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Guide to the Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo Photographs
Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo Photographs, circa 1910-circa 1955
Location: File Cabinet (4,003 Negatives)
Collection #: 039
Accession #: 79.026
Sport of Rodeo:
In order to appreciate the importance of the Ralph R. Doubleday collection, one must first understand the importance of Rodeo as a unique and indigenous sport to the United States and appreciate Rodeo and its development as a reflection of the history of the West.
Historian Howard Lamar writes, "Rodeo is the only major American sport to emerge from an industry, the range-cattle industry. Rodeo cowboys are an extension of the range cowboy, and they maintain some of the characteristics of the cowhand -- independence, roughness and ruggedness, clannishness, and pride. The rodeo performer, however, has the added characteristic of showmanship."
Anthropologist Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence writes, "The star of the rodeo is the cowboy, and the one symbol which has come to represent the American Western frontier, and even America herself, most completely is the cowboy. A complex figure who partakes of both the reality of the rugged life he lived on the frontier and of the myth that has grown up around it, it is he who has captured the imagination of the world." Later she writes, "As the cowboy sport of rodeo developed out of frontier experience, so it also shaped and continues to shape our perceptions of all that the Western frontier has come to symbolize."
Richard Rattenbury, curator of American Rodeo Gallery at this museum, writes, "America’s truly indigenous sport, rodeo evolved as a colorful celebration of the riding and roping skills of the working cowboy. Breaking rank horses and roping calves and steers constituted the cowboy’s everyday work, and these special skills became the first contested events of rodeo. From its informal origins in isolated roundup contests more than a century ago, to the big business excitement of today’s National Finals competition, rodeo personifies the colorful drama, rugged individualism and competitive spirit of the 19th-century American West."
According to historian Mary Lou LeCompte, "American rodeo owes its very existence to the public's continuing fascination with the cowboy hero, and what the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian William H. Goetzmann and art historian William N. Goetzmann call ‘the West of the Imagination.’" With regard to cowgirls and rodeo LeCompte writes, "Rodeo was the first, and perhaps the only, sport in which men and women truly competed as equals." In the golden age of rodeo, women were competitors in all events. Lamar writes, "The most colorful era for the rodeo cowgirl was from 1910 to approximately 1930." These are the very same years in which Ralph R. Doubleday began and established his career as a photographer of rodeo events, specialty acts, and personalities.
In 1926 Will Rogers introduced R. R. Doubleday in his McNaught Syndicate column, "The Worst Story I Have Heard Today:" He wrote, "You have all seen at various times wonderful pictures of Cowboys and Cowgirls on bucking horses, in every kind of sport connected with a horse or a steer. You have seen buckers in the most inconceivable shapes. You marveled at the picture as much as you did the boy or girl that was on the horse, because sometimes they wasn't. You said to yourself, 'Where in the world was the photographer when he shot that?' Well, this bird I am introducing you to right now is the one that has taken 90 per cent of the good rodeo pictures ever made. He don't get ‘em till they are doing something unusual. But when they do, he is right down under them shooting up at 'em. He has had horses jump over him, wild steers run over him. But he always comes up with an exact likeness of the animal."
Foghorn Clancy, rodeo promoter, agent and historian, called Doubleday the "undisputed World's Champion Rodeo Photographer." Clancy wrote, "Ralph was the first rodeo photographer, and noted in his field because in those days there were not many photographers who would risk camera and film, not to mention life and limb, trying to get action pictures."
The complete truth about Ralph Russell Doubleday may never be known. Vital records have not been found. Mostly what we know about him comes from newspaper and magazine articles with him as the principal source of information. Moreover, Doubleday tended to bend or exaggerate the truth about his participation in certain events of which he claimed to have been part, such as accompanying General Pershing in pursuit of Pancho Villa, photographing President Roosevelt on safari in Africa, and covering the Tea Pot Dome scandal. All this has clouded the early part of Doubleday's career and life. He was a transitional character between the decline of the wild west show and the evolution of rodeo from its "cowboy fun" origins up to its more organized, big business model evidenced by the formation of the National Finals Rodeo Commission in 1958.
