Spokane History Timeline

Charles Libby and son, Photographers - 1901

Charles Libby was born on September 19th, 1879, in Olympia WA. He was the son of Elizabeth and George Libby. He had 2 sisters, Addie and Ruth. Growing up, when Charles couldn’t afford a camera, he would look at photographs and study them. He usually would draw them out from his point of view. After he graduated high school, he moved to Spokane WA. His first job was a clerk in a clothing store. He hated being a clerk. The only reason he did it, was to make enough money to buy a camera for photography. After only a few months of being a clerk, Charles quit his job, and opened a photography studio with his sister Addie.

Addie and Charles’s business was successful for about a year. Charles opened his own studio in 1901. No one really knows why he quit working with his sister, but some people say he felt better working independently.

The Charles Libby Studio took on both portraits and commercial photography. He took pictures of train wrecks for insurance companies, and houses for real estate companies. Charles Libby was paid well for his work! In mid 1905, Charles Libby married Gretchen Schlessier. In 1910, Charles had a house built for his family; West 201 Sumner on the South Hill.

In 1907, Charles Libby Jr. was born. Charles Libby Jr. went to Roosevelt elementary school, and Lewis and Clark High School. He, like his father, grew up studying photography. After graduating, Charles jr. decided to fly planes for a few years.
After 3 years of flying, Charles jr. decided he wanted to be a photographer with his dad.
Charles, Jr. joined the Studio in 1920, and at that point they added aerial photography to their work of portraits and commercial photography. During this time, Charles Sr. was elected president of the Inland Empire Photography Association.           

Charles Libby and grandchild
L87-1.52423-47 - Charles Libby, Sr. and grandchild

In an interview in 1908 Charles Sr. was asked what was his favorite thing to take pictures of. His reply was “The Spokane Falls”. Charles Libby Sr. loved Spokane almost as much as he loved photography.            

Charles Libby Sr. was so proud of his son, that in 1928 he changed the company name to “Charles Libby and son”. The pair were always busy. A lot of the time they had themselves booked for events all over Spokane. In fact, their collection of photographs covers almost every event, business, and place in the Spokane area between 1905 and 1969. When the Davenport Hotel was being remodeled in 2002, they used Libby’s photographs to guide the restoration of the major ballrooms, especially the Hall of Doges.


Charles Libby Jr. married Mary E. Betty in 1945, and they raised 2 kids: Cherie, and Charles Libby III.

The Charles Libby Studio photographs were really important to Spokane because it documented how beautiful and peaceful Spokane really is. Without his photography, not many people outside of Spokane would know of its beauty!

In 1962, at the age of 82, Charles Libby retired from photography to spend more time with his wife and grandchildren. He died four years later in 1966.

Meanwhile, Charles Libby Jr. kept the company going. By 1969 it was the largest photo studio in Spokane! He retired in 1975, at the age of 78.  He died 6 years later at the age of 85 in 1982.


Schoonover, Larry. “Charles Libby and son Spokane photographers.” Spokane, WA: Westerners Spokane Corral, 1993

13 photos taken by Charles A. Libby between  1913 – 1948 (most in 1920’a)

From the digital archives of WA

Photos used with permission from Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/ Eastern Washington State Historical Society.
L87-1.52423-47 - Charles Libby, Sr. and grandchild

copyright (c) 2011, Discovery School.
All rights reserved.
Report created May, 2011.
Last Modified on January 3, 2012