Posted in Research tips

Pioneer Photographers of the Far West

Pioneer Photographers

Palmquist, Peter E., and Thomas R. Kailbourn. Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2002. 704. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

I’d like to plug a book I came across today, which I think will be of interest to all those who are researching Out West. Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 has biographical data on over 1500 photographers and individuals involved in “photographically related pursuits.”

What is the significance of a resource like this?  Have you paid much attention to the name of the photographer stamped on the frames or stamped on the back of those old family photos?  Knowing the dates when a photographer operated a studio at a particular address can help us narrow down a time period for the date of a photograph if we do not know it, and of course identifying the locality of the studio helps us place our ancestor there.

This particular book is not online in a digital form, exept for extracts on Google Books, but fortunately the extracts included pages for Charles Savage, a prominent photographer with a studio in Salt Lake City in the mid-nineteenth century.  I have seen his name on many early photos in my research, and was interested to read about his life and photography business.

The book is over $100 to purchase, but is available at many libraries.  Check WorldCat for the nearest library with a copy of this book, or order it through inter-library loan.


If you have an early photo with a photographer’s name, and you need help identifying the date and place where it was taken, you might want to utilize this book.

Another quick resource for finding out about a photographer is, of course, a Google Search. There are also a number of websites with lists of early photographers—some are free and some charge a small fee for look-ups.  I found that Wikipedia has a list, and you might get lucky there.  How ever you go about it, a photographer’s name and address is just one more clue that may help you unpuzzle a mystery.


I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

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