photographed and those who did the photography seemed to enjoy it.

San Diego Union, May 23, 1917
H. A. Erickson of Coronado Ordered to Report at Hampton, Va., for Duty
H. A. Erickson, formerly a photographer employed by Harold Taylor of Coronado and recognized as one of the most daring aerial photographers in this country, received telegraphic instructions yesterday from Brigadier General George O. Squier, chief of military aviation, to report for duty at the army aeronautical experimental school at Hampton, Va.  Erickson will probably be the first American aerial photographer to be sent to France and Belgium.  The San Diego photographer is particularly fitted for the hazardous work of snapping pictures of German trenches from an airplane as he frequently has flown with Raymund V. Morris and other local aviators.  He will be equipped with the new telescopic sight gun camera recently adopted by the army.  This camera can photograph one square mile of terrain while flying at an altitude of more than one and one-half miles.  Erickson was official photographer of the John Borden Antarctic expedition which left Seattle on the steamer Great Bear in August, 1916.  The Great Bear subsequently was wrecked on a pinnacle rock off St. Matthews Island in the Bering sea.  Erickson is 34 years old and unmarried. 

San Diego Union, February 2, 1918
Many Changes in Administrative Personnel at Rockwell Field Become Effective
Many changes in the administrative personnel of the Rockwell field signal corps aviation school became effective yesterday.  A new office, that of executive officer, was created by Major General George O. Squier, chief signal officer.  The administrative personnel now includes Major John C. P. Bartholf, school commander; Captain Martin H. Ray, executive officer; Lieutenant George C. Kull, adjutant; Lieutenant Lee Prettyman, assistant adjutant; Major Theodore MacCaulay, officer in charge of flying; Captain Ernest Clark, assistant officer in charge of flying; Major Francis Longley, engineering officer; Lieutenant James Luttrell, assistant gunnery officer; Lieutenant W. F. Dyett, commanding officer flying cadet detachment; Lieutenant Harry Erickson, instructor of flying cadets in miniature range, mapping and photographic interpretation; Lieutenant Tom Bither, flying cadet instructor in practical airplanes, motors and radiotelegraphy.  Commissioned flying instructors attached to the staff of Major MacCaulay include Captains George Furrow and Ernest Shields, and Lieutenants Felix Steinle, J. M. Foote, Wayman Haney, and J. R. Worthington.  Lieutenant Colonel Henry Damm, former school commander, will leave tonight or Sunday For Washington, thence to Taylor Field, Birmingham, Ala., to assume command of a new aeronautical school at that place.  Major Barthoff is en route here from Washington and is expected to arrive Tuesday.

San Diego Union, August 28, 1923

Successful refueling was a feature of the record-breaking flight of Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lieut. John Richter yesterday.  Photograph shows the refueling plane piloted by Lieuts. Virgil Hines and Frank Seifert, transferring gasoline through a 40-foot hose to the big De Haviland in which Smith and Richter have established new world’s records for speed.  (Photo by H. A. Erickson)

San Diego Union, November 3, 1925
Capt. Smith and Lieut. Arnold May Testify in Air Hearing in Washington.  Several military and marine corps fliers who participated in the dedication of the new flying field in Tucson Sunday, returned to North Island yesterday.  The Rockwell field contingent included Col. Harry Graham, Maj. Theodore Macaulay, Maj. H. A. Erickson, Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lieut. Bernard Castor.  With the local military airmen were Capt. William A. Frye and Lieut. Dean Farren, Los Angeles reserve pilots.  Marine corps aviation squadron was represented by Maj. Ross Rowell, who piloted a Martin bomber, Lieuts. William J. Wallace and John Cristian and Marine Gunner D. Woderczyk.  Lieut. Leslie Arnold who flew to Kansas City to address the national convention of the United States Chamber of Commerce, will return today.  Both Arnold and Capt. Smith have been subpoenaed by Col. William Mitchell and probably will be called to Washington to testify in the court martial proceedings now under way.

Evening Tribune, May 4, 1926
All persons interested in aviation and in the establishment of a local chapter of the National Aeronautic association are invited to attend a meeting next Monday at the Cabrillo cafe immediately after the Hammer club luncheon.  The first meeting, which was held after the Hammer club luncheon yesterday, was attended by 21 men, and the first steps toward obtaining a charter in the association were taken. Those attending yesterday include Maj. Gen. J. H. Kuhn, Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton, Col. E. N. Jones, Col. Harry C. Graham, Col. Jefferson Davis, E. W. Dort, postmaster; Maj. T. C. Maculey, Harold Angier, Chester Van Dusen, Clifford Fitzgerald, A. E. Burrell, Louis, Schirm, Albert Frost, Lieut. O. R. Stillinger, Capt. Arthur J. O’Keefe, H. A. Erickson, A. C. Rich, and   E. V. Izak.  Prior to the aviation meeting Col. Frank P. Lahm, air officer of the Ninth army corps area, spoke to the Hammer club, telling of the peacetime activities of the air force and the program at present outlined as a service arm in the event of war.

San Diego Union, July 24, 1926
Daredevil Will Thrill Tent City Crowds With Leap From Airplane
Picture taken by H. A. Erickson when daredevil Dan Taylor successfully made the leap from an airplane without a parachute several weeks ago.  He will attempt it again tomorrow afternoon over Glorietta bay, with Jack Hewson of the San Diego Airport  piloting the plane.

The Spirit of St. Louis soars over Spanish Bight, the inlet that separated Coronado and North Island.  The Hotel del Coronado and the Silver Strand are visible behind the plane.  Lindbergh made a number of flights between North Island and Dutch Flats while testing the plane.  At 3:55 PM on May 10, 1927 he left Rockwell Field, the Army base on North Island enroute to Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri.  This may have been that final flight.

Erickson took this shot of Lindbergh in front of the Spirit of St. Louis on May 9, 1927 at Dutch Flats, where the Midway Post Office is today.

San Diego Union, May 15, 1927
Capt. Charles A. Lindbergh, famous air mail pilot, winging his way over Mission Beach enroute from San Diego to Paris.  Lindbergh flew low over the seaside pleasure resort where he spent many pleasant hours swimming while awaiting the completion of his monoplane.  Photo by Maj. H. A. Erickson, air service reserves.  (This photo was probably a paste-up of an Erickson aerial of the Mission Beach Amusement Center and a separate shot of the Spirit of St. Louis taken by Erickson.  It almost certainly was not taken on Lindbergh's departure from San Diego on May 10th)

Lindbergh returned to San Diego in the Spirit of St. Louis on September 21, 1927 to the largest crowds ever assembled in the city, speaking at a sold-out crowd at Balboa Stadium.  The photo above appears to be the one he took on May 9, 1927 with the "Keep Out" sign and "He did!" possibly added by Erickson.  The photo below was taken at Dutch Flats, with either the plane or Lindbergh added later.