A self-promoter, Doubleday was also a superb photographer who associated his abilities and entrepreneurial ingenuity with an action-packed and dangerous sport. New technology in amateur photography facilitated his exploitation of a photographic postcard niche. This niche developed into a cottage industry on which his livelihood primarily depended and which earned him the moniker, "rodeo postcard king."
While he truly loved the sport of rodeo, its people, and culture, Doubleday had other motives which were, in descending importance, economic, fame, and rodeo promotional. His unintended legacy is the thousands of photographic postcard images which serve as primary documentation of this golden age of rodeo history, its events, and personalities.
Doubleday's origins and early life and career as a freelance photographer are cloaked a bit in mystery. What has been reported repeatedly is that Doubleday was born in Canton, Ohio on July 4, 1881 with his father being a physician and surgeon. Through family histories, genealogical research, and census records reconciled with published articles, the author has deduced that Ralph Russell Doubleday was probably born Edward Cochran to parents Montgomery and Tabitha Cochran on July 4, 1881 at Canton in Brandon township in Jackson County, Iowa. Ralph was the youngest child in the family which included two sisters, Floria E. and Ruby Jane. As to the when and the reasons why R. R. changed his surname from Cochran to Doubleday remains uncertain. Clarence Elliott, a nephew of Doubleday's, asked him how he came up with the name to which he replied he had always felt like he worked 24 hours a day. Whatever the reasons for his name change, Edward Cochran was known as Ralph Russell Doubleday as early as 1910.
It was not until 1900 when the Cochran family moved to Sycamore, Illinois that Doubleday developed an interest in photography. America in 1900 saw many scientific, technological and industrial advances. Besides household electricity and indoor plumbing, new inventions including movie projectors, light bulbs, phonographs, electric fans, telephones, and automobiles made life easier and more enjoyable. A new technology for printing photographs in the press caused photographs to replace illustrations and enabled amateur photographers with the help of George Eastman's innovations to create their own postcards.
Managing his step-father's farm in Sycamore, Doubleday took a week off during the winter and went to Elgin where he saw the town's toppled water tank. The ice-covered tank had burst open with the pressure of frozen water and lay covered with ice, a spectacular sight. Using his mail-order camera, he captured the image, developed and sold the prints. So impressed with the netting of $60, Doubleday embarked on a commercial photography career.
For a time Doubleday worked in the stereoscope business producing stereo views for this popular parlor pastime of the period. In fact the stereoscope became as much a fixture in the home as a television is today. During the 1880s the stereo view business began a comeback when aggressive companies, such as Underwood and Underwood, sent teams of sales people into communities and systematically canvassed neighborhoods. The twenty-year-old Doubleday made a trip around the world shooting and collecting images or views from other lands for this reinvigorated business in 1901.
Freelancing led Doubleday into a fleeting relationship with former President Theodore Roosevelt at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo on August 27, 1910. It was here that Doubleday made his personal and professional mark. He captured on film C.B. Irwin's grey bucking horse, "Teddy Roosevelt," throwing its rider, Gus Nylen. It is believed that this was the first action shot of a man in midair, off a bronc. "Up to then," Doubleday recounted, "no one had ever taken a picture of a man flying through the air off a bucking horse. I thought such a picture might be possible." Attending the event was Roosevelt, who was seated in the front row. The event encouraged Doubleday to specialize in rodeo photography. During the decade to follow, the familiar "D.F.P.Co.Inc." (Doubleday-Foster Photo Co. Inc. of Miles City, Montana) copyright notice appeared in the caption on all his photographic postcards. This notice would evolve to "R.R. Doubleday" and finally, indicative of his notoriety and successful branding, to just "Doubleday."
For a time, perhaps beginning as early as 1911, Doubleday was associated with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch wild west show. With the show's successful origin in 1905, the Millers had decided to make the 101 Ranch Wild West Show a permanent institution in February 1908.
