Today, we’re accustomed to female soldiers, but in 1886, it must have been quite a surprise to see this female Indian scout, rifle in hand, riding along with U.S. soldiers (at left). The U.S.-issued buckskin gloves look oversized and were possibly props of the studio photographer, A. Frank Randall.
That same year, Randall accompanied Gen. George Crook’s army in the campaign to capture Apache Indians who had fled their enforced confinement on a reservation and headed for Mexico. Did this scout play a part in pursuing Geronimo’s band? We don’t know, but Randall was there to take a photograph of prominent Chiricahua Apache leader Geronimo and fellow chieftain Naiche, after their surrender, as they were held captive at Fort Bowie, Ariz. Both men had strongly resisted the government’s “removal programs” and had taken family and followers to the mountains of Mexico, where they were pursued and ultimately surrendered.
The 1888 album containing both of these photographs is just one example of the rich holdings of Native American photography within the wider collection at The Huntington. If you didn’t know The Huntington had material like this, no doubt you would have if Henry Huntington had built the “Indian Room” he considered for the Library in the late 1920s, a trend in keeping with many of the era’s wealthy industrialists who viewed native peoples as a “vanishing race.”Huntington was one of the early subscribers to Edward S. Curtis’ monumental photography project, The North American Indian. In 1923, he purchased two large sets of photographs of Southwest Indians directly from photographers Carl Moon and Frederick Monsen. This was headline news of the day: “Pictorial History of Indians Safeguarded | Carl Moon’s Studies of Aborigines Purchased for Huntington Collection,” said the Los Angeles Times on March 11, 1923. Moon, a local Pasadena photographer, had spent the previous 20 years living among and photographing the Pueblo Indians. Some of his photographs had been exhibited in 1906 in Washington, D.C., and were praised by President Theodore Roosevelt, who expressed a hope that the collection would remain intact.
The Library is now in the thick of a two-year project to fully catalog, describe, and digitize its Native American photography collections. We’ve identified approximately 20,000 photographs, negatives, glass plates, lantern slides, and a collection of 18th- and 19th-century prints. The images range from ethnographic and artistic studies by professionals to snapshots taken by U.S. Indian agents and travelers to the West. This work-in-progress will culminate in an online scholarly tool that will make available a rich collection of images, some undiscovered until now.
To view some bonus images related to this post, head over to our Tumblr.
This blog post is the first to take a look inside this project as it unfolds. Look for future spotlights on some of the local collectors, photographers, and other gems and favorites from the archive.
Suzanne Oatey is a project archivist for the rare books department at The Huntington.