Will Soule (U.S., 1836-1908): Scalped Hunter Near Fort Dodge, Kansas

Albumen print on calligraphic mount, 6 x 7.75 inches, December 7, 1868


Will Soule was a young Civil War veteran who took a job on the frontier and made an important series of Native American portraits at Fort Sill, Oklahoma from 1869 to 1874. This dramatic photograph depicts an incident from the 1868 warfare between the U.S. Seventh Cavalry under the command of General Alfred Sully and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. That fighting led to the establishment of Fort Sill.

This early news photograph was circulated nationally in the form of a wood engraving in Harper's Weekly for January 16, 1869. The accompanying caption reads:

On December 7 Mr. Ralph Morrison, a hunter, was murdered and scalped by the Cheyenne within a mile of Fort Dodge. Wm. S. Soule, an amateur photographer [and] chief clerk in Tappin's Trading Company, took the picture. The officer is Lieutenant Reade, 3rd Infantry. John O. Austin, Chief of scouts, is on the right. The photo was taken within an hour after the killing.

On leaving Fort Sill, Will Soule departed from Indian Territory for Boston, where his brother John P. Soule had a flourishing business as a publisher of photographs.


Russell E. Belous and Robert A. Weinstein surveyed Will Soule's work for their monograph, Will Soule, Indian Photographer at Fort Sill Oklahoma, 1869-1874 (The Ward Ritchie Press: 1969):

Of Will Soule's work on the Indian frontier, 166 paper prints and sixty-nine original glass plate negatives are known to have survived. They are represented in various collections from the Bureau of American Ethnology through the Fort Sill Artillery and Missile Center Museum, the Denver Public Library, the Huntington Library, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.


Reference: Michael L. Carlebach, The Origins of Photojournalism in America (Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press: 1992), p. 136 


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