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Mary A. Smart Studio photographs (Collection)

Identifier: LH-285-2-1

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of photographs taken between 1882 and 1953 of various exterior locations primarily in Orange County, California, including Santa Ana, Tustin, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Garden Grove, Orange, San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Hot Springs, and Irvine. There are also photographs of Catalina Island and Riverside. More than half of the photographs date to the period prior to 1900. The collection includes in most cases the glass plate or film negatives used to create the prints.


  • 1882 - 1953


Biographical / Historical

In 1887, Benjamin Franklin Conaway (1848-1935) acquired the Excelsior Photo Gallery in Santa Ana. Shortly after, he sold a half-interest to P.J. Hummel, though their partnership lasted only one or two years. During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Conaway was Orange County's leading landscape photographer, traveling extensively throughout the young county with his bulky cameras and fragile glass plates.

In 1889, Conaway hired a teenage assistant named Lou P. Hickox. Five years later, in April 1894, Conaway sold his studio to Hickox and relocated to San Bernardino, where he operated a photographic gallery for another decade. Lou Hickox was the son of R.A. Hickox, a commercial photographer in the area during the late 1880s. The 1895-96 Orange County Directory listed Lou Hickox as a photographer, working alongside his young son.

Around 1897, Lou Hickox moved his studio to 111½ W. Fourth Street in Santa Ana, where it would remain for over 80 years. While better known for his portrait work, Hickox continued capturing photographs around Santa Ana as the community grew in the early 1900s. As his business expanded, in July 1898, Hickox acquired the rival Bowman Gallery, which he operated alongside his studio. At the time, he seems to have owned the only two photographic studios in town. In November 1899, Hickox sold the Bowman studio to J.C. Lamb, a local photographer.

The Hickox Photo Studio continued to thrive, but Lou Hickox's health deteriorated. In September 1904, he sold the business to J.E. Todd, a Los Angeles photographer. After about a year, Lou Hickox returned to photography and hired a new assistant, Mary A. Smart (1883-1970), who initially retouched portraits and later became the chief assistant.

Upon Hickox's death in 1915, Mary Smart arranged to purchase the studio from the estate and took on a partner, Carl Conway. They worked together for two years before Conway sold his interest back to her. Smart continued operating the business as the Hickox Studio until November 1920, when she renamed it the Mary A. Smart Studio, concentrating almost entirely on portrait work.

In January 1939, Mary Smart sold the business to Russell R. Lutes (1885-1963), who had been working as a photographer for the County of Orange. Smart announced her retirement but later returned to the photographic business, working for the Betzsold studio in Anaheim in the early 1950s. Lutes shortened the name to the Smart Studio and ran it into the 1950s.

By the mid-1960s, Wayne Sorensen was running the Smart Studio (still located at 111½ W. Fourth as late as 1980). In 1992, Sorenson announced his retirement, and the Smart Studio closed for good after over a century of operation.


27 boxes

Language of Materials



Approximately three hundred black and white photographs of Orange County created by the Smart Studio and its predecessors between 1882 and 1953. The collection includes photographic prints, glass plate negatives and film negatives.

Physical Location

Aisle 13A--Shelf 8

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Smart Studio owner, Wayne Sorensen, sold a large collection of glass plate negatives to the California State University, Fullerton in 1967, including hundreds of images taken by B.F. Conaway and Lou Hickox. In 1992, he also sold a small collection of glass negatives (all portraits) to the Orange County Archives. Another collection of original 19th century Conaway prints can be found in the Tubbs Collection in Special Collections at the University of California, Irvine library.

Separated Materials

Many of the photographs have been digitized and are available to view on Calisphere:

Processing Information

Glass negatives are in boxes 1 - 9, print photographs in boxes 26 - 27. Inconsistency in box numbers is due to reprocessing and having consolidated the glass negatives into fewer boxes.


Mary A. Smart Studio photographs
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Repository Details

Part of the CSUF University Archives & Special Collections Repository

University Archives & Special Collections
Pollak Library South Room 352 (PLS 352)
Fullerton CA 92831-3599 USA
(657) 278-4751