William E. Irwin Photographs of Great Plains Indians

Huntington Library. Photo Archives
Huntington Library. Photo Archives
Photograph Collections, 1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
(626) 405-2129

Descriptive Summary

Title: William E. Irwin Photographs of Great Plains Indians
Dates: ca. 1890-1910
Collection Number: photCL 161
Creator/Collector: Irwin, William E., 1871-1935
Extent: 50 photographs in 1 box; prints 14 x 10 cm. (5.5 x 4 in.). See itemized list under “Additional collection guides.”
Repository: Huntington Library. Photo Archives
San Marino, California 91108
Abstract: A disbound album of primarily portrait photographs of Plains Indians, taken by photographer William E. Irwin from the 1890s to early 1900s, in Indian Territory. His images document the Chiricahua Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa Indians who lived near Anadarko and Fort Sill, Oklahoma; some photographs may have been taken at Irwin’s studio at Chickasha, Indian Territory. Besides the studio and field portraits, there are also candid views illustrating late 19th-century Plains Indians in their daily lives; several views of cowboys and cow herding; Fort Sill; tepees; landscapes; and one view of a Wichita Indian grass house or wickiup. Notable portraits include those of Geronimo, seated, posing with headdress and revolver; Appeahtone (Kiowa Chief) and his wife; and Quanah Parker (Comanche Chief) with two of his wives.
Language of Material: English


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Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Photographs. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Huntington as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Preferred Citation

William E. Irwin Photographs of Great Plains Indians. Huntington Library. Photo Archives

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Cherokee Bookstore, January 24, 1967.

Biography/Administrative History

William E. Irwin was born in 1871 in Red Oak, Missouri. He learned photography around 1893 in either Indian Territory or Texas, and went on to operate galleries in Chickasha, Oklahoma and Silver City, New Mexico. In 1904, along with his brothers John and Marvin, Irwin opened and operated a photography studio in Bisbee, Arizona. In 1913, he renovated the McPhearson Building as a studio, and worked there until 1922. Irwin’s last photography studio was located in Douglas, Arizona, which he managed until his death in 1935.

Scope and Content of Collection

Many of the photographs focus on Comanche and Kiowa Indians posing for studio portraits. These portraits depict infants and children, young women, mothers, scouts, and warriors, many identified by name. Named individuals include Poor Buffalo, White Buffalo, Lone Wolf, and Little White Shield, among others. Field photographs show Apache, Kiowa, and Comanche encampments; a Wichita grass house; both cowboys and Indians caring for their herds; and views in and around Anadarko and Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Sources consulted in the creation of this finding aid include: Mautz, Carl. “Biographies of Western Photographers.” Nevada City, Calif.: Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997. / National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. “William E. Irwin: Portfolio.” Accessed March 29, 2013 (http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org) / Rowe, Jeremy. “Photographers in Arizona 1850-1920: A History & Directory.” Nevada City, Calif.: Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997. / University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History. “Irwin, William E.; Quanah Parker with two Wives, Photograph, ca. 1890.” Accessed March 29, 2013, http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth17136/

Indexing Terms

Apache Indians
Chickasaw Indians
Comanche Indians
Indian encampments—Oklahoma
Indians of North America—Dwellings—Great Plains
Indians of North America—Great Plains
Indians of North America Indian Territory
Kiowa Indians
Wichita Indians—Dwellings
Geronimo, 1829-1909
Parker, Quanah, 1845?-1911
Anadarko (Okla.)
Fort Sill (Okla.)
Photograph album
Studio portraits

Additional collection guides