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Ramona Caplan Collection of Lee Marmon Oral Histories and Other American West History Research

Identifier: MSS -1115-BC

Scope and Contents

The collection contains recorded oral history interviews, transcriptions, information about her career in history, academic research, writings, and some photographs.

A significant component of the collection is her interviews with Lee Marmon, in which he tells about his parents and grandparents, his time in the U.S. Army and how he got into photography. He also relates details about the history of Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo. Included are accounts of his parents' trading post and tourist cabins on Route 66. People (the Okies) traveling West to California during the Dust Bowl stopped in Laguna Pueblo, stayed with them and were assisted along their way by the generosity of his father and mother. Interviews were conducted with Richard Marmon, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gigi Marmon, Abe Pena and Alana McGrattan. Transcriptions for some but not all of these interviews are housed in the collection.

Caplan's research on the Bibo family and the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico as well as oral histories, documents, maps, photographs and a historical timeline from her M.A. thesis on the history of the Sevilleta de La Joya Land Grant are part of the collection as are her transcription of recordings of the 1998 Washita Custer Symposium panel discussion held at Cheyenne, Oklahoma upon the anniversary of the battlefield being designated a national historic site. Caplan's article about Sarah Campbell, aka Aunt Sally, an African American ex-slave pioneer in the Black Hills, South Dakota, who served with the Seventh Cavalry and General George Armstrong Custer, is included, as well as her 2007 interview with Brice Custer, grandnephew of General George Armstrong Custer, talking about Custer and the Little Bighorn battle.

In 2004-2005 Caplan interviewed Father Robert John Kirsch, aka Father Bob, for the Albuquerque Rotary Club. Father Bob tells about his life and his mission work with the St. Jude Express, the San Martin de Porres Flying Mission from Albuquerque to Chihuahua, Mexico.

Caplan also conducted oral histories with old timers for the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces (2003-2009) and for the Valles Caldera National Preserve (2009-2014). Abstracts of these interviews are in this collection. The recordings and her transcriptions are located at New Mexico State University Library Special Collections in Las Cruces.

Caplan did extensive research on Cathay Williams / William Cathay, the Civil War, and Buffalo soldiers. She interviewed Ruth S. Steele, founder of the African American Martin Luther King, Jr. Museum in Pueblo, Colorado, to learn more about Williams' days there. There are also articles and background papers on the Buffalo Soldiers and Black women in military service.


  • 1995-2018


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Ramona Caplan (Ramona Lorrie Rand Caplan) was a New Mexico historical researcher and oral historian. She was born in New York City on March 11, 1936. The biological daughter of Ruby Miller and George Tillman Walker, she was raised by Harry Rand and Edna Diamond. She worked thirty years in the California motion picture and entertainment industry as a Real Property Administrator, Legal Contract Secretary and Literary Rights and Copyright Researcher. She wrote in a 1999 Buffalo Bill Summer Institute application, that all that time “she was a passionate lay student of Western History, always dreaming one day she would return to college to acquire ‘credentials’ as an historian: "One day in 1995, I returned from of a four-month tour of the Northern Plains, the Black Hills and the Rockies and took a long look at the Warner Bros. lot and said 'Farewell, I’m going West’ and finally did it.”

After Caplan’s two daughters finished their college studies, she began her academic career at UNM, receiving her B.A. in 2000. She earned her M.A. at UNM in American Western History in 2006. She reached ABD status at UNM in American Western History. She conducted recorded interviews with Lee Marmon for her dissertation, and was writing his official biography.

Caplan held various fellowships and assistantships at the CSWR and History Department, and one each at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Preserve and Museum of Albuquerque. She belonged to various honor societies and historical associations. She participated and presented at conferences, symposiums, workshops and exhibits, including archival, oral history and grant writing institutes. She also gave talks for various local organizations in New Mexico and Colorado. She served for over a decade as a Senior Judge at the New Mexico High School History Days. Caplan died on January 11, 2023 at her home in Albuquerque.


7 boxes (3.5 cu. ft., plus 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



The collection contains recorded oral history interviews, transcriptions, information about her career in history, academic research, writings, and some photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Ramona Caplan’s daughters, Jennifer Silverman and Wowlvenn Seward-Katzmiller, donated their mother’s papers to the CSWR in February 2023.
Finding Aid of the Ramona Caplan Collection of Lee Marmon Oral Histories and Other American West History Research
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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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