Guide to the Gifford Collection Documentary Materials

Print this Finding Aid | Email this Finding Aid


Overview of the Collection

Creator: Gifford family.
Title: Gifford Collection Documentary Materials
Dates: 1897-1996 ( inclusive )
1926-1957 ( bulk )
Quantity: 3.7 cubic feet (8 boxes, including 3 oversize boxes)
Collection Number: P 218-SG 7
Summary: The Gifford Collection Documentary Materials consist of paper records, artifacts, and ephemera documenting the Gifford Family's activities as photographers in Oregon. The Gifford Family included four notable Oregon photographers spanning three generations: Benjamin A. Gifford; his son, Ralph, and Ralph's wife, Wanda; and Ralph and Wanda's son Ben L. Gifford.
Repository: Oregon State University Libraries
University Archives

121 The Valley Library
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-4501
Phone: 541-737-2165

Languages: Materials in English. 
Sponsor: Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical Note

The Gifford Family is considered Oregon's first family of photography. Beginning in 1888, when Benjamin A. Gifford emigrated to Portland from Kansas, they began a photographic tradition that lasted into the 1950s and spanned three generations. Benjamin A. Gifford worked as photographer in Portland and The Dalles, Oregon, from the late 1880s until about 1920, when his son Ralph took over his studio in Portland. In 1936, Ralph became the first photographer of the newly established Travel and Information Department of the Oregon State Highway Department, a position he held until his death in 1947. After her husband's death, Wanda Muir Gifford took over the family's photography business and continued to take and sell photographs through the mid-1950s. Ben L. Gifford, the son of Ralph I. and Wanda Gifford, joined his mother in the family's business in early 1950s and also worked for a Salem photography studio from 1951 until 1955. Three generations of Gifford photography began to come to a close when Ben took an engineering job with the State Highway Commission in 1955.

Content Description

The Gifford Collection Documentary Materials consist of paper records, artifacts, and ephemera documenting the Gifford Family's activities as photographers in Oregon. The documentary materials include biographical information on each photographer and other family members, business records, publications that include Gifford photographs, technical manuals and catalogs for photographic and motion picture equipment, artifacts, and ephemeral materials created for the Giffords' photography business. The ephemeral items include envelopes, invoices and order forms, business cards, and labels. The bulk of the business records is correspondence with magazines, other publications, and stock houses regarding purchase and use of Gifford images. A descriptive booklet about the Fred Archer School of Photography in Los Angeles is also included.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation :  

Gifford Collection Documentary Materials (P 218-SG 7), Oregon State University Archives, Corvallis, Oregon.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The Gifford Collection Documentary Materials are arranged in 9 series: I. Gifford Family Biographical Information, 1897-1996; II. Business Records, 1926-1957; III. Fred Archer School of Photography Information Booklet, circa 1950; IV. Publications with Gifford Photographs, 1902-1987; V. Technical Manuals and Equipment Catalogs, circa 1937 - circa 1953; VI. Signs, circa 1940; VII. Oil Portrait of Ralph I. Gifford, circa 1940; VIII. Ephemera, circa 1905 - 1964; and IX. Artifacts, circa 1936-1947.

Custodial History :  

The materials were donated to the Oregon State University Horner Museum in 1986 by Ben L. and Beth Gifford.

Acquisition Information :  

The materials were transferred from the Oregon State University Horner Museum to the University Archives in July 1996.

Related Materials :  

This is one component of the Gifford Photographic Collection (P 218) held by the OSU Archives. Other components are: Benjamin A. Gifford Photographs (P 218-SG 1); Ralph I. Gifford Photographs (P 218-SG 2); Ralph I. Gifford Motion Pictures (P 218-SG 3); Wanda Gifford Photographs (P 218-SG 4); Ben L. Gifford Photographs (P 218-SG 5); and Gifford Collection Photographs by Unknown or Other Photographers (P 218-SG 6).

The Archives holdings include several collections documenting photography instruction at Oregon State, including the Robert E. McDole Papers and the John Garman Photographic Collections (P 095).

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I:  Gifford Family Biographical Information, 1897-1996

Series I includes biographical information for Gifford Family members and consists primarily of photocopies that were provided by the family when the photographs were donated to Oregon State University. The documents include obituaries as well as news articles and other compilations of biographical information.

