[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer]. S. W. Ormsby, photographer.
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].
[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].

[Set of Fifteen Original Photographs of the Sioux and Asinniboine People by a Montana Photographer].

Montana and South Dakota, c. 1900. 15 original photographs, silver prints and printing-out paper, 4.5” x 7.5” to 8.25” x 6.25”. All photos matted.

A rare and captivating set of photographs by a little-known photographer who worked among the Assiniboine and Sioux, comprising eight striking studio portraits of chiefs and braves, as well as one full-length portrait and six group shots taken in the field.

S. W. Ormsby (American, active c. 1900) maintained a photography studio at the Wolf Point Agency at the Fort Peck Assiniboine Reservation in Montana. His work is seldom encountered and at present little is known of his life and activities apart from the evidence of the relatively few photographs that have come to light. We have been unable to locate any substantive institutional holdings of Ormsby’s work. The Alaska State Library records some examples in the William R. Norton Photograph Collection (which consists mainly of Alaska images, with some peripheral photographs). Various individual images seem to be scattered about, mostly cabinet card photographs taken outdoors. Illustrations reproducing two of Ormsby’s photographs appeared in Home Mission Monthly (Feb. 1900). One of these, entitled Assiniboine Peace Signal, illustrates Abbie L. Miller’s article “The Hohé Indians.” The other, captioned Completed Teepees Occupied by Indian Families, illustrates Julia Baskervill’s article “In the Land of the Dakotas.” An example of Assiniboine Peace Signal—a full-length outdoor portrait of a man holding his hand up to his forehead—is included in the collection offered here.

Most of Ormsby’s photos seem to have been taken in the field, making the studio portraits in the present group quite unusual. Six of the eight are shoulder-length images and two are full-length. At an average of 6” x 8” all are intimate shots, rich in detail and character. Three of the eight are identified Sioux subjects. One of these is a full-length portrait of the Sioux warrior Bear’s Nose showing him in war paint with wrapped and feathered hair, wearing a bear claw necklace and straps with bells, while holding a rifle across his abdomen. Among the outdoor shots one of the more intriguing shows a Sioux or Assiniboine family group seated under a teepee frame on what must be a hot day. Lying shirtless behind them are two men who seem to have arrived on the Moline wagon in the background, on which their hats are hung or set. Their boots and shirts are piled on the ground nearby. This could be a staged piece intended to amuse (are these supposed to be white men who’ve joined the family for a midday nap?) or a scene the photographer more or less came upon as he traveled about seeking subjects for his lens.

A full list with actual and supplied titles follows:

1) Bear’s Nose, Sioux. Titled in negative, upper left; “Copyright 1900. Ormsby” in negative, lower right
2) Listening Dog, Sioux. Titled in negative, upper left; “Copyright 1900 by Ormsby” in negative, lower right
3) [Tribal elder in headdress with horns and feathers]
4) Two Hawk, Sioux. Titled in negative, upper left; “Copyright 1900. Ormsby” in negative, lower right
5) [Younger man in horns and feather]
6) [Same man in single feather headdress]
7) [Man with single feather headdress and kerchief]
8) [Bear’s Nose With Rifle and Chief in Feathered Headdress]
9) [Assiniboine Peace Signal]
10) Sioux Dance Costumes [Group of Sioux Men]
11) [Group With Men in Feathered Headdresses]
12) [Group With Men on Horseback]
13) [Family Camp Scene With Wagon and Two Sleeping Men]
14) Sioux Medicine Lodge. Titled in the negative, center bottom.
15) [Family group with tepee]

An excellent representation of the work of this scarce and interesting photographer of the Assiniboine and Sioux people.

CONDITION: Generally good, fading or uneven tones to some images; one image printed from a cracked plate.

REFERENCES: Mautz, Carl. Biographies of Western Photographers. Nevada City, CA, 2018, p. 370; Home Mission Monthly, Vol. 14, No. 4, Feb. 1900, pp. 75 and 77.

Item #5890

Price: $19,500.00

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