Western History & Genealogy Blog

Dandies, Wags, and Characters


Daring personalities, pioneer panache, and questionable sartorial choices...

Our photo collection has thousands of portraits of men, women and children, many unidentified. Buffalo Bill, Nate Salsbury, Kit Carson, Sitting Bull, presidents, governors, mayors and sheriffs and other famous or infamous individuals populate the database and all make appearances with a simple search - but some real characters are hiding in there and don't show up as readily.

Our first example is John Carnsue, a railroader from Gunnison, Colorado. This dapper gent is impeccable in his white top hat and shows us how a properly fitted man looks right before a big date, or perhaps an award ceremony.

Next is one of Ola Garrison's many excellent portraits, this one of an unidentified man smoking a pipe and knitting. [Knitting!] This unexpected version of manhood upends the stereotype of "rugged pioneer" by showing us that in those days men could show a more sensitive side without being self conscious. Browse through almost 700 Ola Garrison photos in our database, from the History Colorado collection, for some first class people watching.

The grizzled guy with the pipe fits the preconceived image of "pioneer" much more easily. Another History Colorado image, this is by the famous Trinidad photographer Oliver Aultman, who opened his Colorado studio in 1890, and whose grandson Glen carried on the work until his death in 2000. Browse over 1,950 Aultman images [mostly portraits] in our database, and see the wide ethnic diversity that characterized early Colorado.

Next, mining tycoon Abel D. Breed sits with a coffee service made of silver from his own Caribou Mine [Boulder County], one of the biggest silver producers in the state. The mine is probably most famous for producing the silver ingots used to pave Eureka Street in front of the Teller House in Central City when President Ulysses S. Grant visited the mining region, but here we see that Mr. Breed liked to use his great wealth for other, more genteel purposes. The photograph is by Donald Kemp, who made photographs between the 1920s and about 1960. His photos are mostly of mines and miners, and some, like this one are copies of earlier photographs. The 431 Kemp images in our database are of all kinds of things: scenery, portraits, mines and "art photos."

Next is a self portrait by Joseph Collier, a Colorado photographer originally from Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He came to Colorado and opened a photo studio in Central City in 1871, and after eight years opened up shop in Denver and was a reknowned locally until he died in 1910. His photos of early mining, famous Colorado scenery, and the Ute Indians constitute an important part of the historical record, and over 400 of his photos are in our searchable database.

In this image, Collier hearkens back to his homeland in full Scottish gear, including a "sporran," which is Gaelic for "purse" - another departure from today's narrower notions of what a man will hang from his belt...

Next, "Mountain Charlie" Charles Stewart Stobie poses for one of his many portraits, hinting that perhaps male preening is only slightly different today than it was in 1869 when this image was made. Stobie, like adventurous men today, tried his hand at many things, and did well with most. He was a painter, photographer, Indian scout, buffalo hunter, interpreter, and adopted member of the White Ute Indian tribe, and known by them as "Paghaghet" or Long Hair.

Stobie kept company with other colorful frontier characters like Buffalo Bill [William Cody], Wild Bill Hickock, Frederick Remington, and Kit Carson. Coming west in about 1864, with a horse-mule train at a stage station along the route to Fort Kearney, his party skirmished with Indians three times east of Fort Sedgwick and Stobie was credited with killing seven Indians. The feat was noted in the Rocky Mountain News before his arrival in Denver, and "from that time forward," Stobie later said, "I never wanted for employment, friends or money in Colorado."

The 28 images of Mountain Charlie that we have in our database are from History Colorado, and give a great introduction to the world of scouts and adventurers.

The picture of the miner with the pipe and head lamp is unidentified and by an unknown photographer and an example of some of our really great stock photos that we know nothing about. If you want a classic image of a miner, this is it. If you want more, just search the database for: "miners."

Finally, we have another Aultman portrait, of a young man all ready for a tennis game. One wonders if this is his regular look, or if he's just been rummaging through Aultman's costume racks. Either way, it would be fascinating to see an encounter between our dapper sportsman here and some of the other gents up the page. Who knows, this guy might be a real scrapper when he's not getting his picture taken.

[Be sure to click on the photos to the left to see larger versions]