72 Benjamin A. Gifford, 1929-1993
72 Rachel M. Gifford, 1973
72 Ralph I. Gifford, 1946-1947
72 Wanda M. Gifford, 1989
72 Ben L. Gifford, 1944-1996
72 Excerpts, "History and Genealogy of the Gifford Family in America (1626-1953)", 1984
72 My Story of the Last Indian War in the Northwest, 1954
Thomas Morgan
72 Gifford Family Scrapbook , 1897 - circa 1968
71 News clippings about Ralph I. Gifford and Ben L. Gifford, 1944-1947

^ Return to Top

Series II:  Business Records, 1926-1957

Series II consists primarily of correspondence documenting the Gifford Family photography business during the 1930s-1950s, especially the purchase of photographs by various publications.

Correspondence, 1926-1957
72 Letter to Benjamin A. Gifford from W.T. Jordan of Maryhill, Washington, regarding information about one of Gifford's Native American photographs taken in the area, September 1926
Letter to Ralph Gifford from Universal Pictures Corporation regarding motion picture assignment at Mt. Hood, September 1934
72 Letters of recommendation for Ralph Gifford working at the State Highway Commission, July 1936
72 Letter and photograph to Ralph Gifford from Sgt. F.L. Boulier, Sept. 1944
72 Letter of condolence to Wanda Gifford from State Parks Superintendent S.H. Boardman regarding Ralph Gifford's death, June 1947
72 Letter to State Highway Dept. from Ben L. Gifford regarding state photographer tests, January 1957
72 Correspondence with magazines, other publications, and stock houses, 1936-1956
72 American Fruit Grower Magazine, 1950-1956
72 A-D
72 E-L
72 M-Z and unclassified
72 Customer consent slips, 1949
72 Exhibition records for The New Oregon Trail motion picture, 1942
72 Image log, Ralph Gifford and Ben L. Gifford
Includes original and photocopy.
72 Ralph Gifford expense log, 1940-1947
72 Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association meeting program, June 1947
72 Lists of magazines using freelance photographs, undated
72 Jersey Spring Show program, May 1951

^ Return to Top

Series III:  Fred Archer School of Photography Information Booklet, circa 1950

Series III consists of a booklet with information about the Fred Archer School of Photography in Los Angeles, California, including facilities, faculty, the 2-year course of study, and admissions requirements. Ben L. Gifford attended the Fred Archer School in 1950-1951.


^ Return to Top

Series IV:  Publications with Gifford Photographs, 1902-1987

Series IV consists of publications that include photographs by the Gifford Family photographers, primarily in the 1940s and 1950s; several of the publications featured Gifford photographs as the cover images.

72 Snap Shots on the Columbia, 1902
Photocopy; see Benjamin A. Gifford Photographs (P 218-SG 1) for original.
72 Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain: The Most Beautiful Spot on the Pacific Coast, by Lewis M. Head, 1910
72 Events Illustrated, March, June & August 1938
March, June Published by Beaver Engraving Co.
72 The Exhaust, December 1938
72 The Oregon State Employee, August-September 1944
Cover photos by Ralph I. Gifford.
72 Oregon Tuberculosis Association annual report, 1946
72 The Oregon State Employee; Salem Cherry Festival program, May-June 1947
Cover photos by Ralph I. Gifford.
72 Along the Union Pacific Railroad, July 1947
72 International Evergreen Empire; tourist brochure on Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, circa 1947
72 The County Officer magazine, June 1949
72 Public Works magazine, December 1950
72 Oregon Jersey Review, Winter 1951
72 The Northwest Calendar for Engagements, 1954
72 Oregon: Cool green vacation land, tourist brochure, undated
72 Snogo snow removal ad, undated
72 Undated tear sheets from Pacific Pathways, National Geographic and unidentified publication, undated
78 Newspapers with Gifford photographs, 1938-1984
71 OSU Foundation 1986-87 annual report, 1987

^ Return to Top

Series V:  Technical Manuals and Equipment Catalogs, circa 1937 - circa 1953

Series V consists of manuals and catalogs assembled by the Giffords for photography and motion picture film equipment and photographic processing. Information about cameras, lenses, and projectors as well as photograph films, papers, and processing are included.

