Charles Van Schaick (1852-1946) worked in Black River Falls for more than 60 years as the town photographer in an era before cameras were available to the masses. He opened his photographic studio in 1879. About 60 percent of his approximately 5,700 extant glass plate negatives are studio portraits. The other 40 percent include street scenes, major events in the region, outdoor family and group photos, buildings, picnics and people and their livestock.
The Van Schaick collection, housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, was made famous in 1973 when the writer and doctoral student Michael Lesy published the book “Wisconsin Death Trip”, featuring Van Schaick images alongside excerpted newspaper accounts and records from the area and time period. The book was made into a film by James Marsh in 1999.