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Walter S. Bowman photographs

 Collection — Box: 11
Identifier: PH 004

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises 379 glass-plate negatives, 51 cellulose acetate negatives, 28 safety negatives (replacing nitrate originals), and approximately 200 silver gelatin photographic prints.

The collection is organized into series by subject: Actors and dancers - 8 itemsBuildings - 53 itemsCities and towns - 18 itemsFarms and ranches - 20 itemsInteriors - 23 itemsHorses - 4 itemsParades - 23 itemsPortraits - 52 itemsRailroads - 11 itemsRecreation - 25 itemsScenic views - 7 itemsSports - 30 itemsU.S. Army - 9 itemsMiscellaneous - 7 items

At Bowman’s death the collection passed into the hands of the Umatilla County Court. Judge James H. Sturgis and Lee D. Drake (long-time partner in the East Oregonian Publishing Co., and at the time head of the Old Oregon Trail Committee of Umatilla County) selected those negatives “worth while” and destroyed the rest (at least 900 images). The Library provided prints of the Bowman negatives to the donors, which presumably went to the Umatilla County Historical Society.

During the indexing of the Walter S. Bowman Photographs some questions concerning the provenance of the safety film images have arisen. For instance, B389 "Red Boy Mine" is also part of the General Print Collection (A4189) and listed in the Photo Print Index (Mines and Mining, Oregon, Red Boy Mine, Clear cree, Grant County, Oregon, Bowman photo A4189.Cn107). This print may have been transferred from the Lee P. Drake Photographs (PH021, Ax 27, Drake 4) to the General Print Collection (A4189). Safety negatives made from this print may have been accessioned into the Bowman Collection (B389) and the Copy Negative Collection (CN107).

In contrast, a print of safety negative B385 "Lorenzen's Thrashing Outfit, 1907," Morefield is included in the Lee D. Drake Photographs (PH021, Box 5, Drake 29). The name Morefield, etched into the emulsion on the lower right-had corner, clearly identifies the photographer of this image. Unless clearly labeled as a W. S. Bowman photograph, the provenance of the safety negatives B378-B405 should remain in question.


  • 1880-1930


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public.

Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.

Collection includes nitrate photographs to which access is restricted.

Physical Access

Glass plate negatives and lantern slides are restricted due to the fragility of the format. All decisions regarding use will be at the discretion of the curator for visual materials.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Archival material may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.

If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Biographical / Historical

Walter S. Bowman (1865-1938) was a professional photographer who worked in Pendleton, Oregon, from the late 1880s to the mid 1930s. Bowman’s photographs document daily life in Eastern Oregon, including special events such as the Pendleton Round-Up. He was particularly noted for his portraits of tribal people, many of which were destroyed.

The Bowman collection is one of a series of photographic collections from the Pendleton area, 1880s-1920s. As a member of the Pendleton Camera Club, Bowmen knew O.C. Allen and Lee Moorhouse, and may have been responsible for Moorhouse’s interest in photography. Bowman images also appear in the Moorhouse collection, the Furlong collection, and the Drake collection. Born on Birch Creek, Oregon, Bowman began studying photography under T.C. Ward in 1887. Bowman purchased Ward’s studio in 1890 and continued to work as Pendleton’s premier photographer until his retirement in the mid 1930s. The Bowman Studio was housed in a building right on the banks of the Umatilla River. Images of the original studio exist but its replacement sits on the original site, and continues to house a photographic studio.

Walter S. Bowman was a member of a prominent pioneer family in Pendleton, coming west from Iowa in 1862. While his cousin, Purl Oliver Bowman, was building the Bowman Hotel, Walter “wanted to use his camera to record the West.” Lee Moorhouse lived with the Bowman family when he first arrived in the area, and may have learned photography from Bowman.

Purl’s daughter, Florence Bowman Windsor, recalled that Walter owned the first car in Pendleton, possibly a Maxwell, and was arrested for driving twelve miles an hour down Main Street. Walter S. Bowman died from injuries received in a car crash that also injured his wife.


6 linear feet

Language of Materials



Walter S. Bowman (1865-1938) was a professional photographer who worked in Pendleton, Oregon, from the late 1880s to the mid 1930s. Bowman’s photographs document daily life in Eastern Oregon, including special events such as the Pendleton Round-Up. The collection consists of almost 800 negatives and prints representative of the span of the photographer's work, but his noted images of tribal people were largely destroyed after his death.


Collection is organized into the following series: Actors and dancersBuildingsCities and townsFarms and ranchesInteriorsHorsesParadesPortraitsRailroadsRecreationScenic viewsSportsU.S. ArmyMiscellaneous .

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Bowman collection was donated to the Library over a period of years spanning 1947-1953. The collection was donated through the efforts of Judge James H. Sturgis and Lee D. Drake of Pendleton, a newspaperman, county clerk, and collector of historic mat.

Existence and Location of Copies

Selected items are available online in the Walter S. Bowman photographs in Oregon Digital.

Related Materials

This collection forms part of the Pendleton Group, a series of photograph collections from the Pendleton area, 1880s-1940s. Images from certain photographers, such as Bowman, may be found in many of these collections. The Pendleton Group includes the Lee Drake photographs (PH021), the Lee Moorhouse photographs (PH036), the Charles W. Furlong photographs (PH244), the Walter S. Bowman photographs (PH004), and the Electric Studio/O.G. Allen photographs (PH033). Related images are also held in the Print Collection (PH035) and the Park Weed Willis photographs (PH288).

Physical Description

22 containers, including 798 photographs

Processing Information

Collection processed by Ross Sutherland/Jamie Cannon and Normandy S. Helmer, June 1993/February 2004.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Walter S. Bowman Photographs
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Normandy Helmer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA