Guide to the John K. Hillers Photographs, 1871-1889 and undated
John K. Hillers was an important early American photographer and one of the first to photograph the Grand Canyon and the high plateaus of central and southern Utah. Collection contains albumen photographs spanning the years 1871-1889. Most of them are landscapes made in Utah, but there are also landscapes from California and several photographs of Native Americans made in New Mexico. The photographs are organized into six series.
- Collection Number
- John K. Hillers photographs
- 1871-1889 and undated
- Hillers, John K., 1843-1925
- 1.6 Linear Feet, 40 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
John K. Hillers, one of America's most important early photographers, was one of the first to photograph the Grand Canyon and most of the high plateaus of central and southern Utah. In the fall of 1872, at the request of the Western lands survey, Hillers turned his lens from features of the landscape to its Native American inhabitants and photographed the Zuni and San Juan Pueblos. The 40 single albumen photographs and the 539 prints in the photograph album in this collection span the years 1871-1889.
Of the 40 single photographs in the collection, 33 are landscapes, many of which Hillers made in Utah. Five of the landscapes are from California. Seven photographs portray Native Americans, primarily Pueblo and Zuni in New Mexico. These photographs are organized into six series: Official Identification of the Survey Series, Gold Border Series, Indian Series, 1873 Powell Survey Series, Black Border Series, and the California Series.
The photograph album added to this collection contains 539 original albumen prints, most of which were taken by Hillers on the Second Expedition; others were taken by E. O. Beaman and James Fennemore on the same Expedition. The majority are from the Colorado River region in Colorado and Utah, and feature landscapes and vistas, expedition camps, Paiute Indians, and natural features. The prints may have been assembled by Hillers himself, or by John Powell as a gift for a patron or Congressman.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Use & Permissions
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], John K. Hillers Photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
The photographs are not dated, but eight of the landscapes have printed headings for the "Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, Second Division, J.W. Powell, Geologist in Charge." John Wesley Powell became the director of the Second Division in 1875, and the organization was renamed the Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region in 1877. Thus, these eight pictures were printed and mounted during 1875-1877. Additionally, an artistic gold border surrounds each image. The photographs were not numbered or captioned, but someone has pencilled captions on the back of the boards. The following list uses these captions.
The gold borders around the images are identical to the gold borders around the photographs on which the name of the Survey was printed. In this series there is no printing. These photographs were also not numbered or captioned, but someone has written captions on the front of the boards using purple ink. Someone else has further identified some of the photographs with pencilled notations on the back of the boards. The list below uses these handwritten captions.
Or Winslow's Cascade, Winslow Creek, Utah (caption pencilled on verso)
on Boulder Creek, Utah (caption pencilled on verso)
on Boulder Creek, Utah (caption pencilled on verso)
The gray mounting boards and the printed black borders around the images are the same as in the Black Border Series. The Zuñi and San Juan pueblos in the following photographs once existed in New Mexico.
copy negative available: JKH.N16
copy negative available: JKH.N17
copy negative available: JKH.N20
The images in this series are mounted on boards that have black decorative borders around the photographs that are very similar in conception but different in detail from the gold borders around the images of the above two series. The tone of the images in this series is distinctly darker than in other series. In one case, a direct comparison is possible. There are identical views of Winslow's Cascade in both this series and in one of the others. Someone has pencilled captions on the backs of the boards, and the list below uses these captions.
(same as Annie's Glen and Winslow's Cascade in preceding series)
Hillers made these ten photographs on the Powell Survey during 1873. He took most, if not all, of them in Utah and in the Grand Canyon. The photographs do not have captions or other marks of identification. Comparison with prints and negatives at the National Archives has provided the identification of these photographs. The relevant National Archives number has been provided in the list below.
National Archives Number 57-PM-27
National Archives Number 57-PS-431 and PM-51 (431)
National Archive Number 57-PS-435 and PM-15 (435)
National Archives Number 57-PS-448 and PM 29 (448)
National Archives Number 57-PS-449 and PM-12 (449)
copy negative available: JKH.N30
National Archives Number PM-14 (451) Negative destroyed
National Archives Number 57-PS-464 and PM-31 (464)
National Archives Number: PM-28 (465) Negative destroyed
National Archives Number 57-PS-466 and PM-26 (466)
These five photographs have either printed titles or else titles handwritten on the back of the boards. The photographs themselves do not indicate the photographer's name. The Still Pictures Branch of the National Archives examined copies of these photographs, and identified them by comparison with photographs attributed to Hillers. Mr. Joe D. Thomas, Chief Still Pictures Branch, of the National Archives has written, however, that Hillers "may not have been the actual photographer." The photographs may date from the early 1880s. The images are mounted on gilt-edged and are identical in size and mounting to two photographs by William Henry Jackson. See his Yellowstone National Park Series. The numbers for the negatives to which they relate in the National Archives are provided below.