Doubleday undoubtedly saw this as an opportunity to use his photography talents and make a profitable career. Moreover, it was perhaps a way to support a wife and prospective family for on June 26, 1911 Doubleday of Cheyenne, Wyoming married Olive E. Walter in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although he is quoted in later years as characterizing himself as "an old bachelor like me," Doubleday was married.
One of Doubleday's images, taken of Yakima Canutt riding "South Dakota" on May 15, 1912, was used by the Millers on a 101 Ranch store token. It was minted by the Millers, according to Wallis, "for their employees to use at the ranch store and with selected merchants in Ponca City and other towns near the ranch. Cowhands and workers could draw against payday by accepting the trade tokens and signing their names."
Shortly after the birth of his son, Russell Ralph Doubleday, on July 25, 1920, Doubleday abandoned his wife and child ostensibly to pursue a rodeo photographic career and become part of the traveling "family" environment fostered by the rodeo lifestyle. He might also have wanted to pursue the ladies. Foghorn Clancy detected some chemistry between Dub and the ladies. He wrote, "...there is something of a mystery about him, he seems to possess some subtle charm for the ladies, at every rodeo it's the ladies that come asking if Doubleday is there or going to be there. I wouldn't call them sweethearts nor his association with them love affairs, they just seem to be staunch feminine friends who enjoy his company, but many a cowboy has wondered why the ladies will rave about the swell ride of a champion bronk rider, or the fast time made by a bulldogger, and then stroll away with the photographer. I guess they will just have to keep on wondering."
During the next three decades, Doubleday enhanced his reputation as a fine rodeo photographer. He pictorially recorded and unintentionally documented the history of both big and little rodeos. The big rodeos at Chicago were held in Grant Park, the Coliseum, Soldier Field, and the Stockyards Stadium. He was a follower of Tex Austin who produced rodeos in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Providence, New Haven, Pittsburgh, Washington, and London, England. At Calgary, Pendleton, Cheyenne, Belle Fourche, Fort Worth, Casper, Deadwood, and San Antonio, Doubleday was the official arena photographer.
His personal best selections included Smoky Branch on Glass Eye taken in 1921 at Garden City, Kansas; Sharkey the bucking Hereford bull taken in 1913 at Pendleton, Oregon; and Leonard Stroud on Indian Tom taken at Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1918. One of his most widely used images was Tex Crockett on the bronc, South Dakota taken at Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1919.
While many of his images were sold to magazines and the press, Doubleday's primary and substantial income came from photographic postcards which he wholesaled by the millions. According to historians Frank N. Samponaro and Paul J. Vanderwood, "A national craze for postcards made the first decade and a half of the twentieth century the golden age of picture postcards. By 1910 Americans were mailing nearly a billion postcards annually. In an era when not many people traveled very far from home and few small-town newspapers carried news photographs, buying a postcard depicting an event of local, national, or even international interest for oneself or to send to a friend was extremely common."
Privately published picture postcards were not in general use in the United States until after the World Columbian Exposition of 1893. In 1902 the Eastman Kodak Company capitalized on this nascent postcard fad by issuing a postcard-size photographic paper on which images could be printed directly from negatives. After 1907, when Congress legalized the mailing of divided-back postcards with the message on the left and the address on the right, the production of photographic postcards grew into a substantial business. Entrepreneurs, such as Doubleday, found a niche in this business. Besides drugstores and souvenir shops, 200 Woolworth stores carried the Doubleday line at one time. It is estimated he sold over 30 million postcards.
In 1952 "Old Dub" made his last swing around the rodeo circuit. He now walked with a cane and ironically was nearly blind. Much like his battered and patched Graflex camera, Doubleday had suffered broken bones and mends, but had thrived in the rodeo arena. On June 30, 1958 Ralph R. Doubleday died. He was interred next to his sister, Floria, in an unmarked grave in the Roselawn section of Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Council Bluffs on July 1.
