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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Song Catcher: 1916

Song Catcher: 1916

February 9, 1916. "Mountain Chief of Piegan Blackfeet making phonographic record at Smithsonian." The interviewer is ethnologist Frances Densmore. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Photoshop the Chief

Check out the Fark Photoshop contest for this image.

Mountain Chief

Mountain Chief appears in the very good novel "Fools Crow" by James Welch, a Piegan writer. It's fiction, but a good account of what was happening to the Piegan and Blackfeet at the end of the 19th century.

Densmore Recordings

Available on the Smithsonian's Folkways label. CD, tape, or digital download.


Robin Williams!

Frances Densmore

Some of the original wax recordings were made available in limited quantities as audio cassettes in the 1970s. The Smithsonian published a bulletin of her research in its ethno series. In her long life, Frances focused mostly on Ojibwe [Chippewa] but also collected song material from several other tribes.

Song Catcher

We are here admiring the work of Ms Densmore.

I served with some Native Americans in the Army in the 1950s. They were just happy to get the 3 squares a day and look to survive until they could retire on a minuscule pension and then go home to some semi comfort for the rest of their lives. I wonder what happened to them after Korea and to the younger guys after Vietnam. Some were drunks but most were survivors. They were good company and in many cases good story tellers. I was a kid from the Bronx and they were as alien to me as Martians. Like a lot of other Americans they had legitimate beefs.

Wax Cylinders

I would hope that the Smithsonian would go through and make digital copies of these recordings.

Frances Densmore w/ audio

Minnesota Public Radio did a story about Frances Densmore's life work.

[Fascinating. I added a link to the caption. - Dave]


Were there a lot of these interviews done? Are they available anywhere?

[Good question. This one was recorded on a wax cylinder. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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