“Mama wrote me you wanted one of my pictures. I must tell you I have not one to my name. I am not so conceited as to have several pictures of my self laying around in my room. Besides no one ever cared enough for me to want a picture of myself. They only ask for it for politeness. Now I don’t say this about you but people in general.”
– Asa Candler Jr. to his sister Lucy, March 1, 1901, age 20
I can’t imagine a scenario where anyone lands on this blog by any means other than via a search engine query for Asa Candler Jr., so I’m going to skip the preamble explaining who he was. If you’re lost and wondering what this is all about, here’s a helpful overview.
Despite his prominent profile in the Atlanta community, pictures of Buddie Candler are hard to come by. However, I’ve spent the last 18 months researching his life and have rounded up a fair number from various sources. I’m on a month-long hiatus from Buddie storytelling in order to give myself mental space before diving into editing-mode. This blog will eventually contain supplemental stories and details that the book necessarily omits for the purpose of narrative flow, but I can’t start planning those out until I’ve edited and know what’s in and what’s out. Posting photos requires less storytelling than any other kind of update, so here we go in chronological order.
Let’s get started.
First we have one of the earliest photos that I can confirm in Asa Candler Jr’s life. The photo above is dated 1898, from the classic Candler family portrait that you’ll find in just about any resource that covers his father’s life. Buddie was born in August of 1880, so he was 17 or 18 here. Because his birthday comes in the latter part of the calendar year, all age estimates from here forward assume his age on January 1.
I want to point out some clear defining characteristics which are important when making a positive ID and making sure photos are oriented correctly. Buddie has a defined philtrum and thin upper lip. He has his mother’s nose, which includes a broad bridge and apex. He also has a more arched left eyebrow than right. This slight arch gives him a quizzical or attentive expression that many writers interpret as mischievous or humorous. His brother Walter, bottom middle, has a slighter version of it, and later in life William appears to have a similar arch. I’m not inclined to believe it says anything about his state of mind; it’s just a natural asymmetry.
Above: 1898. The photo above quite possibly predates the well-known family portrait. It’s from the 1898 Emory College yearbook, which would have been produced at the end of his Junior year, so this is likely a 17-year-old Buddie. He was the manager and organizer of the school bicycle club. Safety bicycles (the precursor to the bicycles we know and love today) were still something of a newfangled contraption, quite expensive and considered by many to be a short-lived fad; a toy for rich boys and girls. One resource tells a story about Buddie spending his school supply budget on a bicycle against his father’s wishes. Another resource claims that the act of defiance that got him kicked out of school was when he rode his bike on campus after they were banned, and his Uncle Warren —then Emory President —busted him mid-ride.
Above: 1899, Senior yearbook photo. This is the other well-known photo. Anywhere you look online you’ll find either this one or the family portrait from the year before. He would have been 18 in this photo if it was taken before August. You can find the oval-cropped version on Emory’s archived yearbook directory or you can find the original uncropped version, as shown above in the second photo. Arched eyebrow, defined philtrum, broad bridge.
Above: 1903, age 22, taken at Callan Castle, his parents’ mansion in Inman Park. The resource that published this photo erroneously labeled it as the dinner following the wedding of his older brother Charles Howard. However, Howard can be seen sitting to the left of center in a dark jacket, not wedding attire. His wife Flora is to the left of him. Just over the top of Howard’s head you can see the top of Walter’s head. Above and to the right of Walter you can see Helen, Buddie’s wife, and then Buddie himself (eyebrow gives him away every time). On the right side of the table you see a bride and groom standing before a doorway. That’s Lucy, Buddie’s sister, and her new husband Bill Owens. Lucy and Howard were both married the same year, which is likely why the two events were confused in the photo’s caption. To the left of Bill we see mother Lucy Elizabeth, and to the right of Lucy we see father Asa Sr. To the right-front of Asa Sr. we see the top half of youngest brother William’s head. The happy couple in the center foreground are likely Bill’s parents.