While earning a living and building a reputation, Doubleday had unwittingly created a body of evidentiary work whose scope is not completely known and which many seek and collect. His legacy is the captioned imagery of cowboys, cowgirls, venues, and livestock instrumental in laying the foundation for professional rodeo. His images continue to capture the imagination and to serve as small windows to past moments in time.
In recognition of Doubleday’s photographic accomplishments and his promotional and documentary activities with regard to the sport of rodeo, the Rodeo Historical Society inducted him into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Rodeo Hall of Fame on November 27, 1988.
The Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo Photographs, accession number 79.26, was acquired in 1979. It consists of 4,003 5 in. x7 in. (125mm x 175mm) sheet and glass plate negatives = 2, 245 safety film negatives + 1470 nitrate negatives + 288 glass negatives (1/16 in. thick) dating between ca.1910 and 1955. The collection of negatives documents 40 years of rodeo history and the development of the sport into a big business. Personalities, events, and venues are pictorially captured by Doubleday. The collection was acquired without any photographic log, journal or index. Some negatives have captions written on them by Doubleday which frequently identify people, locations, and dates. However, cataloging was hampered by the numerous captionless images and the inability to identify people pictured.
A great many rodeo personalities, cowboys, and cowgirls are seen in this collection. They include, but are not limited to, Doff Aber, Alice Anderson Adams, Minnie Adams, Bob Askin, Gene Autry, Ernie Barnett, Fred Beeson, Pearl Biron, Doc Blackstone, Buff Brady, Jr., Louis Brooks, Buster Brown, Dave Campbell, Foghorn Clancy, Pat Clary, Everett E. Colburn, Cy Compton, Cecil Cornish, Gene Krieg Creed, Leo J. Cremer, Eddie Curtis, Wild Bill Elliott, Col. Jim Eskew, Junior Eskew, Mamie Francis, Jasbo Fulkerson, Pinky Gist, Donna Glover, Alvin Gordon, Bonnie Jean Gray, Juanita Gray, Alice Greenough, Margie Greenough, Turk Greenough, California Frank Hafley, Fox Hastings, Mickey Hicks, Mildred Mix Horner, Jack Hughes, Lynn Huskey, Shirley Hussey, Iva Del Jacobs, Billy Keene, Tin Horn Hank Keenen, Col. Jack W. King, Bea Kirnan, Vaughn Krieg, Herman Linder, Bill Linderman, Bud Linderman, Tad Barnes Lucas, Ray Mavity, Eddie McCarty, Bill McMacken, Milt Moe, Montie Montana, Burel Mulkey, Leo Murray, Peggy Murray, Jimmy Nesbitt, Pauline Nesbitt, Jack Owens, Mary Elizabeth Parks, Spencer Penrose, Eleanor Ramsey, Joyce Ramsey, Maxine Ramsey, Ray Ramsey, Sally Rand, Florence Hughes Fenton Randolph, Monte H. Reger, Lucyle Garmes Richards, Shorty Ricker, Ruth Scantlin Roach, Ken Roberts, Kid Roberts, Gene Ross, Blackie Russell, Vic Schwartz, Charley Shultz, Alice Sisty, Dick Slappert, Earl Strauss, Mabel DeLong Strickland, Leonard Stroud, Red Sublett, Shorty Sutton, Buck Taylor, Earl Ernest Thode, Lorena Trickey, Fritz Truan, Thelma Warner, Grace White, Vivian White, Carol Doris Williams, Johnnie Lee Wills, and Opal Woods. The most represented cowboys and cowgirls are reflected in the index terms.
Rodeo organizations and locations represented include, but are not limited to,California Frank's Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cody Stampede, Colorado State Fair, Deadwood Days of '76, Florida Cow Capital Round-Up, Jackson Hole Frontier Days, Kit Carson Round-Up, Marias County Fair & Rodeo, Mid-South Fair, Midland Empire Fair & Rodeo, Oklahoma Prison Rodeo, Swift's Jewel Cowboys, and Wolf Point Stampede. The most represented organizations are indexed here.
