Andrew Alexander Forbes was born in Ottowa, Wisconsin, in 1862. Although little is known about Forbes's training and early photography work, his activity in the area that is now western Oklahoma appears to have begun around 1885. Like those of other itinerant photographers of the time, his photography studio was a mobile, self-contained unit that could be transported by wagon or pack animal.
Forbes found the largest customer base for his photographic trade in the groups of working cowboys located in the area that is now western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. He often joined a range-cattle outfit for several days to photograph cowboys and herds on their grazing range. The opening of the Unassigned Lands in April 1889 was an irresistible business opportunity for Forbes. He made photographs of Oklahoma City just a few days after it was established. His landscape photographs capture images of a frontier town at birth and include long-range shots of tents, wooden buildings with false fronts, frame buildings under construction, and piles of lumber positioned near the railroad depot.
He also photographed settlers on their homesteads, but only a few of these images have survived. These family photographs, often made in front of sod houses, would become important heirlooms to be passed down through several generations. Forbes spent approximately seven to eight years in Oklahoma Territory before continuing his journey west. He eventually settled in Bishop, California, where he established a photography studio. Andrew Alexander Forbes died on March 21, 1921.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Karen Current and William R. Current, Photography and the Old West (New York: Amon Carter, Inc., 1978). Andrew A. Forbes Collection, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, Oklahoma.
John R. Lovett
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