The land run in 1889 cleared the way for many more. Prettyman himself couldn’t resist the allure of the land run; he took part in 1893 when the stretch of land on the Kansas border called the “Cherokee Outlet” was opened. He rode with a few of his cowboy friends and staked a claim. Though the life of a farmer didn’t suit Prettyman, he soon opened a new photography studio in the city of Blackwell. He even served as mayor of Blackwell for two terms before he finally left for California in 1905. His move was somewhat perplexing as he completely abandoned photography, leaving his studio and photographic plates behind. However, Prettyman’s Arkansas City apprentice salvaged some of these plates. Thanks to the work of George B. Cornish we have priceless examples of Prettyman’s incredible work.
From 1883 to 1905 William Prettyman established himself as a fixture in Indian Territory. Prettyman had the skill of being a talented photographer and had excellent timing, capturing historic moments of the American West. For many, this time was marked by devastation and destruction, for others it was a new beginning. Whether Prettyman was living amongst American Indians, cattlemen from Texas, or Boomers he photographed subjects with sincere curiosity and left a catalog of major moments in United States history. Two years after Prettyman left, Oklahoma became the 46th state of the United States. His absence was fitting as the era he knew had ended. The world that Prettyman captured through his lens was evolving and in 1907 had all but disappeared.
The Texas Collection would like to thank the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University for their assistance with determining the original order of the photographs in Collection of Oklahoma Indian and Cowboy Views.
Baird, W. David, and Danney Goble. Oklahoma: A History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.
Campbell, Randolph B. Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Cunningham, Robert E. Indian Territory: A Photographic Record by W.S. Prettyman. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1957.
LaVere, David, Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.
Prettyman, William S., and George B. Cornish. Collection of Oklahoma Indian and Cowboy Views. Arkansas City, Kan.: Prettyman and Cornish, 1889.
All maps courtesy of the Frances C. Poage Map Room, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.