- Life at the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Agency: The Photographs of Annette Ross Hume
Kristina L. Southwell and John R. Lovett have dug deep into the bowels of the Western History Collections at the University of Oklahoma in order to reproduce a major part of the photographic collection of Annette Hume. It is a collection with no parallel, at least in Oklahoma, and provides a wonderful glimpse into the lives of primarily Native peoples just before and after the turn of the nineteenth century. The photos and the collection, virtually unknown to historians, were brought to the university by Edward Everett Dale in the 1920s after the several years it took him to raise enough money to purchase them. The original collection consists of 738 images, of which Southwell and Lovett have reproduced 138.
Annette Ross Hume came to Oklahoma in 1889, joining her husband in the first Oklahoma land run. Making a land claim, and a medicine practice, Charles Hume was soon thereafter appointed medical doctor to all the reservation Indians in western Oklahoma, in particular the Comanche and Kiowa. This necessitated a move to Anadarko, the first town of any significance in that part of the territory. Annette purchased a commercially available camera package within a year and began to record daily life in and about Anadarko. Taking photos in that day and age was physically challenging, as it required the lifting of heavy glass plates. But successive improvements—most importantly the invention of the dry plate negative—occurred just as Annette Hume began her passion. Hume took photos for the next twenty years, doing many outside pieces that captured the essence of Indian life.
The quality of the photos included in the collection varies, and one suspects that many of those that were rejected for publication were likely difficult to reproduce. Some staged portraits of individual Indians, babies in cradles, etc., are much clearer than those taken outside. To conceive of the value of the collection today, however, consider that just one dry plate has recently sold at auction for nearly $400.
What gives the collection such value are the subjects. Photos of Kiowa and Comanche council meetings are classic, as are the many Indian children who [End Page 316] allowed themselves to be photographed. Some of the subjects were obviously encouraged to appear in their finest dress, displaying painted buckskin dresses and elaborately woven shawls and cradle board covers. The Kiowas and Comanches have long been accomplished artists and their talent is readily visible in these photographs. The collection is a wonderful window into how a white-dominated agency town with two hundred people intermingled with a nearby reservation with many thousands of Indians. The University of Oklahoma Press should be applauded for producing such a fine collection, as should the editors, Southwell and Lowett.