E. G. Barnhill was a Florida based Photographer, Adventurer and Entrepreneur who, among his many talents, hand painted photographs and postcards which he sold primarily to Florida tourists. We recently acquired a huge collection of his earlier works.
Esmond Gerrard Barnhill (1894-1987) was an interesting man who published greeting cards, post cards, and photographs of Florida during the period 1914 through the early 30’s. He is also well known for his photographs (some of which are quite large ) which were developed utilizing uranium dies in a process known as “goldtoning”. The printing of his earliest cards was done in Germany and marked ‘Saxony’. He hand colored, photographed and published all of his cards himself. Most of his cards were printed by the Albertype Company of New York.
“Barnhill applied watercolors to black-and-white prints according to his own sense of light and palette and his interpretation of consumer demand. Visitors wanted one-of-a-kind works of art to help them remember the experience of Florida. Unlike other colorists of the time whose landscapes were airbrushed to appear dreamy and ethereal, Barnhill captured the state’s clear, brisk colors with richness and intensity.” Gary Monroe author. Gainesville, FL : University Press of Florida, 
Barnhill’s hand colored photos have a distinct style. His colors are vibrant and bold. His works hold passion and drama, and accurately capture the mood in every painting. He favored views featuring lush green tropics or vibrant, colorful sunsets. His landscapes range in size from 2″ x 3″ to 11″ x 14″. His work was infrequently framed and more often sold unframed.
Another artist, J. R. Wilcox who painted and photographed from about 1880 to his death in 1910 was known for his art featuring Florida Waterways and tropical settings. In 1915 Barnhill purchased the remaining art and prints from the Wilcox estate. Barnhill actually colored many of the remaining prints belonging to Wilcox. Barnhill would often sign these photos “Wilcox” and “1890”.
In 1953 Barnhill bought 24 acres in Boca Raton, north of Yamato Road and east of US 1. The site contained a 20-foot-high burial mound, which Barnhill excavated with archaeologist Ripley P. Bullen of the Florida State Museum and his wife, Adelaide. They uncovered 72 bodies, probably Tequesta Indians, dating to the period 700 to 1300.
Barnhill turned the burial ground into Ancient America, where tourists could view the carefully arranged remains through glass partitions, in a tunnel through the mound. In other areas, murals and artifacts portrayed ancient life, and an Indian village. At “Ancient America,” also called “Burial City,” a Mission-style building contained a large hall with murals showing ancient life and artifacts from both native civilizations and European invaders that Barnhill had collected over the years.
There were pirate chests, Spanish gold, armor, canoes, shrunken heads and “many other authentic articles,” plus a gift shop, of course. Visitors also could walk through a “partly restored Indian village.” To draw in motorists, Barnhill built a 30-foot-long concrete boat. Barnhill operated the attraction from 1954 to 1958 and when closing it he was quoted as saying “All these tourists are interested in are dog tracks and nightclubs.” The mound is still visible in a greenspace within the Boca Marina and Yacht Club. See: Palm Beach Post for more.
A number of years after his wife, Helen, had died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the 12th of November 1967. E G Barnhill passed away in 1987 at the age of ninety-three.
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