Above: 1909, age 29, with the whole family: parents, children and grandchildren. To the left we see Buddie and his wife Helen. Above Helen we see Walter and his wife Eugenia with their newborn baby (likely Asa IV, placing the photo in August or later, which is why I’ve incremented Buddy’s age a year). We see doting grandmother Lucy Elizabeth and proud grandfather Asa Sr. at the back center, and to the right of them we see Lucy and Bill. To the far right we see Howard’s wife Flora leaning against the wall, and Howard is left of her in front of Lucy and Bill. The young man all the way to the right in the front row is William, who wasn’t yet married.
The baby in the portrait at the center of the photo is Asa III, Buddie’s first-born son, who died of illness before his first birthday. Some sources claim Buddie wanted to name his next-born son Asa IV in order to keep the name going in the direct line of descendants, but Helen and Asa Sr. both disapproved of the idea. One of Buddie’s great-grandsons tells a story about Walter naming his son Asa IV against Buddie’s wishes, and claims they had to come to a peaceful agreement to allow Buddie’s first-born grandson to be named Asa V in order to return the name to its rightful lineage.
Moving on. 1909 also gave us a bumper crop of press photos:
Above: All of these were taken between July and October, and all are associated with his activities at the Atlanta Speedway racetrack. I wrote about my favorite Atlanta Speedway story here, but there’s so much more to tell in future updates. It was during this time that he adopted cigar smoking, emulating his favorite professional race car drivers. He was described as reckless, a speed demon whose heavy, “beefy” frame helped him to wrestle cars around tough turns.
Above: 1910, age 29. This is the first professional headshot that shows up in the press, usually rolled out during PR campaigns to save his reputation from the rumors and dramas that seemed to follow him around. Some of his descendants would have you believe the rumors and dramas are all the result of jealousy, but I challenge that position. No man is all good or all bad, and Asa Candler Jr. was no exception. He was capable of callous vindictiveness, and earned some of the reputation that dogged his legacy. During periods of public scrutiny he would engage in a practice known as “paid puffery” to correct the record and impose his version of the truth. Unless cross-checked against other references to confirm or debunk his claims, one might be inclined to believe his versions. Not me. I’ve cross-checked and debunked. More on this in future updates.
The photo above was occasionally printed facing the other way, but I believe this is the correct orientation based on the facial characteristics listed at the start of this post.
Also 1910. Looking a little full around the chin, Buddie. During this period he escaped one of his biggest public dramas by setting off on an around-the-state tour of Georgia with two friends, “Mack” McGill and Frank Weldon. Mack was his usual driver, and they took shifts driving over several road tours.
Clearly not all of the photos I found are good. Above: 1911, age 30, taken at the finish line of a race at the end of the Atlanta Speedway’s short life. This photo was in honor of a winning driver and his family, along with a few prominent Atlanta citizens. Buddy is seen here wearing his usual driving duster and cap. Lacking visible physical characteristics, I identified him by a process of elimination based on the photo’s caption.
Now let’s get into some clearer headshots from the 1920s.
Above: 1922, age 41. This one was originally published or digitized a little squished and flipped the other way. Based on his facial characteristics I believe this is the correct orientation and I used other photos as reference to adjust the aspect ratio.
Above: 1923, age 42. This is from a small family photo. The hair of his youngest son Samuel is seen in the bottom left corner. The full version includes Buddie, Helen and Samuel without the other kids.
Above: 1925, age 44. Featuring photo masking around his hair that likely cropped a little too close.
Another 1925 photo, this one a candid shot during a meeting between race car driver Ralph DePalma (left) and Atlanta Mayor James L. Key. Photo obviously pulled from the Atlanta History Center archive. Their caption had the men labeled all wrong. It claims the Candler in this photo is Asa Sr. and noted their names out of order. My hope is that they will update their record now that the correct information has been provided.
In 1927, at 46 years old, we get a study of contrasts.
First is a stern headshot, although I believe the furrowed brow is due to the pince-nez. He looks younger and slimmer here than in other photos from this era, with less gray hair, so there’s a good possibility that this one predates 1927. This is the first year that I can account for its publication.
