Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

Ansel Adams, Arsonist
by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

I learned it was an 'open secret' that Ansel had torched the Pillsbury Studio from Fred Smart, a fellow activist, who knew one of Adam's helpers.  Fred reported that the fellow said they made jokes about it.  

Dad had finally decided shortly before his death he had to let Virginia know he was no longer going to keep silent on what he had confronted her and Ansel in 1928.  Dad took keeping his word seriously and believed, with all sincerity, the two of them had been truthful.  He did not realize they had lied until close to the end of his life.  

As you read the Adams TimeLine you see he was working part-time for Arthur C. Pillsbury and had few prospects for a career from 1917 - 1927.  He was not emotionally normal.  

His motive for setting the fire in the Pillsbury Studio was the opportunity this opened to him for a career for which he was otherwise unprepared.  His marriage to Virginia Rose Best came about because she needed an in-house photographer to enable her to keep the studio which she would inherit from her father, Harry Best, a fine art painter.    

By 1926, Mather was confident he would be able to make the National Parks economically viable by extracting money from concessionaires, and using the profits from middle-class hospitality, to pay for the five-star destinations, such as the Ahwahnee Hotel, he would build for his fellow elites along with the amenities elites expect, for instance golf courses.  There were plenty of meadows available, he could see.  He knew Arthur C. Pillsbury would not approve; also that he would take action to stop him as he had the mowing of the meadows ten years before.   

Mather persuaded D. J. Desmond to become the president of the company in which he, Mather, held a hefty interest.  This was self-dealing, a felony. The cost of building multiple luxury destinations bankrupted the Desmond Company. Later, the newly named Desmond Company would merge with the Curry Company, wrested from the hands of Foster Curry after Mather caused the death of its founder, Foster's father, David Curry.  Don Tresidder married Mary Curry in 1920 to effect the theft of the company.  Tresidder oversaw the merger and became the Baron of Yosemite, doing Mather's will. 

Setting the fire would set Adams up for life, with Horace Albright continuing the cover-up until his death in 1987; and others then taking up the work Albright had undertaken to satisfy his own lust for power and profits.   Benefits flowed to Adams like the waters of the Hetch-Hetchy flowed into the pockets of the power brokers in San Francisco.  Adams had found his spiritual home with them.  

Adams betrayed the man who trained him in photography and developing when,  when no one else would.  And he and his students would laugh about his having done so like it was just a smart move in business.  Fred learned this from Adam's assistant he had gotten to know. 

The next generations of the Adams family continued the Cover-Up to protect the unearned reputation created for them. Ansel's theft of Pillsbury's life's work cleared the way for him to fill the yawning chasm of the missing work which was lighting the world.  This included 100,000 stills, hundreds of films, and lapse-time studies of flowers that Mather would condemn to extinction.  

Ansel, Mather, Albright, Tresidder and their other minions would remove Pillsbury from history, erasing his life. They had no environmental concerns but pretended to this to hold onto the unearned wealth stolen from Pillsbury.  It was a cover-up generation of their families that would continue for their own profit.   Their lives are lived today on a century of the same flow of stolen wealth.    

​                                  The Real Ansel Adams   

Ansel Easton Adams - 1920, working for Arthur C. Pillsbury, who took the photo but already thinking about the future. 

Adams Time Line

Parmelian Prints

Albert Bender

Ansel Adams: 
Into Plain Sight

Ansel Adams & A. C. Pillsbury - Discovered Insights