Frank A. Fernekes photographs and postcards, 1915-1948 and undated

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Fernekes, Frank A.
Frank Fernekes (1872-1953) was a commercial photographer with an interest in circus and Wild West themes; he was born and resided in New York until sometime before 1927, then moved permanently to Hollywood, California and was active through the 1940s. Collection contains photographs and postcards chiefly dating from the 1910s through the 1930s, with a few from the 1940s. All of the photographs are black-and-white and were taken by photographer Frank Fernekes. They feature a set of views of El Paso, Texas, in 1915, which include several images of African Americans and inhabitants probably of Mexican descent; a large set of images of California circus performers, actors and performers in Western-themed costumes, and Native Americans in costumes and traditional dress; and a large souvenir photograph with Fernekes taken at McLoed's Happy Hollow amusement park in Arkansas, circa 1923. The collection also includes a set of color souvenir postcards with early 20th century Western-themed illustrations of cowboys and cowgirls, and a few black-and-white postcards relating to Buffalo Bill Cody, a Yuma Indian band from Arizona, and other Western themes.
0.4 Linear Feet
Approx. 100 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection contains photographs and postcards, chiefly dating from the 1910s through the 1930s, with a few from the 1940s, all assembled or taken by photographer Frank Fernekes. The first folder consists of 15 small contact prints taken in El Paso, Texas in 1915, probably by Fernekes, including views of the city from a higher vantage point, close-ups of buildings and streets, railroad tracks and bridges, and close-up views of what appear to be families and individuals of Mexican descent and their houses. One street scene includes many African American men congregating in front of a building. The snapshots measure about 3x5 inches, and were printed sometime in the 1970s from the original nitrate negatives, which were then discarded from the collection.

A second folder in this group contains 40 snapshots, chiefly taken in Hollywood and Los Angeles, California from 1925-1948. The earliest images were taken in New York City. The only dated image is labeled 1925, and is captioned "Chief Manabozho," who was a Native American actor on Broadway and in Wild West shows. This image is hand-colored and includes Fernekes's NYC address on the back, which is struck out and amended with the year 1927 and his California address. The two undated images show Chief Wanabozho again, and Frank Fernekes shaking hands with a person in Native American costume in front of the Coney Island Luna Fun House, which often held Wild West-themed shows.

The largest set of snapshots in the second folder are of parades in Venice, Los Angeles, and Hollywood, California, chiefly in the 1930s, focusing on individuals in Western or Native American costume; staff and performers at the Cole Bro. and Clyde Beatty Circus, and the Barnes Circus, sometimes featuring Frank Fernekes posing alongside (19302-1940s); and Native Americans in popular culture-inspired costumes and in traditional dress, posting in groups and individually. Named individuals include Hubert Honanie, a well-known Kachina artist in Pasadena, in Native American costume; Joe and Oscar Cody, who were Native American extras early in their film careers (shooting bows and arrows in civilian clothing), circa 1938; Montie Montana (Owen Harlan Mickel, a rodeo star who resided in California, 1948; "Miss Bluebird," a young Native American in costume, taken at the "All-Indian Picnic in Sycamore Grove Park, Los Angeles," 1942, and the Woody Hanley Cowboy Band, 1946. Many of the Native Americans and other individuals may be actors - there was a studio lot adjacent to Sycamore Grove Park. The photographs in this group typically measure 3 1/2 x 5 7/8 inches, and many are captioned, often including the stamped address of Frank Fernekes's photography studio in Hollywood, California.

The second group consists of 11 souvenir postcards, part of a fold-out set probably dating from the 1920s featuring color reproductions of images dating from 1908. Images depict cowboys, cowgirls, and scenes from the "Wild West" as rendered in American popular culture at the turn of the 20th century. There is a lone color postcard of "The only one-tribe Indian band in the West," which is a group shot of a Yuma brass band from about 1930 published by Harry Hertz. There is also an empty souvenir envelope that once contained souvenir postcards from the Buffalo Bill Wild West show, undated; a black-and-white Burlington Route postcard with an image of the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming, undated; and a black-and-white postcard with "The Fall of the Bronco Buster, Walton's Views, Roswell N.M., Pecos Valley Drug Co.," from the 1920s.

The collection is rounded out by a large decorative cardstock mount, printed sometime between 1908 and 1923, featuring on one side an image of McLeod from Happy Hollow, a well-known photographer who founded this popular amusement park in Hot Springs, Arkansas; the image is accompanied by a publicity verse. The single 6.75x9.25 inch black-and-white photographic print that was apparently once mounted on the other side of this card frame shows a group of men and women, some astride donkeys, posting for the camera. The man on the far right is Frank Fernekes, dating the image closer to 1923.

Biographical / historical:

Frank A. Fernekes (1898-1965) was a photographer based in Hollywood, California, and was active during the 1920s-1940s. He was born in New York City, and lived or stayed for a time at an address there before 1927. His primary subject seems to have been circus and rodeo performers in California; judging by several photographs in this collection, he also probably had close contact with movie personnel from Western film studios in Hollywood.

Acquisition information:
The Frank A. Fernekes photographs and postcards collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1976.
Processing information:

Processed by Levi Crews, February 2014

Encoded by Paula Jeannet, February 2014

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 4-30-76

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Frank A. Fernekes photographs and postcards, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.