Posted By BrokenClaw on February 3, 2007
Most of these photographs are part of the Smithsonian Institution Archival, Manuscript, and Photographs Collections. The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) allows for “casual, non-commercial redistribution” of these images. Please read their copyright statement before downloading any images from this page. Also, refer to the their Catalog Record for the complete reference citation. Please note that the thumbnail images on this page were created for this website and are not to be downloaded for any reason. In accordance with their guidelines, the full-size images are the original files, with the original filenames from the Smithsonian website. Some of the subjects’ names have been edited here to correspond with their name on this website. Most of these photographs were taken in Washington, DC, when the chiefs and other tribal delegates were appearing before the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
For those unfamiliar with historical portraits, a few words of explanation may be helpful. You may notice some of the same articles of dress in several of these photographs [cf. George Dailey and Charles Watson, 1908]. It was customary with portrait photography for the subject to borrow clothing, either from the photographer or from someone else. This practice was not unique to native American photography. Unless the subjects were relatively wealthy and had their own formal clothing, the photographer was expected to supply appropriate attire. In other words, in those portraits of your ancestors in the 1800s in their fine suits and ruffled dresses and shiny buckled boots, the clothing probably didn’t belong to them, either. In some of the photographs here, the subjects wore a wig as well.
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- This photograph was taken by the frontier photographer, William Henry Jackson, in Omaha, Nebraska. Jackson later moved to Colorado and became famous for his photographs of the Rocky Mountains. Several versions of this and similar photos remain, including a stereograph in his American Indians Collection.
- An enlarged copy of this photograph is hanging in the Museum of Westward Expansion at the St. Louis Gateway Arch.
- The photo identified as Benjamin Rich, 1899, resembles the same person in the photo more-reliably identified as Charles Watson, 1908. We know that both Rich and Watson were in the delegation to Washington in 1899, so it’s possible that the earlier photo was misidentified and is, in fact, Charles Watson. It’s also possible that Benjamin Rich and Charles Watson were related and just naturally resembled one another.
- This photograph shows the trademark of photographers, William S. Prettyman and Pleasant A. Miller, from Arkansas City, Kansas. Prettyman traveled throughout Indian Territory and the Cherokee Outlet, and is considered to be the most important photographer of that era. On the day that the Cherokee Outlet was opened to settlers, 16 September 1893, Prettyman hired Miller and another Arkansas City photographer, Thomas Croft, to photograph the land run, while Prettyman made the run himself. The now-famous photo, Race into the Cherokee Outlet, was probably taken by Croft and is held in the collection of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The photograph shown here is dated 1906, although Prettyman had already moved on by that time. It’s known that Prettyman left his studio and his vast collection of plates to his colleague, George B. Cornish, who preserved and printed the plates. So it’s possible that this photo was taken years earlier, and that the 1906 date was the year that Cornish actually printed it. Nevertheless, the subjects in the photograph are identified simply as “Brother of Pipe Stem & wife”, which is legibly inscribed on the plate. From that description, this researcher concluded that they are Charles Pipestem and his wife, Ruth-Lucy.
- This photo postcard shows the trademark of George Cornish, mentioned above, copyright 1907. The individuals are not identified. The original postcard is in the collection of the Dailey family.