Rarely seen photos of 19th-century LA, Santa Monica unveiled by Huntington Library

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The Huntington Library has acquired a collection of rarely seen photographs of Santa Monica and Los Angeles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they've shared them with KPCC for the slideshow above. 

Photo curator Jennifer Watts says there are more than 4,000 images in the collection. 

"It's really kind of Los Angeles before there were people," Watts said. "Pristine landscape and early structures and the topography of the land — which is pretty astonishing when you can see the bluffs of Santa Monica with nothing on them and just a few beach shacks."

The photos came from the collection of Ernest Marquez. His ancestors owned the land that now makes up present day Rustic and Santa Monica canyons and the Pacific Palisades.

Marquez collected the photos over five decades at flea markets, auction houses and rare book shops. The Huntington says it's the museum's largest purchase of photographs since 1939.

One of the photographers was Carleton Watkins, a San Francisco photographer who visited Souther California in 1877 and 1880, according to the museum.

The Huntington Library's president Steven Koblik announced Wednesday that he would be retiring in 2015, according to multiple media reports.

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