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Arthur M. Tinker Photographs

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 2001-077

Scope and Contents

Please visit the link to the image database ("Digital Images from the Arthur M. Tinker Photographs") for more detailed information about each photograph.

The collection is arranged in two series, American Indians and Structures and Landscapes. The ink stamp “Arthur M. Tinker” appears on the verso of each print or mount. In some cases, the photographs were apparently stacked shortly after stamping resulting in ink staining to the front of some photographs. Some photographic mounts have damaged corners and some have been trimmed. Most of the images are sharp and crisp, although some have faded significantly. Some collection photographs are albumen prints and some are gelatin silver prints; the gelatin silver prints are darker while the albumen prints are more faded. All but seven of the images are mounted photographs taken with a Folding Pocket Kodak camera. In the container list, Tinker’s captions have been used when available, but otherwise a short, descriptive statement about image content has been used. Where Tinker uses the word “squaw” the word “woman” has been substituted.


  • 1898 - 1902


Conditions Governing Access

The Arthur M. Tinker Photographs has no restrictions and is available for research. If you are interested in researching the materials, please contact the Dickinson Research Center to make an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

The Arthur M. Tinker 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

Arthur M. Tinker was an amateur photographer and United States Indian Inspector for the Office of Indian Affairs in the late 19th century and early 20th century. As an Indian Inspector he served as a liaison between Washington and the field offices, reporting on the functioning of various Indian agencies. If problems were discovered inspectors were empowered to take testimony under oath and report to Washington about questionable practices or other issues. For example, in 1892 Tinker became involved with the question of whether Navajo Indians water supplies on designated reservation land were adequate and in 1898 he became embroiled in a controversy with the Ojibwe at Leech Lake, Minnesota over a man who was accused of selling whiskey on the reservation. Tinker’s work took him to agencies, reservations, and schools in many parts of the country including Arizona, Indian Territory, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nevada, and Minnesota.

In addition to his duties as Indian Inspector, Tinker was also an amateur photographer, who used an early portable camera called the Folding Pocket Kodak camera. The camera used roll film rather than photographic plates. The images from this camera, which constitute the bulk of the collection, measure 2.25 x 3.25 inches and are affixed to 4 x 5 inch mounts embossed with the Folding Pocket Kodak name. Tinker used his camera to document Indian life and material culture, with a particular emphasis on Indian interactions with agencies, schools, police, and other governmental authorities.


0.40 Linear Feet (1 photo binder box)

Language of Materials



Photographs taken on a wide variety of Indian agencies and reservations by amateur photographer and United States Indian Inspector Arthur M. Tinker, consisting primarily of scenes of Indian agency life between 1898 and 1902. Native Americans in the context of Indian agencies, schools, and reservations are the primary focus of the collection, but some also show Indian lifeways and material culture apart from an agency setting. Informal portraits of individuals and groups including school groups, tribal elders, tribal policemen, family groups, Indian agency officials, and children are also part of the collection. Some non-Indian photographs are included, primarily documenting buildings and other man-made structures.


Series 1: American Indians (1898-1902) This series includes 85 images of Native American life and material culture at the turn of the 20th century as photographed by Indian Inspector Arthur Tinker. The American Indians series is further arranged into subseries by agency or school. Tinker has provided captions with location and other information, written in fountain pen or pencil, for 37 photographs, other locations have been determined by clues in the images themselves. Some images cannot be connected with a particular agency, school, or other location and these subseries are designated by more generic terms such as “Plains Indians” or “Southwestern Indians.” Note that a single photograph represents some agencies and tribal groups.

The series includes both posed and candid photographs. All photographs are taken outdoors in natural light. Some photographic subjects are named in the captions. The images primarily document Native Americans in the context of Indian agencies, schools, and reservations, but some also show Indian lifeways and material culture apart from an agency setting. Additionally, both the natural and built landscapes of the visited agencies and reservations are documented in these images. One of the striking aspects of the collection is that it documents a number of geographically diverse tribal groups in a very compressed time frame (four years), which allows a comparison of the lifeways and material culture of many different groups at approximately the same time.

images include informal portraits of individuals and groups such as school groups, tribal elders, tribal policemen, family groups, Indian agency officials, and children. Named individuals include Crow ledger artist Deaf Bull; White Swan, Major Marcus Reno’s scout at Little Big Horn; and Cheyenne River Agency policeman Straight Head. Traditional clothing, headgear, and jewelry are shown in a number of photographs as well as activities such as grinding grain and using a burden basket. Several kinds of Indian school uniforms and other non-traditional clothing are also shown. Other photographs show a specific activity related to agency operation such as the issuance of agency beef, including a sequence of eight photographs documenting a communal steer butchering. Another group of photographs shows an outdoor gathering or event in a Plains Indian community with people wearing an interesting mixture of traditional and Victorian clothing. Agency buildings are another focus of the collection including houses, schools, trading posts, and street scenes, as well as landmarks like the Standing Rock monument at the Standing Rock Agency. Traditional Indian dwellings such as tipis, hogans, Pima ki structures, and what appear to be Apache wikiups are also featured.

Series 2: Structures and Landscapes (ca. 1900) This series includes six photographs of various structures not obviously connected with an Indian agency or reservation and one landscape photograph. Included are two photographs of stone or adobe structures that might be from a Southwestern Indian agency, but the photograph does not specifically indicate this. Civil engineering structures are the subject of three other photographs including two images of an earthen dam and a photograph of three persons inspecting a flume near Carson City, Nevada. The final photograph is of an unidentified rock outcropping.

Processing Information

The Arthur M. Tinker Photographs was purchased by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 2001.

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