Fred R. Wolcott Photographic Collection

Collection Owner:
Cover Image:
Fred R. Wolcott Photographic Collection
Onondaga Nation: "Pounding Corn," 2 of 2 - Image Source

Collection Facts

Dates of Original:
c. 1890 - 1920

Historical Context

The Onondaga Reservation is located in Onondaga County, New York, south of the city of Syracuse. It is recognized by the United States Government as a politically independent entity. The Onondaga people are one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois Confederacy that occupied much of present-day New York State, and were called the “Keepers of the Fire” by the other nations. They have a traditional form of government, where chiefs are nominated by clan mothers. Onondaga culture continues to evolve and incorporate aspects of both traditional and modern ways of life.

Fred Wolcott (1862-1946), who took most of the photographs of this collection, photographed and documented daily life on the Onondaga Nation territory around 1910. It is not known whether Wolcott took the photographs because of a personal interest in the Haudenosaunee people or for a commissioned project. In 1986, forty years after his death, the Onondaga Department of Parks organized this collection and published it in a book, ONONDAGA: Portraits of a Native People, and listed Wolcott as author and photographer.

Scope of Collection

The Wolcott Collection contains photographs taken by Fred Wolcott, who photographed and documented daily life on the Onondaga Nation Territory in the early 1900’s. The collection is significant because it provides a visual interpretation of the “in-between years” when the traditions of the Onondaga Nation were facing the pressures of acculturation from the outside world. The collection covers many aspects of life on their reservation near Nedrow, New York including dress, religion, sports, and prominent families.