Hill, Samuel B. (ca. 1841–1917)

By: Kendall Curlee

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: October 30, 2019

Samuel B. Hill, photographer, was born in Ohio and had at least three brothers and three sisters. Conflicting records indicate that he was born in 1839, 1841, or 1843. Hill apparently spent some time in Kentucky, the birthplace of his first wife, Maggie, and their eldest child, before moving his family to Austin, Texas, in 1877. In Austin the Hills had two sons. Hill married his second wife, Amanda, in 1889, and they had one son.

Hill probably began his photographic career in the partnership Adams and Hill, which advertised in the Austin Democratic Statesman in 1878; by 1879 he had opened his own studio at 817 Congress. He soon established himself as one of the leading photographers in Austin; he made portraits and pictures of local businesses, homes of prominent families, and landscapes. Many of his albumen prints of early Austin have survived and now provide historic documentation of buildings that have been razed, such as the old main building at the University of Texas, the Second Empire Travis County Courthouse, and the old stone jail, a formidable crenellated structure. Hill recorded Congress Avenue during a time of transition, unpaved and traversed by horse and carriages, but lined with telephone poles and trolley car tracks. His bird's-eye photographs of Austin and scenic views of subjects such as Barton Springs, Mount Bonnell, and Bull Creek are also of interest to historians.

By 1882 Hill was experimenting with the new dry-plate process to produce stereoscopic views of Austin and its environs. He published several souvenir pamphlets of Austin, and around 1887 published his Views of Texas, a collection of albumen prints of Austin landmarks supplemented by photographs from other areas such as Comanche Springs in Pecos County, Buffalo Gap in east central Taylor County, and the Tarrant County Courthouse. Hill's expanded scope was indicated by an advertisement inserted into Views of Texas, in which he proclaimed his business the "Headquarters for Texas Views," offering "1000 views of Texas scenery from all parts of the state." Hill also produced composite photographs of Texas legislators and students at the University of Texas.

He worked at several locations on Congress Avenue before he left photography to work in real estate during the early years of the twentieth century. He died on July 3, 1917, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. He was survived by his second wife, his daughter, two sons, and three brothers and sisters. His photographs are included in the collections of the Texas State Library, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the Barker Texas History Center, and the Austin History Center, all in Austin; the Archives of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University, Alpine; the Sophienburg Museum, New Braunfels; the San Antonio Museum Association; and the University of Texas Institute of Texas Cultures, San Antonio.

Austin American-Statesman, July 4, 5, 1917. Samuel B. Hill, Souvenir of Austin from Photographic Views (Austin: E. von Boeckmann, 1893). Samuel B. Hill, Souvenir of Austin, Texas (New York: Albertype, 1888). Richard Pearce-Moses, Photographic Collections in Texas: A Union Guide (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987).

  • Visual Arts
  • Photography

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kendall Curlee, “Hill, Samuel B.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hill-samuel-b.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
October 30, 2019