Western History Collections
University of Oklahoma Libraries

Andrew Forbes Photograph Collection

   Andrew Alexander Forbes was born in Ottawa, Wisconsin, in 1862. That much we do know. We don't know, however, where or when the photographer learned his trade. But the images which remain from his vast body of work indicate that he was certainly a skilled craftsman. Leaving behind a visual legacy of cowboys in western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, Forbes will always be considered by researchers the first and perhaps premier documentarian of settler life on the early plains.

   Like most traveling photographers who came into Oklahoma Territory following the land runs, Forbes' photography studio was self-contained in his wagon. This mobility enabled him to literally track down his potential market. Everything he needed - from his camera and glass-plate negatives to chemicals, paper, and card stock - was conveniently stashed in the wagon.

   The main focus of Forbes' work in the region is on cowboy scenes, though other images include settlers, Oklahoma City soon after its establishment, Sac and Fox Indians, and railroad construction in Oklahoma Territory. After his approximately eight-year stay in the region, he moved West and settled in Bishop, California, where he had a studio for several years.

   Andrew Alexander Forbes died on March 21, 1921. In the late 1960s, his widow and son donated ninety-seven glass-plate negatives and thirty of his original prints to the Western History Collections of the University of Oklahoma. As Oklahoma enters a new era, Forbes' sobering and sweeping images from centuries past will surely remind all who see his work just how far we have come.

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