Looking at the West: H. H. Bancroft & Co., Booksellers, San Francisco

Plan of the Arrangement of Stock of H.H. Bancroft  & Co, Booksellers, San Francisco.

Plan of the Arrangement of Stock of H.H. Bancroft & Co, Booksellers, San Francisco.

Advertisement leaves from C. Aubrey Angelo’s Idaho: Descriptive Tour and Review of Its Resources and Route (San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft & Company, 1865). Call Number: WA 2005-0245N.


Lost In Translation: Glass Plate Negatives by Charles F. Lummis

Lummis-3   Lummis-2

Photographs of the American West and its inhabitants are a particular strength of the Western Americana Collection, and nearly 7,000 images have been digitized for inclusion in the Princeton University Digital Library. Recently, a box containing twenty 8 x 10 and 5 x 8 glass plate negatives by Charles F. Lummis were digitized for preservation purposes. The library holds over 100 prints by Lummis (available here), and a few of the glass plate negatives are represented in the print collection. The level of detail revealed in the negatives versus the prints is striking. Above are two similar images from a sitting in 1896 (notice the basket in the lower left corner is from a slightly different perspective). In the albumen print, the magazine cover is illegible, while the glass plate negative clearly reveals the title and date: Land of Sunshine: A Southern California Magazine. November, 1895.


The Land of Sunshine: A Southern California Magazine. November, 1895.

The magazine choice was far from arbitrary: Lummis began serving as editor of Land of Sunshine in 1895 (a position he would hold until 1909). While the publication began in 1894 as a promotional magazine for southern California commerce, Lummis quickly expanded the scope to include ethnographic studies of Native Americans. Lummis also refashioned Land of Sunshine after eastern literary magazines, publishing works by Mary Hunter Austin, Robinson Jeffers, Jack London, and John Muir, and he expanded the geographic scope of the publication to include the entire West (the magazine was later titled Out West).

A profile view from the same photo session, titled “A Tigua Maiden,” provides an opportunity for a direct comparison between plate number 691 and a corresponding print.

Lummis-4  Lummis-1

A second direct comparison can be made from plate number 661, titled “Desiderio, The Tigua War-Captain,”  taken in 1895.

Lummis-15  Lummis-War

All of the recently scanned Lummis glass plate negatives are scheduled for inclusion in the digital library after the metadata is compiled. In the meantime, below is a set of select images.

Select Bibliography:

Gale, Robert L. “Lummis, Charles Fletcher.” American National Biography Online, 2000. http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-01033.html

Watts, Jennifer A. “Photography in the Land of Sunshine: Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Regional Ideal.” Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Winter 2005-2006) , pp. 339-376.

Mexico in the 1880s


The Western Americana Collection recently acquired an album of ninety-one photographs of scenes in Northern and Central Mexico in the 1880s.  The images present city views, street scenes, cathedrals, and various merchants and workers. Sixty-one of the photographs are attributed to William Henry Jackson (1842-1943), while nine are attributed to French photographer Abel Briquet. Notable among the remaining unattributed photographs are nine candid street scenes in Villa Lerdo, Durango.


William Henry Jackson, known for his iconic Indian portraits and landscape photographs of the American West, traveled to Mexico in 1883 under commission of the Mexican Central Railroad Company to document the inaugural passage between Ciudad Juárez and Mexico City (Debroise, 76).  While documenting the Mexican railroad, which connected with the Santa Fe Railroad, Jackson also directed his lens toward the surrounding landscape, city views, buildings, and local inhabitants. In the same year, French photographer Abel Briquet was commissioned by Compagnie Maritime Transatlantique to document the ports of Mexico (Debroise, 79).  Like Jackson, Briquet also turned his gaze to the inhabitants and surrounding cities.  While Jackson only stayed briefly in Mexico (returning in 1884 to finish documenting the railroad), Briquet stayed on and opened a photography studio in Mexico City in 1885, making him the first commercial photographer in Mexico.


The newly acquired Mexico album has been fully digitized (available here) and supplements the department’s two significant portfolios containing William Henry Jackson photographs of the American West: Photographs of North American Indians (WC054) and the Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs (WC055).  These additional portfolios have been digitized in full and are accessible via the Princeton University Digital Library. See: Photographs of American Indians and Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs.


Debroise, Olivier. Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico. Translated and revised in collaboration with the author by Stella de Sá Rego. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Buffalo Bill in Italy

Autographed: "True to friend & foe, W.F. Cody, Buffalo Bill, 1885."

Autographed: “True to friend & foe, W.F. Cody, Buffalo Bill, 1885.”

Frontiersman and stage entertainer William F. Cody launched his Buffalo Bill Wild West show on the plains of Omaha, Nebraska, in 1883. Though the touring show had a slow and unprofitable start, by 1886 it had found its financial footing. In 1887, to coincide with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the entire troupe (cowboys, Indians, horses, buffalo, wagons and all) sailed abroad to England. The London performances were an immediate success, even the Queen attended, prompting a second European tour through France, Spain, Italy, and Germany beginning in 1889.

Buffalo Bill: Il Domatore delle pelli rossil. Terribili avventure fra I Selvaggi Indiana. Rome, Edoardo Perino, 1890.

Buffalo Bill: Il Domatore delle pelli rossi. Terribili avventure fra I Selvaggi Indiana. Rome, Edoardo Perino, 1890.

The Western Americana collection recently acquired a complete 40 issue set of illustrated adventure tales that were likely published to coincide with the company’s travels through Italy: Buffalo Bill: Il Domatore delle pelli rossi. (Buffalo Bill: Tamer of the Redskins). The issues were published by Edoardo Perino in Rome in 1890, the year the troupe performed in Rome and the year Cody had an audience with Pope Leo XII at the Vatican. The Italian tales and illustrations display the same melodramatic style found in the American Buffalo Bill dime novels and stage plays that helped spread Cody’s fame in the 1870s. Interestingly, several of the illustrations in the Italian Buffalo Bill are attributed to French artist Paul Philippoteaux, best known for large cyclorama paintings depicting historical battles, such as the Battle of Gettysburg.

As seen in the images below, issues of Buffalo Bill: Il Domatore delle pelli rossi were sold for 5 centimes, while the entire collection could be purchased for 2.50 lire. The set is now quite scarce: a copy is recorded in the Biblioteca Universitaria Alessandrina in Rome and the Princeton copy is likely the only set in the United States.

2021 Update: Princeton copy now fully digitized and available online–Buffalo Bill: Il Domatore delle pelli rossi .


Blackstone, Sarah. Buckskins, Bullets, and Business: A History of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Westport, CT: Greenwood Pres, 1986.

Ewig, Rick. “Cody, William Frederick.” American National Biography Online.  http://www.anb.org/articles/18/18-01807.html (accessed January 4, 2014). 

Kasson, Joy S. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: Celebrity, Memory, and Popular History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2000.

Russell, Don. The Lives and Legends of Buffalo Bill. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.