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He was born in Belmont, California, the son of William and Cassandra Adams and the last of five children. He entered the University of California in 1886 and focused his studies in the field of Chemistry. During his second year, however, his father's business suffered a disastrous loss due to natural events and Charles left the university to help in the recovery.
He spent the following years helping his family estate, and became an insurance broker. He also performed clerical work, primarily for the Merchants' Exchange Association. By 1917 he was made executive secretary of the association, and held this position until 1940. His family estate was eventually settled successfully.
After gaining a three-inch (76 mm) telescope and learning to enjoy the hobby of amateur astronomy, he joined the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He became the paid secretary-treasurer of that organization in 1925, and held the office until he retired in 1950. 
Charles was married to Olive Bray. Ansel Adams was their only child, and gave him his nickname "Carlie". His wife Olive died in 1950 after suffering an illness that made her an invalid.
Adams died in San Francisco. One source (Aitken) lists his date of death as August 8, 1951, while another (Alinder) lists it as August 9, 1951. 
- ^ Aitken, R. G. (1951). "In Memoriam, Charles Hitchcock Adams 1868-1951". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 63 No. 375. San Francisco, CA: Astronomical Society of the Pacific. pp. 283–286. http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1951PASP...63..283A. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
- ^ Alinder, Mary Street (1996). Ansel Adams: A Biography. New York: Henry Holt and Company. pp. 249. ISBN 0-8050-5835-4.
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