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Ben Wittick Photograph Collection

 Collection
Identifier: PAAC -0038

Scope and Content

The Ben Wittick Photograph Collection is one of the most significant extant collections of work by photographer Ben Wittick. Substantial in size, with over 1,000 glass plate negatives alone, this collection is one of the major holdings in the Photo Archives. Wittick's photographs are of historical importance and represent one of the most important visual collections documenting early New Mexico and the Southwest. In addition to stereocards, boudoir cards, cabinet cards, prints, and negatives the collection also includes seven “viewing” albums of 8x10 and 5x8 original prints. All glass negatives have been scanned and are available via New Mexico Digital Collections. Due to the large numbers of prints in this collection images are listed below by negative number and brief citation, by folder or box and not organized by subject but rather by format and size. Additionally there will be some duplication of images between boxes primarily due to size. Note on captions: 1. Caption information is either on original negative or written on photograph and presented as is with no attempt to correct spelling. 2 With regard to Hopi images: if there is a notation on the image, that spelling is used otherwise pueblo names have been corrected such and Hualpi to Walpi, Moqui to Hopi, etc. Though few images are dated, all fall between 1879 and 1903.

Dates

  • 1879 - 1903

Creator

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to researchers on a request basis only, pending approval of request to view original material.

Copy Restrictions

User responsible for all copyright compliance. Permission to publish must be obtained from Photo Archives. Form to request permission available at: https://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/collections/photo-archives/order-photos

Biographical Information

George Ben Wittick arrived in the Southwest in 1878 to work as a photographer documenting the progress of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. He left behind a wife and six children in Moline, Illinois, where he operated a photo studio following the Civil War. After his tour with the railroad he operated studios in Albuquerque (Wittick & Russell), Santa Fe, and Gallup. His greatest success however came when he moved his studio to Fort Wingate, New Mexico. Born in Pennsylvania in 1845, Wittick was restless by nature and travelled extensively throughout the Southwest while based at Fort Wingate. He sought out remote Indian tribes, Native leaders, secret ceremonies, and the wildly beautiful scenery of the rugged Southwest, in the process capturing the waning days of the frontier in the Southwest. He carried a large collection of props with him such as rifles, pistols, blankets, pottery, etc. some of which are in the collection of the New Mexico History Museum. Most of his portraits were taken outside in the sunlight against carefully constructed backdrops. Because he had achieved a considerable rapport with his Native American subjects, he was allowed to take priceless images that other photographers might never have taken. There is some confusion over images attributed to or copyrighted by Wittick that may have been taken by his one time partner A. Frank Randall and vice versa. It is unclear how they actually worked together but it is believed they traded negatives resulting in similar backgrounds and settings. Wittick died of rattlesnake bite at Fort Wingate in 1903. Legend has it his death was foretold by a Hopi elder.

Extent

4 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, Bob Kapoun Vintage Photograph Gallery (partial)

Collection Available Online

The Ben Wittick Collection is available at New Mexico's Digital Collections

Related Material

There are three Wittick family document collections in the holdings of the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library; AC242 Wittick Family Papers, AC462p Charles Wittick and AC243 Walter Wittick.

Separated Material

This collection includes a number of props such as baskets, jewelry and pottery used by Wittick in many of his stage portrait photographs. These items are now in the collections department of the New Mexico History Museum for preservation and conservation purposes.

General

The Ben Wittick Collection is available at New Mexico's Digital Collections

Creator

Title
Ben Wittick Photograph Collection, 1879 - 1903
Status
Under Revision
Author
DK
Date
© 2010
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 07/19/2024: Revised by CD as part of the finding aid update project, 2024

Repository Details

Part of the NMHM Palace of the Governors Photo Archives Repository

Contact:
113 Lincoln Ave.
Santa Fe NM 87501 USA