Twenty nine states and numerous city and town venues are represented. Venues from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are represented. The index terms reflect the more represented states in this collection. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas are top five states in terms of the numbers of images from states.
Access to the images and data about the image is provided through an ACCESS-based local database available only through the Research Center. Users can search on a variety of index terms and display record data as well as a preview image. Additionally, contact prints have been made from all negatives. These prints are housed in inert polypropylene album pages within several 3-ring binders and organized numerically by catalog number.
Autry, Gene, 1907-1998
Brady, Buff, Jr., 1918-
Compton, Cy, 1875-1944
Creed, Gene Krieg, 1909-1993
Cremer, Leo J., 1891 or 2-1953
Curtis, Eddie, 1908-1965
Doubleday, Ralph R. (Ralph Russell), 1881-1958
Eskew, Jim, Col., 1888-1965
Eskew, Junior, 1918-1977
Greenough, Alice, 1902-1995
Greenough, Margie, 1908-
Greenough, Turk, 1905-1995
Hafley, California Frank, 1871-1940
Hastings, Fox, 1882-1948
Krieg, Vaughn, 1904-1976
Lucas, Tad Barnes, 1902-1990
Moe, Milt, d. 1969
Montana, Montie, 1910-1998
Nesbitt, Jimmy, 1906-1943
Nesbitt, Pauline, 1907-1996
Parks, Mary Elizabeth, 1910-1997
Penrose, Spencer, 1865-1939
Rand, Sally, 1904-1979
Randolph, Florence Hughes Fenton, 1898-1971
Reger, Monte H.
Richards, Lucyle Garmes, 1909-
Ricker, Shorty, 1901-
Roach, Ruth Scantlin, 1896-1986
Schwartz, Vic, 1914-
Strickland, Mabel DeLong, 1897-1976
Wills, Johnnie Lee, 1912-1984
California Frank's Rodeo
Cheyenne Frontier Days
Colorado State Fair
Doubleday-Foster Photo Co., Inc.
Florida Cow Captial Round-Up
Jackson Hole Frontier Days
Marias County Fair & Rodeo
Midland Empire Fair & Rodeo
Oklahoma Prison Rodeo
Swift's Jewel Cowboys
Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun-Dedication, 1937
Wolf Point Stampede
Indians of North America
Rodeos-Alabama-Alexander City, Mobile
Rodeos-Arizona-Phoenix, Tucson, Whiteriver, Wickenburg
Rodeos-Arkansas-Fort Smith, Harrison, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Warren
Rodeos-Colorado-Colorado Springs, Gunnison, Pueblo, Rocky Ford, Trinidad
Rodeos-Florida-Arcadia, Bradenton, Dade City, Kissimmee, Largo, Miami Beach, Pensacola, Sarasota, Seminole, Tampa, Trenton, Wauchula, West Palm Beach
Rodeos-Idaho-Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Weiser
Rodeos-Illinois-Albion, Aurora, Carmi, Chicago, Mt. Carmel
Rodeos-Iowa-Anamosa, Cedar Rapids, Donnellson, Dorchester, Rock Rapids, Sidney, Spencer
Rodeos-Kansas-Abilene, Dodge City, Fort Riley, Garden City, Hutchinson, Junction City, Parsons, Strong City, Wichita
Rodeos-Minnesota-Fort Snelling, Minneapolis
Rodeos-Missouri-Cedar City, Kirksville, Sedalia, Springfield, St. Louis
Rodeos-Montana-Ashland, Billings, Bozeman, Brockton, Butte, Forsyth, Glendive, Great Falls, Livingston, Miles City, Shelby, Wolf Point
Rodeos-Nebraska-Alliance, Burwell, Fullerton, Gordon, Grand Island, Hastings, North Platte, Ogallala, Omaha
Rodeos-New Jersey-Atlantic City, Olympic Park
Rodeos-New Mexico-Carlsbad, Tucumcari
Rodeos-New York-New York, Waverly
Rodeos-North Dakota-Mandan, Medora, Minot
Rodeos-Oklahoma-Ada, Ardmore, Bliss, Chickasha, Comanche, Duncan, El Reno, Fort Towson, Guthrie, McAlester, Muskogee, Okemah, Oklahoma City, Okmulgee, Pawhuska, Sayre, Shawnee, Tulsa, Vinita, Wewoka
Rodeos-Oregon-Elgin, Junction City, Pendleton
Rodeos-Pennsylvania-Philadelphia, Willow Grove
Rodeos-South Dakota-Belle Fourche, Deadwood, Interior, Madison, Winner, Yankton
Rodeos-Tennessee-La Follette, Memphis
Rodeos-Texas-Aledo, Canadian, Dalhart, Del Rio, Dublin, El Paso, Follett, Fort Stockton, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Houston, Lee, Martin, Pampa, Pecos, San Angelo, San Antonio, Trenton, Val Verde, Wichita Falls
Rodeos-Utah-Salt Lake City
