Today’s post features separate and- as far as I know, at least- unrelated American Indian subjects. All pictures are from the Library of Congress. There is scant information about these images, but what is available is included here.


The first is Moon Beam. This young woman was a Potawatomi Indian who was photographed in June 1909 by C.F. Squires, of Lawrence, Kansas.



The next photograph is called Voices of the Woods, and features a young girl identified as Indian-Hawaiian. She was photographed in 1909, by Caroline Haskins Gurrey. She was certainly very lovely.


The next photograph was called A Dusky Madonna. This young woman was photographed by Martin P. Spencer in May of 1902, in Wenatchee, Washington. We know little about the subject, except that she is from the Northwest, probably the Plateau region. She may possibly have been Spokane.


This picture is called Columbia, and it is the only one that gives us the subject’s name: Nancy Columbia. Nancy was a little Inuit girl. This picture of her and her dog was taken in 1904, at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Missouri. She was photographed by the Gerhard Sisters, of St. Louis, Missouri.

I wonder what sort of a dog this is. Once upon a time, I had a friend who had a dog he said was part wolf, and his dog looked a lot like this one.


Last, we have a photograph called The Cigarette, from 1908. I’m not sure if this is universally true, but in my experience, there aren’t very many pictures of young American Indian men, at least in comparison to Native American women. This young man was a Sioux Indian, who was photographed by John A. Johnson of W. Somerville, Mass. He looks like a movie star.

Sioux man

In my recent foray into the federal archives, I began to notice that the reference info on many of the most interesting photos indicated they came from San Francisco. Many of these San Francisco images were tagged “glamour photographs”: an irresistible combination!

I’m excited to share my findings here, but first I need to issue a warning that you may need to adjust your ideas around what glamour is. In some cases, what qualified as glamorous and exciting in 1900, may not be enough to land you in the next issue of Vogue in 2019. Also, Victorian San Francisco was a little less sensitive to language, as evidenced by some of the photograph titles.

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The Library of Congress has a collection of photographs, arranged by W.E.B. Du Bois, especially for Paris’ Exposition Universelle. The collection depicts the “history and present conditions” (circa 1900) of black Americans.

Dentistry at Howard University, Washington, D.C., circa 1900
Dentistry at Howard University, Washington, D.C., circa 1900

It’s a curious collection because nothing overt ties the photos together, except that everyone pictured is black and American. There are over 500 photographs of various subjects, ranging from dentists to cabinet photos, from piano lessons to candid group photos. They are interesting to me because they were all taken at the turn of the century, but the photos were current at the time. I wonder what effect they were intended to have. My theory, unsupported by anything except my imagination, is that W.E.B. Du Bois knew the media offered a 1-dimensional, negative representation of black America, and when he lived in Europe he realized there was no other, more realistic information out there.

If you haven’t heard of W.E.B. Du Bois, you almost certainly have heard of his legacy, which includes writing The Souls of Black Folk and in 1909 and co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

W.E.B. Du Bois, circa 1918
W.E.B. Du Bois, circa 1918

William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.) Du Bois was a remarkable man of great energy and intelligence who devoted his career to bettering the condition of black Americans. Du Bois attended the Universities of Berlin and Harvard, and eventually received his doctorate. He became a professor at Atlanta University in Georgia, where the artifacts for the Paris exhibition were gathered.

The pictures are available on the Library of Congress’ website, in some cases with a little information about the subjects.

Here are a few of my favorites:

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