Guide to the Gifford Photographic Collection
circa 1885 - 1958

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Gifford family.
Title: Gifford Photographic Collection
Dates: circa 1885 - 1958 ( inclusive )
1925-1958 ( bulk )
Quantity: 14.3 cubic feet, including 7372 photographs and 8 film reels (82 boxes, including 7 oversize boxes; 2 map folders; and 1 film can)
Collection Number: P 218
Summary: The Gifford Photographic Collection consists primarily of photographs taken by four Gifford Family photographers: Ralph I. Gifford; his father, Benjamin A. Gifford; his wife, Wanda Gifford; and his son, Ben L. Gifford. The collection also includes motion pictures filmed by Ralph I Gifford, some photographs for whom the photographer is not identified, images by other photographers, and documentary materials. The Gifford Family's photographic work began in 1888, when Benjamin A. Gifford emigrated to Portland, and continued into the 1950s. The collection documents Oregon landmarks and scenic views on the Oregon coast and in the Cascade Mountains, Willamette Valley, and central and eastern Oregon; agriculture in Oregon; and Native Americans, especially of the Columbia Plateau.
Repository: Oregon State University Libraries
University Archives

121 The Valley Library
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-4501
Phone: 541-737-2165
Email: archives@oregonstate.edu
Web: http://archives.library.oregonstate.edu

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 Photographic Collection consists primarily of photographs taken by four Gifford Family photographers: Ralph I. Gifford; his father, Benjamin A. Gifford; his wife, Wanda Gifford; and his son, Ben L. Gifford. The collection also includes motion pictures filmed by Ralph I Gifford, some photographs for whom the photographer is not identified, images by other photographers, and documentary materials.

The Benjamin A. Gifford Photographs (SG 1) consist of photographs made by Gifford during his career as a photographer in Portland and The Dalles, Oregon. The images depict Native Americans, primarily of the Columbia Plateau region; the Columbia River and the Historic Columbia River Highway; Central and Eastern Oregon; Gifford Family members; and many unidentified individuals and groups.

The Ralph I. Gifford Photographs (SG 2) consist of images taken by Gifford throughout Oregon, primarily during the 1930s and 1940s. The photographs depict many Oregon landmarks and scenes, including the Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, Mount Hood, the Wallowa Mountains, and the Snake River Canyon. The collection includes numerous images of sport fishing as well as several photographs of Native Americans.

The Ralph I. Gifford Motion Pictures (SG 3) consist of The New Oregon Trail, a tourism film photographed by Ralph I. Gifford for the Oregon State Highway Department, and unedited motion film clips of a variety of subjects, including alpine search and rescue.

The Wanda Gifford Photographs (SG 4) consist of images taken by Wanda Gifford during the late 1940s and 1950s that document post-war Salem, Oregon; agriculture in the Willamette Valley; and scenic views of Oregon landmarks, the northern Cascades in Washington, Glacier National Park in Montana.

The Ben L. Gifford Photographs (SG 5) consist of images taken by Ben L. Gifford in the early-mid 1950s as he completed his senior year at Oregon State College, pursued photographic training at the Fred Archer School of Photography, and then joined the family photography business in Salem, Oregon. The images document agriculture, primarily in the Willamette Valley, and also include images of Timberline Lodge and the Mt. Hood area.

The collection includes notable images of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, the Pendleton Round-Up, and Timberline Lodge taken by Ralph, Wanda, and Ben L. Gifford. They also photographed Crater Lake, Multnomah Falls, and the Silver Falls State Park. Images of Portland, Salem, and Corvallis are included in the collection, as well as many rural scenes in the Willamette Valley, especially Marion County.

The Gifford Collection Photographs by Unknown or Other Photographers (SG 6) consists of images created and assembled by the Gifford Family. Many of the photographs may have been taken by Ralph I. Gifford, his wife Wanda, or his son Ben L. in the course of their photographic work. The photographs include portrait photographs; scenic views of Oregon landmarks; and images of agriculture, primarily in the Willamette Valley, and public buildings and businesses in Salem, Oregon.

The Gifford Collection Documentary Materials (SG 7) consist of paper records, artifacts, and ephemera documenting the Gifford Family's activities as photographers in Oregon.

