Charles E. Mace

Name Charles Eric Mace
Born 1889
Died January 23 1973
Birth Location England

Charles Eric Mace (1889–1973) was initially hired in 1943 as a darkroom specialist for the War Relocation Authority's Photographic Section (WRAPS). In 1944, Mace shifted to full-time photographic assignments. For a period in 1944, in the first director's absence, Mace became the chief photographer and head of the WRAPS until his boss returned.

Although born in North Hampton England, in 1889, Charles Mace was brought as an infant to Colorado. He grew up and attended local schools in Denver. After graduating from high school, Mace worked as a staff photographer for the Associated Press and worked for various area newspapers including the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post . During World War I Mace served in the U.S. military and was assigned to the Army Signal Corps as a photographer in the European theater.

After the war, Mace and his brother Gordon, who was also a photographer, invested in a mountain inn—The Baldpate Inn near Estes Park, CO—which they ran for many years. The inn was quite successful, became well-known, and still exists today. Along with running the inn, Mace continued his work in photography, and was soon exhibiting his Colorado nature photos in galleries, domestically and internationally. He also developed skill as a commercial photographer, and was good enough to win contracts to shoot advertisements for Eastman Kodak, Colgate, and other well-known companies.

When the Denver-based WRAPS office was established in 1943, director Tom Parker hired Mace because of his skills as a photographer as well as the darkroom. When staff member Francis L. Stewart resigned at the end of 1943, Mace replaced him as the second key WRAPS photographer after Parker. At that time, Parker sought another person to run the darkroom and identified Hikaru Iwasaki , a 19-year old Nisei , who was incarcerated at the WRA camp known as Heart Mountain , to fill the job. Parker left the outfit in 1944, in part in order to make a film for the United States Navy. At that point Mace took over directorship of WRAPS and was the chief photographer; Parker however returned within the year to resume his assignment as head of the WRAPS.

Next to Parker and Iwasaki, Mace was the most productive documentarian. His fellow photographer Hikaru Iwasaki counted Charles Mace as his favorite colleague in the WRAPS, describing him as a "great guy," and someone who felt deep sympathy in regard to the plight of Japanese Americans during the war. In this sense, Iwasaki said that Mace hoped his resettlement photographs would encourage Japanese Americans to leave camp and re-enter society even while the war was still in progress.

Mace has over 800 photos online in the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA). The most interesting photos are often in series that Mace shot: on segregation from, and to, Tule Lake ; of the closing of the WRA camp at Jerome , AK; and of Nisei soldiers in training at Camp Shelby, MS.

Charles Mace passed away on January 23, 1973, while visiting his daughter in Santa Monica, CA.

Authored by Lane Ryo Hirabayashi , University of California, Los Angeles

For More Information

Hirabayashi, Lane Ryo, with Kenichiro Shimada. Japanese American Resettlement Through the Lens: Hikaru Carl Iwasaki and the WRA's Photographic Section, 1943–1945 . Photographs by Hikaru Carl Iwasaki. Foreword by Norman Y. Mineta. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2009.

Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA). .

Last updated May 7, 2024, 4 a.m..