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Erna Fergusson Photograph Collection

Identifier: PICT-000-045

Scope and Content

The collection consists of Erna Fegusson's collection of photographs. Most were taken in Mexico; many are of pre-Columbian architecture. Some photos were taken in Guatemala. New Mexico photos depict Indian life, pueblos, landscapes, identified and unidentified people. Included are photos of Koshare tours, Coronado Cuarto Centennial celebration parade, and Erna Fergusson as a child, attending a children's costume party sponsored by the Ilfeld family on the occasion of George Washington's birthday. An album contains sixteen hand-colored photos of Fred Harvey's reproductions of the Grand Canyon. Another album contains cyanotype prints by Charles Lummis of Kit Carson's grave, Teddy Roosevelt, New Mexico: Santa Fe, El Morro National Monument, Mesa Verde (Colorado), San Ildefonso Pueblo, Taos, N.M., Felipe and Pablo Abeita, Adolph Bandelier, Juan Bizcocho, Manuel Carpio, Juan and Ramon Jojola, Maria Chihuihui, Juanito Lujan, Maria Lente, Juan Bautista Lucero, Alberto Lujan, Santiago Naranjo, churches in Taos and Santa Domingo.


  • 1880-1963


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Duplication of print and photographic material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for copyright compliance. For more information see the Photographs and Images Research Guide and contact the Pictorial Archivist.


Erna Fergusson, noted journalist, author and lecturer, was born into a family of distinguished ancestry in Albuquerque, NM on January 10, 1888. Although she traveled widely, she maintained a permanent residence in Albuquerque, and she passed away in that city on July 30, 1964. She always felt a strong commitment to her native state; thus her contributions to New Mexico and to its people were significant and enduring.

Fergusson's mother was Clara Mary Huning, a daughter of Franz and Ernestine Huning. (Although she later shortened her name, Erna was named after her grandmother.) Her grandfather, Franz Huning, had arrived in New Mexico in 1853. He settled in the Rio Grande Valley, making Albuquerque his permanent home, and he participated in the development of the area, particularly after the coming of the railroad in 1880. Erna's father, Harvey Butler Fergusson, was the son of a Confederate Army officer who had served on the staff of General Robert E. Lee. Fergusson came to New Mexico in 1882 as a young lawyer representing a client of his Wheeling, West Virginia firm. Clara Huning and Harvey Fergusson were married in 1887.

Erna Fergusson spent her childhood days in and out of the Huning Castle built on her grandfather's 700-acre tract of land. A part of her childhood was also spent in Washington, D.C., where her father was a delegate to Congress. He had been elected from New Mexico to the Fifty-Fifth Congress, in which he served from March 1897 until March 1899. (He was successful in obtaining the passage on June 21, 1898, of the Fergusson Act, an important statute which granted to New Mexico four million acres of public domain in trust for the use and benefit in perpetuity of the common schools of New Mexico.) He also later served, from January 1912 until March 1915, as a member of the Sixty-Second Congress.

After having completed one year of preparatory work at both the University of New Mexico (1904) and the Collegiate School in Los Angeles (1905), Erna Fergusson graduated in 1906 from Central (Albuquerque) High School. She then embarked on a teaching career in the Albuquerque Public Schools. She returned to the University of New Mexico, where she obtained a Bachelor of Pedagogy degree in 1912. After receiving a master's degree from Columbia University in 1913, she taught school in Chatham Hall, Virginia and again in the Albuquerque Public Schools.

With the advent of World War I, Fergusson joined the American Red Cross as Home Service Secretary and Staff Supervisor for New Mexico. In that capacity, she traveled all over New Mexico by train, automobile, horseback, and on foot during 1918 and 1919. With the war at an end, Erna did not return to teaching, but instead went to work as a reporter for The Albuquerque Herald.

While working on the Herald, Fergusson formed a partnership in the "dude wrangling business" with Ethel Hickey, at one time a faculty member of the University of New Mexico. From 1922 to 1927 the two women operated a tour company known as "Koshare Tours, " which guided tourists to the Indian Pueblos in New Mexico and to the Navajo and Hopi reservations in New Mexico and Arizona. Later on, when the Santa Fe Railway began its Indian Detour Service, Fergusson was employed to organize and direct the Detour couriers. During this period of time, Fergusson, already steeped in the lore New Mexico through reading Bandelier, Lummis, and others, began a serious study of the three cultures--Indian, Spanish, and Anglo--which would later be reflected in her writings.

In 1925 Witter Bynner, the poet, introduced Fergusson to Alfred Knopf, a New York publisher. Interested in Fergusson's conversation about Indians and Indian dances, Knopf encouraged her to write a book about her experiences. As a result, Dancing Gods was published by Knopf in 1931. Her book was so successful that it brought Fergusson national recognition as an authority on the Southwest, and it was republished in 1957 by the University of New Mexico Press.

During the next thirty years, Erna Fergusson wrote a number of books reflecting her travels in the Southwest and in Latin America. Several were published by Knopf and others by Armitage Editions and the University of New Mexico Press. After Dancing Gods, she turned her attention to Latin America with Fiesta in Mexico (1934), Guatemala (1937), and Venezuela (1939). A book about the local region, Our Southwest (1940), was followed within the decade by Our Hawaii (1942), Chile (1943), Cuba (1946), Albuquerque (1947), and Murder and Mystery in New Mexico (1948). The latter, which contained illustrations by Peter Hurd, was dedicated to Erna's father, Harvey B. Fergusson. Published in the 1950s were the children's books, Let's Read About Hawaiian Islands (1950) and Hawaii (1950) as well as a second book on Mexico, Mexico Revisited (1955). New Mexico: A Pageant of Three Peoples, first published in 1951, was reissued in 1964. Her Mexican Cookbook (1934), a book of New Mexican recipes, was revised in 1940 and has gone through several printings.

Fergusson's books and articles reveal her ability to write on a wide range of subjects related to the Southwest and to Latin America. She was a hard-working journalist; she read widely before traveling to the places she wrote about, although her material was basically what she saw and heard. Her last book on the Southwest, New Mexico: A Pegeant of Three Peoples, stands as one of her best. It represents the culmination of a lifetime of living in, traveling about, and studying her home state with an affectionate but often critical mind.

Erna Fergusson's contributions to the community were many. She participated actively in civic projects that spanned environmental concerns to the preservation of New Mexico's cultural heritage. Throughout the years, she also demonstrated her loyalty and support for programs and activities at the University of New Mexico. That institution awarded her an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 1943.


371 plus items (8 boxes) : 360 prints, 11 photograph albums with uncounted photographs

Language of Materials



This collection contains Erna Fergusson's personal photographs of her travels, pre-Columbian architecture, Native American life and culture, and New Mexico.

Physical Location

B2. Shelved by Pictorial Number.

Separated Material

Photographs were separated from the Erna Fergusson Papers.


Contact Information

  1. University of New Mexico
  2. MSC05 3020, 1, University of New Mexico
  3. Center for Southwest Research
  4. Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
  5. Phone: 505-277-7173
  6. Fax:
  7. Email:
  8. URL:
Finding Aid of the Erna Fergusson Photograph Collection, 1880-1963
Processed by Pictorial Collections Staff
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Language of description
Script of description
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Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131