National Archives number: 57-PS-37
Album of 539 original albumen photographs taken by John Hillers, E. O. Beaman, and James Fennemore during the second Powell Expedition along the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona, with some locations in Nevada and Wyoming as well. The largest majority measure 4.25 x 3 inches; another seven are 7.25 x 9.5"; and 53 are 4.25 x 7.25". Most of the photographs in this album have been identified as taken by John K. Hillers and may have been selected by Hillers himself, or by John Powell. Other photographs in the album were taken by E.O. Beaman and James Fennemore, the first two photographers on the Powell Expedition.
The images chiefly portray the landscape explored and documented by the Second Powell Expedition, including rivers, mountains, cliffs, and other features, but there are also over 100 photographs of Indians, mostly the Paiute of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. Several of the earliest photographs in the album have a slightly out of focus quality, characteristic of E.O. Beaman's work. Foremost among the photographs that are identifiably by Beaman is a pair showing the Powell expeditionary party in their three boats on the Green River in Wyoming in May, 1871, as they began their journey. In both of these prints, Beaman's photographic apparatus can be seen. Several of the photographs show the Powell party at work or in camp, repairing their boat or relaxing.
More than one hundred of the photographs in this album are stereoviews of Southern Paiute Indians in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. In several photographs John Wesley Powell or his associates can be seen interacting with Paiutes, either in informal meetings, observing Indian dances or groups, or in staged photographs (including one of Paiutes with a group of Mormons). The album is notable for the presence of two kinds of images of Native Americans: those that are taken by Hillers for the purpose of ethnographically accurate studies, during the 1872 expedition, and those that are instead more staged for public consumption, taken when Hillers returned to the area a year later. [Description partially taken from dealer description.]
John Karl Hillers born in Brinkum, Germany (Hanover)
Arrived in the U.S., settling with his family in N.Y.C.
Served in the artillery during the Civil War
Resigned from the U.S. Army
Joined the John Wesley Powell Expedition as a boatman and photographer's assistant
Became Powell's photographer-in-chief
Served as the Geological Survey's chief photographer
Retired from the Geological Survey, but still worked for the Survey on a part-time basis
The following collections in the Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library may contain related material:
- William Bell Photographs, 1872 William Henry Jackson Photographs, 1869-1878 and undated Timothy H. O'Sullivan Photographs, 1868-1873
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Documentary Photography -- United States
- Indians of North America -- New Mexico -- Pictorial works
- Indians of North America -- Pictorial works
- Landscape photography -- West (U.S.)
- Landscape photography -- Southwest, New
- Paiute Indians -- Pictorial works
- Pueblo Indians -- Pictorial works
- Photographers -- United States
- Zuni Indians -- Pictorial works
- Arizona -- Photographs
- Colorado -- Pictorial works
- California -- Pictorial works
- Nevada -- Pictorial works
- Utah -- Pictorial works
- Wyoming -- Pictorial works
The John K. Hillers Photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1972.
These and other photographs by western expeditionary photographers were purchased from Lowdermilk's bookstore in Washington, D.C. prior to its liquidation.
This collection was previously processed by Rubenstein Archivist Bill Erwin in 1982. Erwin conducted a great deal of research used to identify photographs made by western expeditionary photographers. Every effort was made to retain both the organization and informational aspects of his work except when they conflicted with more modern practices.
Information folders available in the repository contain copies of earlier catalog records and bibliographic information for related sources including sources in which these photographs have been published.
Additional folders contain photocopies of photographs annotated by the National Archives, and reference prints made from copy negatives held in this collection.
Quotation marks indicate a title taken directly from the photograph, or from a printed caption on the mounting board. A title taken from a handwritten caption on the mounting boards is not enclosed in quotation marks.
Processed by Chris Black, November 2004.
Encoded by Chris Black, Michael Shumate.
Completed September 2006.
All original accessions described in this finding aid.
Addition 2011-0205 processed and encoded by Paula Jeannet, March 2011.