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William E. Irwin Photographic Portfolio & Photographs

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 2004-110-2

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of a single series, Photographs.

Photographs Series (ca. 1899-ca. 2003) This series is comprised of two parts, a circa 1899 screw post-bound photography album with 50 silver gelatin prints affixed to album pages that include Irwin’s hand-written captions and 15 contemporary images of Irwin cabinet card photographs that correspond to photographs in the album. The album has been left in its original order and accession numbers have been assigned based on that order. The contemporary photographs are designated by the addition of a letter to the accession number of the corresponding original image and are housed sequentially by accession number in a single folder. In addition to this finding aid, more detailed information about each photograph is available in the Research Center database. The overall condition of the photographs is very good and the album is good. The prints have some abrasions, indentations, and small areas with chipped emulsion. The album cover has areas of abrasion, especially at the corners and edges, and the pages have some soil, discoloration, and stray marks.

The primary focus of the collection is the American Indian tribes that lived in the areas around Anadarko, Indian Territory and Fort Sill, primarily the Chiricahua Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa, with a few Wichita images. Irwin labels some images with the generic term “Indian,” but it is probable that most of the pictured individuals are from one of the tribal groups noted above. In the container list, the first title given is Irwin’s original caption; in some cases an additional description in square brackets has been added to clarify the content. Where Irwin uses the words “squaw” and “papoose,” the words “woman” and “infant” have been substituted.

The bulk of the photographs are single and group portraits taken both outdoors and in the studio, but the collection also includes images of American Indian lifeways and material culture at the end of the 19th century. Among the named individuals pictured are Geronimo, Quanah Parker, Atote, Arko, Red Bird, White Wolf, Needle Parker, Lena Fisher, Lone Wolf, Poor Buffalo, and Appeahtone. The portraits include single individuals, couples, and larger groups with men, women, and children. Lifeways pictured include the disassembly of a tipi, butchering cattle, gaming, camp and village life, watering ponies, gathering wood, and drawing Indian Agency rations. Material culture items shown include excellent examples of elk tooth decorated dresses, headdresses, otter fur hair wraps, and other items of traditional dress; Kiowa cradleboards; cradleboard toys with doll babies; tipis; and Wichita grass homes. Other images include Fort Sill in 1899, American bison, grazing cattle, and a West Texas deer hunting camp.


  • Creation: 1899 - 2003


Conditions Governing Access

The William E. Irwin Photographic Portfolio & Photographs have no restrictions and are 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 William E. Irwin Photographic Portfolio & Photographs are 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

William E. Irwin was born in Red Oak, Missouri, in 1871. It is believed he learned photography in Indian Territory or Texas in the early 1890s. Irwin operated photography studios first in Chickasha, Indian Territory, and later in Silver City and Bisbee, Arizona, where he operated a studio from 1904 to 1922. In 1922 he opened a studio in Douglas, Arizona, which he operated until his death in 1935. He was a partner with a man named Mankins during part of his time in Chickasha and at various points while in Bisbee and Douglas he worked with his brothers John and Marvin.

Source: Mautz, Carl. Biographies of Western Photographers. Nevada City, Calif.: Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997.


0.50 Linear Feet (1 flat box)

Language of Materials



Portfolio of 50 American Indian photographs by William E. Irwin, a photographer active in Chickasha, Indian Territory in the 1890s and early-1900s, whose images document the Chiricahua Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa who lived near Anadarko, Indian Territory and Fort Sill. The collection consists primarily of portrait photographs, but images that document aspects of late 19th century American Indian life and material culture are also included. Notable persons pictured in the collection include Geronimo and Quanah Parker. A small number of contemporary photographs of Irwin cabinet cards that correspond to images in the portfolio are also included.


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Repository Details

Part of the NCWHM Special Collections at Dickinson Research Center Repository

1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 73111 United States