William S. Prettyman is one of Oklahoma's best-known frontier photographers. Born in Maryland on November 12, 1858, he moved to Emporia, Kansas, in 1879. After employment is various jobs, he became a photographer's apprentice in Arkansas City, Kansas. Following his apprenticeship, he opened his own photography gallery there.
After photographing a group of Osage Indians in his studio, he became interested in Indian Territory. Beginning with his first trip in 1883, he made at least one per year over the next decade to photograph the existing landscape and cultures. As a result of these numerous photographic expeditions, Prettyman produced many prints and glass plate negatives that have survived to the present.
He photographed a variety of people and events south of the Kansas state line in present Oklahoma. Some of his best work included the cowboys of the Cherokee Outlet, also known as the Cherokee Strip, and various American Indian groups living in Indian Territory. He was also present for the opening of the Outlet in September 1893. Oklahoma historian Muriel H. Wright noted that his work that day in capturing images of settlers participating in the Run of 1893 was especially valuable because it was a landmark in news photography,
In 1893 Prettyman opened a photography gallery in Blackwell, Oklahoma Territory. In 1905 he sold his business in there and completely abandoned his large collection of glass plate negatives and prints. He moved to California where he established a wholesale drug company. William S. Prettyman died in California in 1932.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robert E. Cunningham, A Frontier Photographic Record by W. S. Prettyman (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1957). William S. Prettyman Collection, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, Oklahoma.
John R. Lovett
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