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Western American Photographs


The largest and most accessible holdings of Western American photographs in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections are in the Western Americana Photograph Collection (WC064). This is an open collection of more than 5,000 Western Americana photographs (116 linear feet), growing steadily by gift and purchase, and is administered by the Manuscripts Division. This collection is chiefly comprised of documentary photographs of the Trans-Mississippi West from the late 1860s to early 1900s. Subjects include Indians (especially studio portraits), natural wonders, cities, towns, buildings, and economic activities (mining, railroads, logging, and agriculture). Some photographs relate to the indigenous populations of Mexico and Central America. The dimensions, physical formats, and photographic processes of the photographs vary widely, from cabinet photos and s tereoview cards to mammoth photographs. Photographers represented include Charles Milton Bell, John Nicholas Choate, John K. Hillers, Charles Fletcher Lummis, Eadweard Muybridge, Frank A. Rinehart, Bernard Gurneey Randall, Carlton E. Watkins, Orloff R. Westmann, Ben Wittick, and many others; as well as photographers whose work was marketed commercially by the Keystone View Company, Underwood & Underwood, and other firms. The collection also includes photographs by contemporary photographers, such as Ulli Steltzer.

In addition to WC064, there are two other sizable collections of Western American photographs. (1) [William Henry Jackson (1843-1942)], Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories (1879?) (WC054). This collection is comprised of 1,020 mounted photographs of North American Indians, including portraits of delegates to Washington, D.C., expedition photographs, and early Western studio portraits. Also included are photographs of ruins in the American Southwest and Mexico, of Southwestern Indian pottery and implements, and of models of Southwestern ruins. Most of the photographs in the albums are described in William Henry Jackson's Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians (1877). Includes photographs by William Henry Jackson, Alexander Gardner, A. Zeno Shindler, Desire Charnay, Thomas M. Easterly, and F. V. Hayden. (2) Sheldon Jackson Collection (WC055). This consist s of three portfolios of approximately 750 photographic prints of Indians compiled by Jackson, probably from negatives in the collections of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Many of the photographs are identified with labels taken from the William Henry Jackson, Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians (1877). Included are photographs of Indians of many North American tribes, such as the Apache, Dakotas, Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Yuma, Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Crow, and Sioux; photographs taken at the Indian School (1879) in Carlisle, Pa., Zuni Pueblo, Sheldon Jackson College (1881), and Sitka, Alaska; and photographs of ancient ruins in Colorado and Utah and cliff-dwellings in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.

Complementing these are several smaller collections, including Ben Wittick, Photographs of Hopi Villages (WC053); Prince Roland Bonaparte, Collection anthropologique, ca. 1883 (C1177); T.W. Smillie, Photographs of a Yankton Sioux Delegation, 1904 (C1197); and Owen Luck, Photographs (WC056). In addition, the Manuscripts Division holds many separately cataloged volumes, principally photograph albums and photographically illustrated diaries or other unpublished works; and manuscript collections that include some Western American photographs. For example, there are cartons of photographs of Meteor Crater, Arizona, in the Barringer Family Papers (C1250). It should be added that the Seeley G. Mudd Library, part of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, has significant holdings of Western American photographs. For example, Western American photographs are found University Archives, in Princeton Scientific Expeditions Records (AC012), documenting geological, geographical, and ethnological expeditions from the 1870s to early 1900s; and Public Policy Papers has 11 boxes of photographs in the Association on American Indian Affairs [AAIA], Records (MC147).


Original photographs in the Manuscripts Division can be consulted in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections during regular research hours, Monday-Friday, 9:00-4:45. Those in University Archives and Public Policy Papers are used at the Seeley G. Mudd Library.

For online access to descriptions and digital images in the Western Americana photograph collections, go to the Library's Digital Collections, http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/sb3978254 The Library has digitized more than 3,000 photographs in the three largest collections, but thousands of others have not yet been digitized. A Preliminary Checklist of Western American Photographs lists approximately 7,000 items in the 3 largest collections.

For Western American photographs in manuscript collections and archives, one should use the Princeton University Library Catalog at http://catalog.princeton.edu/ and the Department's EAD site for finding aids at http://diglib.princeton.edu/ead/ This will yield bibliographic records and finding aids describing relevant collections, bound volumes, and other resources. One may use these tools to search by photographer, subject, and place.

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