Otto Theodore (O.T.) Frasch - Seattle Photographer

This Web site is dedicated to the history and photos of Otto Theodore Frasch, better known as "O.T. Frasch" for the way he signed his real photo postcards of Seattle and surrounding areas of the state of Washington from about 1907 to 1915. It is maintained by the children and grandchildren of his first daughter, Elsie Frasch.

Image 11X - Fourth Ave. Regrade Seattle
Image 11X - Fourth Ave. Regrade Seattle

This is a photo of the Fourth Avenue street regrade, taken in October 1907. Many of Seattle's hills were dug out or washed away to flatten the streets and raise property values. Houses and businesses on the hills were forced to move, not always agreeably.

Note the streetcar traveling up the tracks on the left, the crews working next to the steam shovel on the right, the trams carrying dirt in the center, and the audience (dressed in their best clothes) watching everywhere - even from the streetcar. This must have been one of his most popular images, because he printed many copies, even after the glass negative cracked.

O.T. Frasch Biography

Otto took photos all over western Washington, but mostly in Seattle, the largest population center. Within Seattle, he took photos of:

His wife and daughters lived in Lilliwaup, along Hood Canal on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula. The nearby town of Hoodsport appears in several photos, along with the resort area of Lake Cushman (before the lake was dammed to supply power) just to the west.

Although Otto spent much of his time separated from his family, a number of his postcards showed included posed pictures of them. Other people also appear posed in some of his photos, but we do not know their names.

During this time Seattle was growing rapidly, and Otto documented its increasing prominence well:

Some of Otto's photographs appear to be advertisements for various businesses. Others, especially some of his unsigned A.Y.P.E. images, were apparently printed on contract for other firms.

Outside of Seattle, Otto took photos of Bremerton and Mt. Rainier.

Otto's photos apparently were popular, as many of them were copied by pirates. Eventually the pirates cut into his business, and he quit about 1914 to become a traveling salesman. At this point he disappeared from Seattle history.

Like all professional photographers of the day, Otto used a glass plate camera to take his photos. Captions were written in reverse on the glass; sometimes he would slip and forget to reverse the letters, so that they would print backwards. Sometimes the mistake was corrected later, and sometimes (as far as we know) it was not. A number of his photos have spelling errors as well. Occasionally these were corrected on later prints.

Otto, Marie (Mary), and Elsie Frasch, About 1909
Otto, Marie (Mary), and Elsie Frasch, About 1909

This is a photo of Otto Frasch, his first wife Marie (also known as Mary), and their first daughter Elsie. They had two more daughters, Marion and Ada, before Marie died in childbirth in 1918.