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George Mathis (1909-1977) born in Seattle, Washington, spent much of his early life in Hoquiam, where his father managed a clothing store. In his youth, George Mathis suffered from Pagett's disease, which deformed the structure of his wrists, elbows, and knees. Often confined indoors, Mathis turned to drawing. He attended Washington State University, where he majored in art, and studied under the western landscape painter William T. McDermott (1884-1961). In the course of his career, Mathis became an artist who was nationally renown for his work on the Old West and Space. This collection of photographs, artwork, and historical ephemera, was donated to WSU Libraries in October, 1991, by Jean and Carol Mathis, wife and daughter of the late George Mathis



After graduation from WSU in June 1931, Mathis moved to Oakland, California, to attend a commercial art school. He opened a small studio and worked as a commercial artist and art teacher for the next five years. In describing his first years after graduation (at the height of the Depression), Mathis wrote that he traded his art for everything from shoes to dentistry.

While living in the Bay Area, he met his future wife, Jean, who was producing marionette shows with her brother. George Mathis soon joined the marionette troupe and assisted by painting scenery and building puppets. Jean and George married in 1936, in Oakland, California; they had one daughter, Carol. From this point on, George Mathis concentrated more and more on depicting scenes of San Francisco, Carmel, Monterey, and Yosemite.


In 1948, the Mathis family relocated to Nevada City, in the heart of California's historic mining district. The primary motivation for this change was George's growing urge to recreate western history through his art. Here George and Jean began working in lithography, which eventually turned into a thriving business.



Mathis focused his attention on rendering subjects of the Old West, such as railroads, historic buildings, gold miners, and Pony Express riders.

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