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Dennis Chávez Pictorial Collection

Identifier: PICT-000-394

Scope and Content

The collection contains photographic prints which document the political career and personal life of U. S. Senator from New Mexico, Dennis Chávez. Subject matter includes but is not limited to: Indian affairs, public works, Pan American Highway, politics and politicians including Jeff Bingaman, Clinton P. Anderson and Pete Dominici, defense, foreign relations, constituents' concerns, campaign materials, and political cartoons.


  • 1866-1991


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.


Dennis Chávez (christened "Dionicio") was born in Los Chávez, Valencia County, New Mexico on April 8, 1888. His parents, David and Paz (Sanchez) Chávez were members of families that had lived in Los Chávez for generations. In 1895, David Chávez moved his family to the Barelas section of Albuquerque where Dennis attended school until financial hardships necessitated that he go to work. His first job was delivering groceries at the Highland Grocery store. Later on, he studied engineering and surveying at night and worked as an engineer for the City of Albuquerque for several years.

In 1911, Chávez married Imelda Espinosa, a member of a prominent New Mexico family. In 1914, they moved to Belen. He worked briefly as an editor of a Belen weekly newspaper, as a court interpreter, and as a private contractor until 1916, when he obtained temporary employment as a Spanish interpreter for Senator A. A. Jones' reelection campaign. In 1918, he was offered a position as assistant executive clerk of the Senate in Washington, D.C. by Senator Jones. He accepted this position, passed a special admission exam at Georgetown University Law School and studied law at night. He graduated from Georgetown in 1920 and returned to Albuquerque to establish a law practice.

In 1922, Chávez ran successfully for the New Mexico state legislature. In 1930, he was elected as the Democratic candidate to the U. S. House of Representatives; in 1932, he became chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs. Chávez was defeated by Bronson Cutting for a Senate seat in 1934, but when Cutting was killed in 1935, Governor Clyde Tingley appointed Chávez to fill the vacant seat. He was elected to serve out the remainder of the unexpired term in 1936, and was re-elected in 1940, 1946, 1952, and 1958.

Chávez was instrumental in improving higher educational facilities in New Mexico. He actively supported legislation to benefit farmers and protect New Mexico's share of water from the Colorado River. Chávez was pro-labor, co-sponsoring the Fair Employment Practices Commission Bill; he was involved with legislation pertaining to Indian affairs; he was an advocate of the Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America. Dennis Chávez was chairman of the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads, the Committee on Public Works, and the Senate Subcommittee for Defense Appropriations. Chávez was the first native-born Hispanic elected to the U. S. Senate. At the time of his death, he was fourth ranking in Senate seniority. He died in Washington D. C. on November 18, 1962 and is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Albuquerque.


833 items (5 boxes, 6 folders) : 718 photographic prints, 28 postcards, 18 lantern slides

Language of Materials



The collection contains photographic prints which document the political career and personal life of U. S. Senator from New Mexico, Dennis Chávez.

Physical Location

B2. Shelved by Pictorial Number. Oversized items shelved in Large Drawers by Pictorial Number.

Alternate Format Available

Four photos from the Dennis Chávez Pictorial Collection are available online via New Mexico Digital Collections.

Separated Material

Pictorial material separated from the Dennis Chávez Papers, and the Dennis Chávez Oral History Project.

Processing Information

An addition of 55 framed photographs, newspaper clippings, letters, etc. was accessioned in 2015.

An addition of 29 photographic prints and oversize materials was processed in 2016.

An addition of 81 black and white photographic prints, 1 color print, and assorted ephemera was processed in 2019. An addition from the Family in 2019 was accessioned in 2022 and processed in 2023.
Finding Aid of the Dennis Chávez Pictorial Collection, 1866-1991
Pictorial Collections Staff
© 2007, 2023
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Finding aid is in English

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