Early Bremerton photographer, known as 'Prints of Wales,' now subject of gallery – Kitsap Sun

BREMERTON ― If you’ve seen any photograph capturing the earliest days of this city and its shipyard, chances are good Herbert Ernest Wale took it.
The “Prints of Wales,” his cleverly named studio on Pacific Avenue that opened 114 years ago, was the place the Spanish-American War veteran set up shop to document the quaint town and its bustling Navy yard up until World War II.
Aerials from flyovers. Football teams’ picture days. Ceremonies marking shipyard dry dock openings and vessel launchings. Scenes on the street. Wale shot it all.  
“Everyone seems to have one of his photos squirreled away,” said Megan Churchwell, who just curated a showcase of his work in the Puget Sound Naval Museum’s Reverman Classroom. “It seems like he must’ve been everywhere during this period of local history.”  
He was, as Churchwell admits, something of a character who kept the lens focused away from himself most of the time.
He endured a “mostly stormy” childhood in Rock Springs, Wyoming, a coal-mining town along the Union Pacific Railroad, he told a reporter for a Wyoming newspaper in 1954. It was there in September 1885 that white miners massacred at least 28 Chinese immigrants, chasing others from the city and burning their homes to the ground in racial violence that shocked the nation. Wale told the reporter that, as an 8-year-old, he threw rocks at the victims and searched their homes for valuables during the riots. 
In 1895, he captured a stereograph of a band parading through his hometown, the earliest beginnings of his photography in a town whose mines were also volatile and at times caught fire.  
Wale volunteered in the Army in 1898, the year the United States went to war with Spain. He served in The Philippines throughout the subsequent Philippine-American war until 1902, when the United States annexed the country
He worked in construction before setting up his photography studio on Pacific Avenue in Bremerton in 1907. For decades, he captured life in the city, including its growth in wartime, watching the Navy invest in new dry docks that brought ever-bigger battleships into Sinclair Inlet. 
In 1936, he transitioned to a new kind of shooting hobby. Retiring from his photography, he took up marksmanship. The “pistol packin’ papa,” as an article in the Bremerton Sun dubbed him, traveled the country as the oldest competitive pistol shooter.
“He ran into one serious problem,” the Sun wrote when he was 75. “The sunshine at Tampa burned his face so badly he couldn’t open his eyes in the morning. For that reason he now wears a fine-looking white beard.” 
Wale, who lost his wife, Maud, in 1939, was remarried at 74 while living in the Washington Veteran’s Home at Retsil, a place he loved. He died in 1962 at 86. 
The exhibit at the Puget Sound Naval Museum is free and open to the public. 
Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military and Bremerton for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, [email protected] or on Twitter at @joshfarley. 

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