Skip to main content

Letter from Jessamine Spear Johnson to Don Ornduff and Photographs

 Collection — Folder: 1 (SC 11-19)
Identifier: RC2014-024

Scope and Contents

The Letter from Jessamine Spear Johnson to Don Ornduff and Photographs contains a single letter written to Ornduff in 1931 and an accompanying ten photographs of Hereford cattle from Johnson's ranch, the X4. The letter is a response from Johnson to a previous letter from Ornduff, requesting information about her photographs and prices. Johnson lists various sizes and their respective prices in the letter. She also references pack trips and working cattle herds with her seven children while her husband was "kept busy with some 20,000 head of sheep."

The photographs included with the letter each have a caption written on the back. Many were also stamped with Johnson's name, and she wrote her initials (back-to-back Js topped with a 'spear' point) in the lower right hand corner of photographs as a copyright. Titles for the photographs are based on the captions.


  • Creation: October 1, 1934


Conditions Governing Access

The Letter from Jessamine Spear Johnson to Don Ornduff and Photographs has no restrictions and is available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Letter from Jessamine Spear Johnson to Don Ornduff and Photographs is the property of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Materials, even if owned by the NCWHM, may be protected under third party copyright. It is the patron’s responsibility to research and secure any such additional copyright and pay any required fees or royalties. It is not the intention of the NCWHM to impede upon any third party rights, and the NCWHM cannot be held responsible if the patron is involved in legal action due to violation of third party copyright claims.

Biographical / Historical

Jessamine Spear Johnson (1886-1978)

In 1897, Jessamine Spear's mother (known as Belle) gave her 11 year old daughter her first camera - a glass-plate Kodak. Her photographic style was influenced by Miles City, Montana photographer L. A. Huffman and artist William "Bill" Gollings, both of whom spent time working at her father's ranches. Jessamine was a prolific photographer, and her images were used as advertisements for the Northern Pacific Railway. She often hand-colored her photographic prints.

In 1906, Jessamine married cattle and sheep rancher Will Johnson. They ran three ranches of their own, including the X4, and in 1930 took over management of her father's ranch, the Spear O Wigwam Dude Ranch outside Sheridan, Wyoming. Along with her photography work, she also worked as a trail guide and a hostess at the dude ranch.

Donald R. Ornduff

Donald R. Ornduff was the editor of the American Hereford Journal, published by the American Hereford Association, for almost forty years. He collected and wrote extensively about the breed and its history.


0.08 Linear Feet (1 folder (SC 11-19))

Language of Materials



This small collection contains a letter from Jessamine Spear Johnson to Don Ornduff describing how she takes and sells photographs of Herefords. The letter is accompanied by ten photographs with captions written on the back.

Processing Information

The Letter from Jessamine Spear Johnson to Don Ornduff and Photographs was purchased by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 2014 from Buckingham Books.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the NCWHM Special Collections at Dickinson Research Center Repository

1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 73111 United States