The Gifford Collection includes the full range of 20th century photographic formats including glass, film, and nitrate negatives; lantern slides; photographic prints of various sizes, photographic postcards, and stereoscopic photographs; and color transparencies. Most of the film negatives are 4x5 format. The collection also includes 35 mm nitrate motion picture film and 16 mm Kodachrome motion picture film as well as artifacts, ephemera, and an oil painting.

A selection of images are available online in the Oregon Multicultural Archives, Best of the Archives, and other digital collections.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation :  

Gifford Photographic Collection (P 218), Oregon State University Archives, Corvallis, Oregon.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The Gifford Photographic Collection is arranged in 7 subgroups: SG 1. Benjamin A. Gifford Photographs, circa 1885 - circa 1920; SG 2. Ralph I. Gifford Photographs, circa 1910s - 1947; SG 3. Ralph I Gifford Motion Pictures, circa 1925-1940; SG 4. Wanda Gifford Photographs, 1948-1958; SG 5. Ben L. Gifford Photographs, 1950-1955; SG 6. Gifford Collection Photographs by Unknown or Other Photographers, circa 1915-1955; and SG 7. Gifford Collection Documentary Materials, 1897-1996.

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 :  

Other collections that contain Benjamin A. Gifford's work include the Extension Service Photographs (P 062), E. R. Jackman Photographic Collection (P 89), Oregon State University Historical Photographs (P 025), and Visual Instruction Department Lantern Slides (P 217). Images by Gifford and his partner, Arthur Prentiss, are available online in the Gerald W. Williams Collection. Images of Native Americans by other photographers are available online as part of the Oregon Multicultural Archives Digital Collection. Other photographs of Oregon landscapes are part of the Gerald W. Williams Collection and the Roland G. Holmes Collection of Oregon and Washington Postcards (P 283). Most of Benjamin A. Gifford's photographs are part of the Gifford Photographs Collection (Org. Lot 982) at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.

Other collections containing Ralph Gifford's work include the Extension and Experiment Station Communications Photograph Collection (P 120), Clackamas County Jersey Cattle Club Scrapbook, Roland G. Holmes Collection of Oregon and Washington Postcards (P 283), Gerald W. Williams Collection, Edwin Russel Jackman Photographs (P 089), and the John E. Smith Collection. Photos taken by Ralph Gifford for the State Highway Commission can be found at the Oregon State Archives in the records of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Other images of Salem, Oregon, are available in the Walter R. Baker Photographs (P 018), Oliver Matthew Photographs (P 118), and Oliver Matthews Collection.


Subjects

    • Corporate Names :
    • Oregon State Capitol (Salem, Or. : 1938- )
    • Pendleton Round-Up.
    • Timberline Lodge (Mount Hood, Or.)
    • Subject Terms :
    • Agriculture--Oregon.
    • Bridges--Oregon.
    • Fishing--Oregon.
    • Indians of North America--Columbia Plateau.
    • Landscape photography--Oregon.
    • Parks--Oregon.
    • Photographers--Oregon.
    • Photography--Oregon.
    • Photography--Study and teaching--California--Los Angeles.
    • Portrait photography--Oregon.
    • Geographical Names :
    • Cascade Range.
    • Columbia River Gorge (Or. and Wash)
    • Columbia River Highway (Or.)
    • Columbia River.
    • Crater Lake (Or.)
    • Hood, Mount (Or.)
    • Marion County (Or.)
    • Multnomah Falls (Or.)
    • Oregon--Description and travel.
    • Pacific Coast (Or.)
    • Portland (Or.)
    • Salem (Or.)
    • Silver Falls State Park (Or.)
    • Wallowa Mountains (Or.)
    • Form or Genre Terms :
    • Cellulose nitrate film.
    • Color transparencies.
    • Ephemera.
    • Film negatives.
    • Glass negatives.
    • Lantern slides.
    • Motion pictures (visual works)
    • Nitrate negatives.
    • Oil paintings (visual works)
    • Photographic postcards.
    • Photographic prints.
    • Stereoscopic photographs.
      • Other Creators :
      • Gifford, Ben L.
      • Gifford, Benjamin A.
      • Gifford, Ralph I.
      • Gifford, Wanda.

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