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William Henry Jackson Photographs

Identifier: MsC0539

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Scope and Contents

This finding aid for the Jackson Photographs held at the University of Iowa was based on William Henry Jackson's 1877 catalog, Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians. This was published by the US Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories as Miscellaneous Publication No. 9. Because of the errors in the original Shindler Catalogue that were carried over into the Jackson Catalogue, the researcher must understand the limitations of this finding aid. Paula Fleming, Senior Archivist at the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives, worked for 30 years to restore the accuracy of the original Shindler Catalogue, and in 2003 published Native American Photography at the Smithsonian: The Shindler Catalogue, which compiles much of the missing information about the Shindler images. The book recreates the original Shindler exhibit catalogue from 1869, with added illustrations and information.

To most accurately study the collection, researchers should use Fleming's publication in tandem with Jackson's 1877 catalog and the University of Iowa's finding aids and images.

Researchers should note that numbers in parenthesis following photograph numbers or descriptions are the numbers that are assigned in Jackson's 1877 catalog. There are some photographs included at the end of the collection which do not include these parenthetical numbers, and this implies that they were added to the scrapbook donated to the University of Iowa. The origin of these photographs is unknown.

Historical Note

The William Henry Jackson Photographs are a collection of images of Native Americans, dating from the mid 1800's and donated to the University of Iowa in the form of a set of photograph albums entitled "Illustrations of Typical North American Indians." The contents of these albums are reflected in a catalogue entitled Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians. The history of the photographs and catalogue is an interesting story in and of itself, and enhances our understanding of the "standard" images of Native Americans that have appeared as commonplace illustrations in many publications.

The photographs themselves are the work of several photographers, while the catalogue of the photographs is the work of A. Zeno Shindler and William Henry Jackson. It is likely that the original photo albums, donated to the University of Iowa Libraries in the early 1900's, were purchased from one of nine copies of the Jackson Catalogue created by the Bureau of American Ethnology. The Jackson Catalogue is, however, problematic because additions to the images and multiple editors resulted in mistaken identification of illustrations and the loss of many of the photographers' credits.

The early history of the collection and the negatives provide an explanation for the problems inherent in it. The US government, which originally made paintings of visiting Indian delegates, began to photograph delegates when the new technology became readily available. Dr. Ferdinand Hayden of the US Geological Survey and Englishman William Blackmore, an amateur ethnologist, collected the negatives of these photographs and ultimately deposited them at the Smithsonian. A. Zeno Shindler was then contracted to produce a catalogue of 304 original images in 1869, entitled"Photographic Portraits of North American Indians in the Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution," and the Smithsonian mounted its exhibit of these images the same year. Shindler himself took some of the photographs that were included in this original catalogue, yet credit was not given to every contributing photographer. Copies of the images were widely circulated in major institutions, and they quickly formed the basis of Native American Photography collections in repositories and museums worldwide. As the catalogue circulated, entries were changed, and substitutions were made for original, damaged negatives.

The collection of negatives continued to grow as the US Government sponsored four important surveys of the American west during the 1870's. Photographer William Henry Jackson worked with these surveys, added negatives to the Smithsonian collection, and continued the cataloging work that Shindler had begun. In 1874, Jackson made a preliminary catalogue of over 1,000 images, which included most of the 300 images in the Shindler Catalogue and added other images taken during the surveys. Jackson grouped tribes under linguistic families, rather than alphabetically, and his descriptions included biographies, comments, and details about the subjects' physical stature. He expanded the catalogue in 1877. Not surprisingly, Jackson's work included all mistakes that were originally found in Shindler's catalogue.

The Jackson catalogue was viewed as a significant contribution to the field, and copies were circulated. The Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnology continued to catalogue photographs, and in the 1980's, the data about the collections were computerized and placed online.

The original images held by the University of Iowa were donated by J. L. Pickard in the early 1900's. Originally in deteriorating scrapbook albums, the photographs required preservation. In the early 1990's, the photographs themselves were photographed, in order to create a visual finding aid for the collection. The originals were then re-mounted on acid free boards, covered with preservation mylar and stored in acid free boxes.


  • Creation: 1860-1877


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


9.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Jackson was a photographer and pioneer in the American west. This collection is the work of several photographers, some not credited, and includes some of Jackson's photographs. The images likely correspond to a scrapbook that was one of nine such scrapbooks originally created by the Bureau of American Ethnology.

Method of Acquisition

The prints were presented to the University by J. L. Pickard in the early 1900?s. They were given to J. L. Pickard by Mrs. Governor Kirkwood. Guide posted to Internet: May, 2005

Related Materials

Visual Finding Aid for the images -- Two volumes containing black and white photographs of all images, identified by volume and page number. Stored with the collection.   Fleming, Paula Richardson. The North American Indians in early photographs. New York : Harper & Row, 1986. MAIN Oversize FOLIO E77.5 .F54 1986   Fleming, Paula Richardson. Native American Photography at the Smithsonian: The Shindler Catalogue. Washington: Smithsonian Books, 2003. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS Reference FOLIO E89.S58 2003   Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942. Photographs of Indians selected from the collection in the possession of the U.S. Geological survey of the territories [microform]. Prof. F.V. Hayden in charge. Representing 70 different tribes. 1876. 1 p. l., 616 mount. photos. on 100 l. 41 x 54 cm. Microfilm. New Haven, Conn., Yale University, 1974? 1 reel. 35 mm. MAIN MEDIA SERVICES Film 21660   Jackson, William Henry. Descriptive catalogue of photographs of North American Indians. Washington, Govt. print. off., 1877. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS X-COLLECTION E89.J14   Jackson, William Henry. Time exposure; the autobiography of William Henry Jackson. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS X-COLLECTION TR140.J27 A3 MAIN LIBRARY TR140.J27 A3

Other Descriptive Information

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)