Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wild West Image

by Marian Matyn

My students were sorting through a box of mostly duplicates and peripheral visual items when they found this and wondered what it was. My first thought, based on the headdress of the man in the lower left, was a Wild West show. The original image has some lightening on the left side, so I asked Pat Thelen, our digitizing specialist, to darken it. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can clearly see the crowd, flags, telegraph poles, and some large buildings. Perhaps the first is a barn? A group of men, carrying weapons, are walking ahead of the women in long dresses with long hair. Some men have feathered headdresses. There are wagon wheel marks circling in the right of the image which are hard to see except in the darkened image. Pennant flags are flying in the breeze. A number of ladies have parasols up to shield them from the sun on this very bright day. In the far upper left is a sign, which enlarged reads Coal Wood Hay Straw. This is clearly a wild west show, which performed outside, not in a tent. Is it being held on a fair grounds near fair buildings? Where, when, whose wild west show? Unfortunately, we have the backs of the performers. Note in the very lower left the derby of a nearby spectator.

The original image is sepia-tone 4.25 X 3.5 inches mounted on board. It has two accession numbers on the back. The first, Number 828, is not the accession number because the accession register says it is the number for a railroad ledger. The other number, 2731, is for a very large group of unidentified daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, stereographs, and other images, none of which are individually described, purchased for a lot price by Nina Ness and donated to the Clarke on Dec. 5, 1974. There are more than a thousand items in this group so this image may have been #828 in the entire group. It is most likely that over time, the lot collection was divided by format and topic and became many smaller collections. Nina was a member of the early Clarke Board of Directors.