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Alice Gatliff Pictorial Collection

Identifier: PICT-2015-010

Scope and Content

The collection consists mainly of black and white real photo postcards with some black and white photographs and various other postcards, a few of which have color added. Photos show various images of Agua Prieta and surrounding towns, like Naco. There are street scenes, images of soldiers and various battle fields, and many images of tourists posing outside the curio shop. Alice appear frequently in the collection, often with her animals. Some real photo postcards have the initials “AOL” written onto the image prior to emulsion, which may reference Gatliff’s time with the married name “O’Laughlin” and may be the only point where she added a signature to her own photography. A small number of manuscripts, including a copy of the Plan de Agua Prieta and various letters and postcards addressed to and from Gatliff and others are also in this collection. Letters include correspondence about one child, Elsie Bessant, who was sent by Gatliff across the border to the State Industrial School in Arizona in 1916. The papers also include official documents, like a note of recognition for the Curio Café’s significance from General Calles, a letter about the transfer of property ownership from the late Charles Gatliff to Alice, an appraisal for the business’ worth in March 1936, shortly prior to Alice’s abrupt death, and a typewritten copy of the "Plan de Agua Prieta." Some photographs showing human remains as result of the Mexican Revolution have been placed in opaque sleeves.


  • 1907-1949


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.


Alice Gatliff was born Alice Smith on November 18, 1868 to William and Mary Smith as one of nine children in the small community of Kaysville, Utah. She had several husbands within her lifetime, marrying the first in Utah at the age of sixteen. Around 1900, she moved to Arizona and married what was likely her fifth husband, Charles Gatliff, on July 31, 1903 and she would keep this married name for the majority of her life. Charles Gatliff owned property across the border in Agua Prieta, Mexico and together they opened a curio shop, mostly filled with Mexican souvenirs. Charles died in 1907, leaving Alice as the sole proprietor of the curio business. Catering toward the American tourists interested in Mexican arts, Gatliff eventually added a restaurant to her shop and called it the Curio Café.

Gatliff’s shop was in the middle of the battles that took place in Agua Prieta in April 1911 during the Mexican Revolution, reportedly receiving around 100 bullet holes in its walls. Regardless of the damage and danger in the town, Gatliff remained selling postcards with images of the revolution to tourists and was considered to be friends with whomever entered her shop and café, revolutionary or federalista. Records show that Generals Álvaro Obregón Salido and Plutarco Elías Calles both frequented her shop, even using it as a meeting place. Gatliff’s relatives would later recall that she also had a close friendship with revolutionaries, like Pancho Villa, though this has not been confirmed in her archival records. Traveling to nearby Naco, Sonora and within her own town of Agua Prieta, Gatliff visited the camps of revolutionaries, snapping their photos and portrait of Federal Troops to sell in her store, cashing in on the photo postcard trend of the time.

Her shop prospered in the following years and she would marry her sixth husband, a Bisbee miner named John O’Laughlin, in 1914. They divorced a few years later in 1917 with Alice citing domestic violence as the reason for the separation. Gatliff opened more businesses across the border in Douglas Arizona, another curio shop and a florist, in 1916 and 1920, respectively. In April 1920, Calles and Obergon signed the Plan de Agua Prieta, which proclaimed the generals from the state of Sonora in revolt against President Venustiano Carranza. Regardless of the patronage of the Mexican government officials during this time, Gatliff’s shop seems to also prosper as a place just across the border to drink for American tourists during the Prohibition Era. She used her prospering businesses to help care for the town’s children, even passing out bags of candies and fruit and a whistle to all the children in Agua Prieta on Christmas in 1913 and in other years after procuring a large Christmas tree for the town square.

During the Escobar Rebellion in 1929, revolutionaries banished Gatliff from Mexico for a short time, but she returned to her Curio Café without incident to live out the rest of her life in Agua Prieta. On April 8, 1936, Gatliff went to light her kerosene stove and the fuel exploded. She was pronounced dead the next day and buried beside Charles Gatliff. Her obituary lauded her as significant figure in Agua Prieta whose charity touched the lives of many within the community.


“Both Generous and Brave is Heroine of Agua Prieta Battle.” Bisbee Daily Review. December 25, 1913.

Hayostek, Cindy. 2007. Alice Gatliff : Forgotten Woman of the Mexican Revolution. Borderland Chronicles: No. 1.

“Mrs. Gatliff, Friend of Presidents, Dies.” Arizona Daily Star. April 10, 1936.

Thompson, Vickie Beard. “Aunt Alice.” I Dig My Roots and Branches.

Special, Jan Cleere. "Western Women: Alice Gatliff's Curio Store Saw Role in Mexican Civil War." Arizona Daily Star January 19th 2020. Updated October 16th 2020. Cochise Quarterly Volume 15, Number 1 Spring 1985 14-16.


354 items (1 box) : 347 postcards and photographs, 7 documents

Language of Materials



Alice Smith Gatliff (1868-1936) was the owner of the “Curio Café” in Agua Prieta, Mexico. The collection contains postcards and photographs about the Mexican Revolution. It contains images of tourists in the Curio shop, Mexican leaders and officials, portraits of revolutionaries, trench warfare, train scenes, military camps, and prisoners at Fort Bliss.

Physical Location

B2. Shelved by Pictorial Number.

Images Available Online

The majority of real photo postcards and photographs from this collection are available online via New Mexico’s Digital Collections.

Processing Information

Much of the original order for this collection, likely imposed by the gallery from which it was purchased, was maintained. The collection's original order placed the postcards in distinct sections related to their subject matter, which were also organized by material. This subject-based organization was maintained at the folder level, with series corresponding to the collection's materials: photos and papers. The subseries divide the photographic materials into: real photo postcards, photo prints, and miscellaneous postcards. Two subject groupings in the collection were not titled but had clear subjects: photos of Alice Gatliff and miscellaneous printed postcards with a more ambiguous relationship to the Curio store and Gatliff. Series and subseries titles were imposed on these sections by CSWR. The papers accompanying the collection were organized chronologically.
Finding Aid of the Alice Gatliff Pictorial Collection, 1907-1949
Edited Full Draft
Breanna Reiss
© 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
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