72 Formulas notebook, undated
72 Temporary Strobonar Seven Instructions (electronic flash unit), circa 1953
72 Ansco Formulas on Black and White Photography, 1946-1948
72 Ansco Photographic Papers: Their Properties, Processing and Application, 1947
72 Better Photography Made Easy (Ansco), 1947
72 Choosing Film for Your Camera for Black and White Photography (Ansco), 1947
72 Color Photography Made Easy (Ansco), 1947
72 Book of Formulas for Eastman Professional Films and Plates, May 1938
72 Kodak Data Books
72 Formulas and Processing, 1946 and 1952
72 Kodachrome and Kodacolor Film, 1947
72 Kodak Lenses: Shutters and Portra Lenses, 1948
72 Exposure and Your Camera, C.I. Jacobson, 1948
72 Salon Photography, 1951
72 Photo filter information, undated
72 Peerless camera store catalogs, 1947-1948
72 Zeiss Ikon cameras catalog, undated
72 Stanley-Marsh picture frame tools catalog, circa 1937
72 Bolex motion picture film equipment catalog, circa 1941
72 Bell & Howell Filmosound "Master" motion picture film projector manual, circa 1939
72 History of the Cine-Kodak Special, undated
72 Eastman 8mm and 16mm home movie equipment catalog, fall 1938
72 Secrets of Good Projection, Frank E. Gunnell, undated

^ Return to Top

Series VI:  Signs, circa 1940

Series VI includes two signs created and used by Ralph Gifford. One is a sign for the darkroom door reminding visitors to knock; the second is a list of postcard sets available for purchase.

71 Darkroom sign
71 Postcard list

^ Return to Top

Series VII:  Oil Portrait of Ralph I. Gifford, circa 1940

This framed portrait was painted by Lola Schroeder.


^ Return to Top

Series VIII:  Ephemera, circa 1905 - 1964

Series VIII consists of materials created for the Giffords' photography business and includes envelopes, invoice and order forms, business cards, and labels. Extra postcards and view sets created by Ralph Gifford are part of this series. Original paper sleeves that housed negatives when they were received by the Archives are included. Duplicates of a Benjamin A. Gifford advertisement include color transparencies and color photocopies made in the late 1990s.

Benjamin A. Gifford advertisement, circa 1905
4 frames of 120 color film transparencies
color photocopies
72 Ralph Gifford envelope from film business, circa 1930
72 Ralph Gifford, circa 1940
72 Covers for Scenic Oregon Album Prints
72 Business cards
72 Labels for photoplaques
72 Photo order form
72 Oregon in Miniature sets envelopes
72 Letterhead, Travel Information Department, Oregon State Highway Commission
72 Ben and Beth Gifford Christmas card mock-ups, 1964 and undated
80 Photographic products and business forms, circa 1935-1945
Includes extra postcards, view sets (in envelopes), blank invoice forms, business cards, and photoplaque labels.
81 Original negative sleeves, circa 1920-1955
Includes original negative sleeves for photographs made by Ralph I. Gifford, Wanda Gifford, and Ben L. Gifford.

^ Return to Top

Series IX:  Artifacts, circa 1936-1947

Series IX consists of rubber stamps used by Ralph Gifford for labeling the backs of photographic prints and several signed mats separated from the acompanying photographic prints.

70 Ralph Gifford rubber stamps for labeling backs of photographs, circa 1936-1947
78 Signed Gifford mats, circa 1936-1947

^ Return to Top


      • Subject Terms :
      • Landscape photography--Oregon.
      • Photographers--Oregon.
      • Photography--Equipment and supplies.
      • Photography--Oregon.
      • Photography--Processing.
      • Photography--Studios and dark rooms.
      • Photography--Study and teaching--California--Los Angeles.
      • Portrait photography--Oregon.
      • Selling--Photographs.
      • Geographical Names :
      • Oregon--Description and travel.
      • Form or Genre Terms :
      • Ephemera.
      • Oil paintings (visual works)
        • Other Creators :
        • Gifford, Ben L.
        • Gifford, Benjamin A.
        • Gifford, Ralph I.
        • Gifford, Wanda.
        • Fred Archer School of Photography (Los Angeles, Calif.)

        ^ Return to Top