Wanamaker Collection

“Song of the Arrows." 1909. (1962-08-2006)
"Choctaw Telephone Squad." 1919. (1962-08-6453)

Interested in an image?

The Wanamaker Collection of American Indian Photographs and Documents is available for research to those applying for the IU Institute for Advance Study Repository Research Fellowship. Applications are now due November 11, 2022.

Others seeking permissions and copyright for images should
email the Chief Curator directly.

Historical Context

Understanding the historic context of the Wanamaker holdings is vital to their research and educational use. Joseph K. Dixon was hired by the Wanamaker Department Store in Philadelphia in the early 1900s, after he had worked with the Kodak Company. He was named the Director of Education at the store—a role similar to that of museum educator today. He gave public presentations at the store, and also spoke to 100s of school children about his work. 

 

“Dr. Dixon standing with car.” 1921. (1962-08-7350)

The focus of most of his work was American Indians, reflecting his own interests and those of John Wanamaker, store founder, and his son Rodman Wanamaker. Dixon and his small team traveled west, staying for the most part at Crow Agency, Montana, in 1908 and again in 1909.

At first his perspective was highly romantic: he sought to capture images of “the vanishing race,” staging photos with titles such as “Song of the Arrows” (1962-08-2006) and “On the Sky Line” (1962-08-2667). However, Dixon could not help seeing and hearing about the conditions under which his subjects were living – confined to reservations, deprived of means of subsistence, neglect or worse by the federal government charged with their care. He photographed these conditions as well, as in “Slum tepee, Cheyennes [sic], Crow Agency” (1962-08-0987). From that point on, it is clear from the documents and from the photographs themselves that Dixon had concluded that American Indians were not vanishing though treated badly by the US government.

Two individuals in traditional native clothing sitting with a baby sitting in between them
Black and white photo of two canvas teepees
A black and white photo of around 20-30 people on horses on a mountain range.

“Judge and Mrs. Wolf Plume and baby, ‘Little Handsome Woman,’” (1962-08-3513); “Slum tepee, Cheyennes [sic], Crow Agency” (1962-08-0987); “On the Sky Line” (1962-08-2667).

In 1913, Joseph Dixon helped organize—on behalf of Rodman Wanamaker—an “Expedition of Citizenship,” a months-long journey through Oklahoma, the southwest, California, the northwest, the upper plains, and the northern states in the east, visiting 73 locations. The purpose of this trip was to ask Native leaders to sign a “Declaration of Allegiance” to the United States, in order to demonstrate to the US Congress the Native peoples’ desire (or willingness) to become US citizens. At these locations Dixon took photos of his subjects both in traditional attire (“Judge and Mrs. Wolf Plume and baby, ‘Little Handsome Woman,’” 1962-08-3513) and contemporary clothing (“Mosh-Shah—James Waters, full face, bust," 1962-08-3146).

Dixon’s next major project was documenting the stories and images of Native Americans who had served in the Great War (World War I). He visited military installations and hospitals on the east coast before the veterans were demobilized, taking down their stories as well as photographing them. The images include celebrated individuals (“Choctaw Telephone Squad”, 1962-08-6453) and those injured in their service to the country (“Sergeant Lee Shananquet,” 1962-08-6355). Dixon distributed (again on behalf of Rodman Wanamaker) hundreds of questionnaires to Native veterans; the archives includes 2,700 of these documents.

A line of 6 soldiers standing in uniform. The first soldier on the left is holding a bugle and the last four have rifles on their shoulders.
A partially destroyed building in Europe after World War II
Soldier sitting in a wheel chair with his jacket on his lap showing his rank.

Group of soldiers (1962-08-6522); Destroyed building in Europe post-WWI (1962-08-6797); “Sergeant Lee Shananquet,” (1962-08-6355).

Finally, in 1921 Dixon traveled to France and Belgium to record the devastation that the war had brought to towns (1962-08-6776) and countryside (1962-08-7443).

 

Veterans in the Wanamaker

Approximately 12,000 American Indians and Native Alaskans served in U.S armed forces during World War I. We invite you to read stories written by these men in:

"In Their Own Words"

Sgt. Aniseto Ortega, Pueblo. Camp Dix, NJ. June 1919 (1962.08.6422)

Ready to learn more?

Erin Fehr examines the military roles that Native men and women filled a century ago, presented Fall 2020:

YouTube video