Rodeos-Washington-Colfax, Ellensburg, Ritzville, Sumas, Walla Walla
Rodeos-Wyoming-Buffalo, Casper, Cheyenne, Cody, Douglas, Jackson Hole, Lusk, Newcastle, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Sheridan
Saddle bronc riding
Accession Information: The National Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (now the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) purchased this collection from Albert Conover of Xenia, Ohio in 1979. Conover had purchased the collection in February 1971 from Emily Hughes of Cincinnati, Ohio. According to Conover the collection was stored in a four-drawer file cabinet and before the Museum's purchase of it contained other things not rodeo-related including "western scenes, Florida scenes including Indians, lots of miscellaneous stuff, and people."
Processing Information: The negatives were removed from glassine-type envelopes, cataloged, and rehoused in paper enclosures by the end of 1991. Along with their enclosures, the negatives were numbered in a non-image border on the base side. Safety film negatives are housed in unbuffered envelopes (ANSI Standard for Imaging Media, IT9.2-1998 for black & white storage is buffered materials); nitrate negatives are housed in buffered envelopes; and the glass negatives are housed in unbuffered four-flap enclosures within flip-top boxes. The three types of negatives are physically segregated in metal file drawers and boxes.
By the end of 1991 a far from comprehensive item-level description was available through a local database. Cataloging data about each negative was entered into a prototypical and outdated database program called "The Photoarchivist," support of which no longer exists and about which there are numerous deficiencies primarily in searching and reporting functions and capabilities. In 1999 unsuccessful attempts were made to migrate this data into the present local ACCESS database. These attempts coupled with the shortcomings of the original cataloging in terms of inconsistent use of subject terms and name versions and sometimes inaccurate or incomplete data, necessitated recataloging of this collection.
In May 2000 the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a grant of $66,696 to support a one-year project to preserve, rehouse, digitize, and provide improved access to the collection. Besides having the images recatalogued, the project conserved the original negatives, produced interpositives and use copy negatives, and provided extended term storage conditions for originals and interpositives. Each image was scanned, a digitized preservation-quality (archival) image along with access-quality (preview and service) images created and stored on a stand-alone computer. These digital images are linked to the existing ACCESS-based local database with bibliographic information about each image via an OLE object field. Each set of digital images was written to and delivered on write-once CD-ROM disks accessed through a CD-ROM tower.
The Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo Photographs is the property of the Donald C. & Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Because these original negatives date between ca. 1910 and ca. 1955 and because copyright has not been renewed, they are in the public domain with the exception of any copyrighted images that Doubleday might have copied and which are the property of the respective copyright holders. For these, it is the responsibility of the researcher, and his/her publisher, to obtain publishing permission from individuals pictured and relevant copyright holders.
The collection is open for research. It is advisable for researchers to discuss their proposed research with staff prior to visiting the Center.
Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo Photographs, Box ##, Folder ##, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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