Next, the smiling photo above showed up in a few places in 1927. The Candler family faced a slew of legal and romantic dramas during the mid-1920s, and this one was used by the press in both favorable and critical contexts. Setting that aside, it’s another example of his “jolly” expression that the press, when they liked him, spoke highly of. This photo can be found facing either direction and may be squished in some scans. I used facial features and other photos for reference to orient and correct the aspect ratio.
I have not been able to definitively date the photo above. Based on the setting and his appearance over the following few years I feel 1927 is a reasonable approximation. I would say no later than 1931 but I can’t rule out as late as 1935.
The photo above looks like it could have been taken on the same day as the previous one so I’m placing it in the same approximate location on the timeline.
Above: 1928, age 47. This is a few years into his boating obsession. His original yacht was named the Helasa, a portmanteau of Asa and Helen. Helen passed away in 1927 and he remarried about six months later. At that time he replaced the Helasa with an even more palatial yacht named the Amphitrite. In the photo above he’s seen wearing his captain’s hat. Buddie always wore activity-appropriate hats.
Above: In 1929, at age 48, Buddie bought a 165 hp open-cockpit Waco biplane, which he had painted maroon with the word “Briarcliff” across the side. I will put together a post about his various airplanes sometime in the future. At the time that this one was taken, personal airplanes were almost unheard of. This is thematic throughout his life. Whether it was bicycles, cars, boats or planes, Asa Candler Jr acquired expensive transportation as soon as he was able to. In 1929 he also bought airplanes for his son John and his daughter Martha.
Above: 1930, age 49. By early 1930 Buddie had moved on from the open-cockpit style airplane to a closed-cabin Lockheed Vega, the same model flown by Amelia Earhart. During this time he liked to hop into his plane to pop up to New York to shop for magic tricks (more on that in a future post) and fly home the same day. It’s important to note that although John and Martha learned to fly their planes, Buddie did not pilot his own. He hired pilot Beeler Blevins, a big name in Atlanta aviation history, to be his private chauffeur of the skies. Like Mack McGill, he let experts take the wheel but took credit for records set.
Above: 1931, age 50. This photo is clearly candid but it was published in a strange context. In 1931 Buddie purchased a Lockheed Model 9 Orion and attempted to beat one of Charles Lindbergh’s flight records, because that’s the kind of thing Buddie liked to do. This photo accompanied one of the many articles that covered the event. It features some strange artifacts such as outlining around his hand and nose that give it an oddly touched-up effect.
Above: 1933, 52 years old. Asa Candler Jr. is most well known in the Atlanta area for his short-lived private zoo. More on that in a future update, including a possibly controversial opinion that challenges the conventionally accepted story of its origin.
He’s starting to put on a lot of weight now, and starting to look aged beyond his years. There may be good reason for this, since this would have been near the end of his years-long battle with alcoholism. By his own admission he had his moment of clarity while driving home from his Uncle Warren’s house, when suddenly he recalled a moment when he bonded with his Bengal tiger and heard God speak to him. The zoo dismantling was finalized in 1935 and Warren died in 1941. The epiphany probably struck during this window of time.
Above: 1939, age 58. Although he never rushed a fraternity himself (after his brother Howard had him blackballed from Kappa Alpha in 1896) he attended several different fraternity events as a guest of honor during this period. He was a well known, well connected wealthy man who never spent a day at home if he didn’t have to, so he was invited out a lot and typically accepted.
His cane started showing up in photos as early as 1930, but in 1922, during a wild court case involving his brother Walter, Asa Jr. was accused of assaulting someone with a cane. It was noted in the press that the victim’s description of the cane matched the one Asa Jr. was known to carry. I have theories about this event and the origin of the cane that I will share in a future update.
Above: This photo accompanied Asa Candler Jr’s obituary in 1953 but when compared to photos of his last few years it’s clear that this headshot was taken well before his death. I estimate that it was taken in the early 1940s, which would have been his early 60s.
