Deadwood, from Forest Hill


This image is from the John C.H. Grabill Collection at the Library of Congress. The 188 photographs that Grabill sent to the Library for copyright protection between 1887 and 1892 are thought to be the largest surviving collection of this gifted early Western photographer’s work. The images document frontier life in Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming and include views of hunters, prospectors, cowboys, Chinese immigrants, and U.S. Army personnel, as well as of cattle and sheep ranches, mining operations, towns, natural landmarks, forts, railroads, mills, stagecoaches, and wagons. The collection includes a visual record of railroad development; coaches and wagons; mining, smelting, and milling; freighting; emerging cities and towns; parades; cattle roundups and branding; sheepherding; prospecting; and hunting. A number of the images portray the Lakota Sioux living on or near the Cheyenne River and the Pine Ridge reservations and their contact with U.S. military and government agents, and with William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Notable Lakota depicted include the chiefs Red Cloud, American Horse, and Standing Elk, and the warrior Plenty Horses. Some of the photographs were taken only days after the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee near Pine Ridge. Very little is known about Grabill. He arrived in Sturgis, South Dakota, in 1886, where he set up a photographic studio. Information printed on the photographic mounts indicates that he also had studios in Deadwood, Lead City, and Hot Springs, South Dakota, in Colorado, and possibly in Chicago, and that he was the “official photographer of the Black Hills and F.P. [Fort Pierre] R.R. and Home Stake Mining Co.”

Last updated: May 2, 2016