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Photography and the American West

Related Exhibitions

  • For a history of the Western Americana photograph collections, see: Photography and the Princeton Collections of Western AmericanaPULC LXXV, 2 (Winter, 2014): pp. 225-247. 

  • The Manuscripts Division houses the core of the department's holdings of photographs of the American West:

    (1) The Western Americana Photograph Collection (WC064) is an open collection of more than 5,000 Western Americana photographs (116 linear feet), growing steadily by gift and purchase. 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 majority of the collection has been digitized and is accessible in the Princeton Univeristy Digital Library

    (2) The William Henry Jackson Photographs of North American Indians Collection (WC054) 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. This collection has been fully digitized for addition to the digital library as individual photographs and as two bound volumes.

    (3) The Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs (WC055) consists 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. This collection has been fully digitized for addition to the digital library viewable as either individual photographs or as two portfolios.

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