De Lancey W. Gill: Photographer for the Bureau of American Ethnology

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


  • Article on the life and work of De Lancey W. Gill, who, as photographer for the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) from the 1890's until 1930, took more photographs of American Indians than all his predecessors combined. In 1884, Gill was hired as a paleontological draftsman by the United States Geological Survey's William Henry Holmes, and under his tutelage Gill's career flourished. He became head of the USGS illustrations division in 1889 and, then working under director John Wesley Powell, accepted the expanded duty of supervising BAE's illustrations work. The BAE had been established in 1879 to carry out ethnographic work which included studies of the American Indian; part of this work involved taking photographs of Indians who traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with government officials.
  • Gill originally had not been very involved with photography work, but when he transferred to the BAE in 1898 to continue illustration work for its publications, he also began to photograph Indians on a regular basis, as no one else was available to do the work. The author states that Gill never thought of himself first as a photographer; however, it is estimated that over the years he took 2,000 to 3,000 portraits of American Indians, including Geronimo and Chief Joseph. Gill retired in 1932 at the age of 73, and died in 1940.


  • Holmes, William Henry 1846-1933
  • Gill, DeLancey W
  • Powell, John Wesley 1834-1902
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • National Anthropological Archives (NAA)
  • Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Fourteen photographs from the National Anthropological Archives are included in the article.

Contained within

History of Photography Vol. 7, No. 1 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


January 1983


  • Photographers
  • Historians
  • Anthropology
  • Ethnology
  • Photographs
  • Biography
  • Indians of North America


North America

Physical description

p. 7-22

Full Record

View Full Record