Biography

Otto Theodore Fraasch (O.T. Frasch)

September 26, 1882 - January 24, 1958

Otto Theodore Fraasch was born September 26, 1882 in Jefferson, Wisconsin. His parents (Heinrich and Augusta) immigrated from Germany in 1871 and settled in Bellingham, Minnesota, following members of their families who had preceded them. They raised potatoes on a small farm. They died when Otto and his brother were very young, however, and the boys were placed in an orphanage.

Records indicate that Otto became a photographer and had a studio in Bellingham. A newspaper article of 1905 stated that the fingers of his left hand were injured when a flash pan he was holding exploded. The article in the paper implied that he was an employee of the paper but there is no confirmation of this.

Otto and his wife (Marie, later shortened to Mary) left Minnesota in 1906 to come to Lilliwaup, Washington where his wife's sister, Lizzie Hollarn (who died of liver cancer in 1912) owned property on the small bay. Their first daughter, Elsie, was born en route in a small town near Denver on October 16, 1906. This photo of the three of them was taken about 1909:

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

Otto dropped the second 'a' in his last name at about this time. He stated that he felt it was too difficult for English speaking people to pronounce the Germanic version of his name and "Frasch" would be much easier. Only one photo with the original spelling of his name is known:

Unnumbered Image - Steam Shovel Crew
Unnumbered Image - Steam Shovel Crew

An enlargement of the imprint from the lower right corner is below:

Corner imprint of Unnumbered Image - Steam Shovel Crew
Corner imprint of Unnumbered Image - Steam Shovel Crew

After arriving in Washington, Otto started a small photography business in Seattle, selling real photo postcards (RPPCs). Otto had a strong interest in capturing everyday occurrences on film. His curiosity about current and ongoing construction projects in Seattle and environs and the many photos he took of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (A.Y.P.E.) held in Seattle in 1909 made his business profitable. Many photographers of the day copied his photos and sold them as their own, and it eventually forced him to quit.

Otto and Mary had two more girls, Marion and Ada, before Mary Frasch died in 1918, two days after complications in childbirth. The premature baby died ten hours after birth. Mary was buried (presumably with the baby) in an unmarked grave at Calvary Catholic Cemetery just north of the University of Washington, the grounds of the A.Y.P.E. where Otto had taken so many photos in 1909.

Otto placed the girls in a Catholic orphanage south of Seattle as he felt that was the best thing to do. He then became a traveling salesman, only rarely visiting his daughters.

Eventually he married a woman named Marvel, shown here in June 1954:

Marvel Frasch in June 1954
Marvel Frasch in June 1954

Otto died in San Francisco, California on January 24, 1958 and was buried at Woodland Memorial Park in Colma (near what is now the Colma Bay Area Rapid Transit station). Marvel is not buried next to him; we do not know much about her.

No photos or negatives were found in his warehouse - only his cameras. One was a large glass plate portrait camera probably used for his postcards, and the other was a folding Kodak, of which he was very proud since he knew George Eastman, the inventor of the Kodak. The portrait camera is no longer in the family, but we still have the Kodak.

O.T. Frasch in Seattle

O.T. Frasch after Seattle