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DeVere Helfrich Rodeo Photographs

Identifier: 1981-023

Scope and Contents

The DeVere Helfrich Rodeo Photographs consists of 37,369 negatives and fourteen log books. The negatives range in size from 80x110mm, 62x62mm, and 35mm. The log books, dating 1941-1970, list the negative number, caption or title of image, location or rodeo venue, and date, as well as dark room processing notes. Additionally, there is a small collection of negatives with an associated log book dating between 1951 and 1952 which document horse race finishes and winner portraits at Walla Walla, Waitesburg, Dayton, and Pomeroy in Washington; Pendleton and Union in Oregon; and Red Bluff, California.

Documented in log book 6 are Helfrich’s experimental efforts at the first National Finals Rodeo with different film, speeds, cameras, and processing chemistry and procedures ostensibly to produce quality images without the benefits of a flash. Helfrich documented the activities and events of the National Finals Rodeo from 1959-1966.

Over 5,300 rodeo contestants and personalities are represented in this collection. Over 3,000 horses and over 400 bulls are documented and recorded pictorially. Venues for which there are over 1,000 images include Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, Los Angeles, Red Bluff, San Francisco, Denver, Sidney, Klamath Falls, Pendleton, Dallas, Ellensburg, and Cheyenne. Over 400 images have been attributed to Helen Helfrich.


  • Creation: 1941 - 1970


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. It is advisable for researchers to discuss their proposed research with staff prior to visiting the Center.

Conditions Governing Use

The DeVere Helfrich Rodeo Photographs is the property of the Donald C. & Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Literary right, including copyright, belongs to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, with the exception of copyrighted images and published literary works, which are the property of the respective copyright holders. It is the responsibility of the researcher, and his/her publisher, to obtain publishing permission from individuals pictured, relevant copyright holders, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Biographical / Historical

John DeVere Helfrich was a professional rodeo photographer from 1939-1967. He was born on April 16, 1902, in Lamonta, Oregon, and as a child he spent time at his uncle’s ranch working with cattle and horses. In 1926, he married Helen Reed, and they worked as small business owners until World War II rationing forced their stores to close. He became interested in rodeos and photography in 1939, and in 1941 he won the World Championship Rodeo Corporation’s best picture of the year prize. It was for an image of Gene Pruett on Colonel Dean at the Prairie City Rodeo in Oregon. Helen and DeVere spent most of their time traveling to rodeos, and even transformed a travel trailer into a mobile dark room. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association used Helfrich’s photograph of Bill Ward on Sea Lion at San Angelo, Texas, as inspiration for their official logo. He retired from photography in 1967, and died September 1, 1981.


15.33 Linear Feet (32 negative boxes ) ; 12" L x 5.75" W x 4.5" H

Language of Materials


Processing Information

The Helfrich Rodeo Photographs were purchased by the Museum in 1981.


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