Above: 1947, age 66. This photo is from a radio program that covered the opening of his final obsession, the Westview Cemetery mausoleum. I’ll have lots to say about this in a future update. In this photo he walks beside a radio announcer who carries a big microphone on a long cable while onlookers sit beneath the porte-cochére that connects the main mausoleum to the incomplete administration building (which is still incomplete to this day).
Above: 1948, age 67. As early as 1946 Buddie was showing signs of planning to sell Briarcliff mansion. He was throwing all of his money into developing Westview Cemetery and battling a hoard of lawsuits that were proving very expensive to fight. In 1946 he doubled down on his mausoleum project and sold off a slew of large property holdings. He also started renovations at the Briarcliff Hotel and Apartments to build out the penthouse suite that he would occupy after the sale of Briarcliff Mansion.
This brings us to 1949-1953, ages 68-72. He spent 1949 doing everything his heart desired with the money that the sale of Briarcliff Mansion freed up. The next few photos appear to be from around the same time period, although they were part of a compilation published in 1953 following his death. After 1949 his health declined and he slowed down significantly so I suspect these are closer to 1949 than 1953.
Above: 1949 confirmed, age 68. This was taken plane-side before departure for an extended African safari trip with his grandson Asa V.
Above, 1949, confirmed. This is a cropped version of a photo showing Asa Jr. with his grandson Asa V in front of a large bull elephant that he shot while on a 2-month African safari. I’ve chosen not to share the full photo because the sight of the dead elephant may be disturbing for those who object to the practice of elephant hunting. I’ll have more to say about Buddie’s hunting in a future update.
Above: 1949-ish, 68-ish years old. As the Briarcliff era came to a close Buddy moved his hunting trophies to a large, round building on the Westview Cemetery property. He permitted school children to come in and view his collection and occasionally held dances and fund raisers there. This latter activity landed him in another public controversy. Native Atlantans who grew up during the trophy room’s heyday recall the full African elephant specimen that was displayed there. While most of the trophies were eventually donated to Fernbank Science Center, Westview records are unable to account for the location of the elephant.
And that brings us to the last 2 photos I have of Asa Candler, Jr.
Above: 1950, age 69. I appreciate the contrast between the last two photos. In the first we see jolly Buddie, warm and welcoming with smiling eyes. In the second we see serious Buddie, on guard and intensely focused, deep in one of his obsessive hobbies. In one he’s helping the city to acquire and fall in love with a new elephant. In the other he’s demonstrating his skill as a hunter who slaughtered a wild elephant (with the help of safari staff). This seemingly incongruous pairing perfectly exemplifies the life of Asa Candler Jr.
In the summer of 1950 Buddie fell ill after working hard to help Zoo Atlanta raise money to replace their elephant named Coca, who came to live with them after he shut down his private zoo. Coca was loved by the community, and her death was felt as an intense loss for the city’s children. He worked tirelessly to campaign for her replacement and offered to fly a few lucky children to an exotic animal farm to choose the new elephant themselves. The new elephant was welcomed to her new home with a ticker tape parade. Buddie went into the hospital soon afterward and remained there for two months. His son Samuel made statements to the press that sounded like perhaps they weren’t sure he would pull through. He did, and continued on for another three years.
In 1951 at age 70 Buddie won the right to sell off all of his holdings in spite of the open court cases still pending against him. He informed the Georgia Supreme Court judge that he was old, in poor health, and intended to make himself insolvent so he could leave everything he had to his family. Two years later he died of what sounds like liver cancer. Liver cancer is a very rare primary cancer. Risk factors include cirrhosis from long term alcohol abuse and fatty liver disease brought on by long term obesity. While I have no definitive confirmation that liver cancer was the cause of death or what risk factors could have contributed to it, it would be unsurprising if this suggestion were true. It would jive with what can be confirmed about his life and lifestyle.
And that brings us to the end of his life and the end of the photos. I’ve only omitted one photo from a candid moment while he was vacationing on Sapelo Island because the scan is so dark and unintelligible that it adds nothing to his history. If you have any questions about photographs throughout Asa Candler Jr.’s life please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to provide answers. Thanks for reading!