When Annette Ross Hume stepped out of the wagon in Anadarko, Oklahoma Territory,
just after dark on December 31, 1890, she gave no hint of the artist she would soon become. She was thrirty-two
years old, a well-educated doctor's wife, and the mother of two young sons. Her only mark of distinction was onoe
only too common among women of her day: she had buried three other babies under the flat, unforgiving surface of the Kansas
frontier she had left behind.
Yet as the eldest daughter of James and Katherine Ross headed yet again into unchartered territory, she was determined to help her husband
succeed in his new post as physician for the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Agency.
In 1890, what would eventually become Anadarko was all pasture, cornfields, tents, and tipis. The life of
Southern Plains Indians was changing, but enough of the old life existed to make the area seem exotic and photogenic
to a young woman from Ohio. Until now photography had been a profession open only to men, but lighter equipment, less
dangerous chemicals, and the development of commercial dry plate negatives (making portable darkrooms unnecessary) were
beginning to make it a fashionable hobby for women. Indeed Annette hadn't been in Anadarko twelve months before she
began to document agency life with a camera.
And what a life it was. Twelve years earlier, the Kiowa and Comanche Agency had consolidated with the Wichita Agency
to form one agency that comprised 1,801 square miles of canyons, rivers, and shortgrass plains. By 1890, the population
was 4,121 Indians, all of whom fell under the care of Annette's husband. Annette herself frequently drove her buggy
on errands across agency lands, camera by her side. She photographed Indian mothers with babies in cradleboards, her
husband doctoring local children, tribal elders (including Comanche chief Quanah Parker) conducting council meetings,
families receiving their issue of beef from the government agent, and men and women engaging in the popular pastime of gambling.
She recorded the comings and goings of agency employees, photographed missionaries visiting Indian families in their native dwellings,
and captured the atmosphere of everyday life in the federally supported Indian schools -- children attending class, singing in school
choirs, and taking part in Christmas activities. She also made many images of her Indian friends (some taken in front of a blanket draped
on a wall of her porch to create the effect of a professional photographer's backdrop). Her photographs captured not only the delicate transitional
period as tribes adjusted to life on the reservation, but also the encroachment of the frontier on the agency lands.
In one image, a wagon train of settlers from Texas passes through the agency, bound for the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho lands in 1892. It was a sign
of things to come. Less than ten years after photographing that scene, Annette serially photographed the establishment of the town of Anadarko -- from
the allotment of Indian land to the opening of surplus lands to settlers by lottery in 1901.
Anadarko was designated as the county seat by Colonel James F. Randlett, the Indian agent. The town site chosen was
a cornfield located between the Indian agency on the north and the Methodist Mission land to the south. On August 6, 1901, town lots were sold at auction
to the highest bidder. A few days prior to the August 6 opening, Annette photographed the cornfield in which Anadarko
would be built; a week later, a tent city sprang up where the cornstalks had been.
From the opening of the town until a year later, Annette recorded life in the tent city: the construction of wooden and brick structures,
settlers waiting for mail, schoolchildren posed on Main Street, and numerous other scenes related to the opening of the frontier town.
The photographs of the establishment of Anadarko comprise a large portion of Annette's surviving glass plate collection.
Annette's photographic work ended by 1910. Her growing community service and her failing health restricted her camera work.
Her photographs might have lanquished in obscurity had it not been for Edward Everett Dale, head of the history
deparment at the University of Oklahoma. Dale collected books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and photographs about western Americana and Oklahoma history
for us by his graduate students.
Through Annette's son, C. Ross, a judge in Anadarko, Dale learned of Annette's photography, her collection of glass plate negatives, and her
desire that her collection remain in Oklahoma. Following personal visits and correspondence with Dale, Annette agreed to sell her glass plates to OU. In preparation
for the plates' shipment to the university, Annette carefully identified each image. In 1927, more that seven hundred and fifty of her negatives were
delivered to the university campus at Norman, Oklahoma. Annette's glass plates became the core photographic collection of the Phillips Collection when it was established
by Dale, with the assistance of Patrick Hurley and the financial gift of Oklahoma oilman Frank Phillips. (The Phillips Collection and the Division of Manuscript eventually
combined to form the current Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.)
Annette lived to see several of her images published. Her photographs have been used by hundreds of authors to illustrate books and articles on topics
dealing with Oklahoma and Western history and the American Indian. And her images have also been used in exhibits around the United States and in television documetaries.
Annette Ross Hume died at the Minco home of her son, Dr. Raymond R. Hume, on January 13, 1933. The Anadarko Tribune carried her obituary
on the front page and described her as "a pioneer wife active in genealogical research and patriotic work." The Chronicles of Oklahoma upon her death lauded
her missionary efforts on behalf of the Presbyterian Church, as well as her work with the Oklahoma Territorial Federation, the State Federation of Women's Clubs, the
Chickasha Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Oklahoma Chapter of Colonial Dames. The Chronicles even noted that she was the mother of C. Ross Hume,
one of OU's first graduates. What everyone failed to mention was that one of Oklahoma's great pioneer photographers had been lost. We would not see her like again.