John K. Hillers photographs, 1871-1889 and undated

Navigate the Collection

Using These Materials Teaser

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials

Collection is open for research.
More about accessing and using these materials...


Hillers, John K., 1843-1925
John K. Hillers was an important early American photographer and one of the first to photograph the Grand Canyon and the high plateaus of central and southern Utah. Collection contains albumen photographs spanning the years 1871-1889. Most of them are landscapes made in Utah, but there are also landscapes from California and several photographs of Native Americans made in New Mexico. The photographs are organized into six series.
1.6 Linear Feet
40 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

John K. Hillers, one of America's most important early photographers, was one of the first to photograph the Grand Canyon and most of the high plateaus of central and southern Utah. In the fall of 1872, at the request of the Western lands survey, Hillers turned his lens from features of the landscape to its Native American inhabitants and photographed the Zuni and San Juan Pueblos. The 40 single albumen photographs and the 539 prints in the photograph album in this collection span the years 1871-1889.

Of the 40 single photographs in the collection, 33 are landscapes, many of which Hillers made in Utah. Five of the landscapes are from California. Seven photographs portray Native Americans, primarily Pueblo and Zuni in New Mexico. These photographs are organized into six series: Official Identification of the Survey Series, Gold Border Series, Indian Series, 1873 Powell Survey Series, Black Border Series, and the California Series.

The photograph album added to this collection contains 539 original albumen prints, most of which were taken by Hillers on the Second Expedition; others were taken by E. O. Beaman and James Fennemore on the same Expedition. The majority are from the Colorado River region in Colorado and Utah, and feature landscapes and vistas, expedition camps, Paiute Indians, and natural features. The prints may have been assembled by Hillers himself, or by John Powell as a gift for a patron or Congressman.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
John Karl Hillers born in Brinkum, Germany (Hanover)
Arrived in the U.S., settling with his family in N.Y.C.
Served in the artillery during the Civil War
Resigned from the U.S. Army
Joined the John Wesley Powell Expedition as a boatman and photographer's assistant
Became Powell's photographer-in-chief
Served as the Geological Survey's chief photographer
Retired from the Geological Survey, but still worked for the Survey on a part-time basis
Acquisition information:

The John K. Hillers Photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1972.

These and other photographs by western expeditionary photographers were purchased from Lowdermilk's bookstore in Washington, D.C. prior to its liquidation.

Processing information:

This collection was previously processed by Rubenstein Archivist Bill Erwin in 1982. Erwin conducted a great deal of research used to identify photographs made by western expeditionary photographers. Every effort was made to retain both the organization and informational aspects of his work except when they conflicted with more modern practices.

Information folders available in the repository contain copies of earlier catalog records and bibliographic information for related sources including sources in which these photographs have been published.

Additional folders contain photocopies of photographs annotated by the National Archives, and reference prints made from copy negatives held in this collection.

Quotation marks indicate a title taken directly from the photograph, or from a printed caption on the mounting board. A title taken from a handwritten caption on the mounting boards is not enclosed in quotation marks.

Processed by Chris Black, November 2004.

Encoded by Chris Black, Michael Shumate.

Completed September 2006.

All original accessions described in this finding aid.

Addition 2011-0205 processed and encoded by Paula Jeannet, March 2011.

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Before you visit:
Please consult our up-to-date information for visitors page, as our services and guidelines periodically change.
Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], John K. Hillers Photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.