David Francis Barry

1854 – 1934

David Francis Barry was one of a handful of photographers who made unique contributions to the historical record, utilizing the new and ever-evolving technology of image capture on glass plates. To people in the eastern United States, and in Europe, photographs of the Western Frontier were a new look into a wonderful world beyond their wildest imaginings, and good cabinet card photographs of the right subjects sold like hotcakes. Today, we can still look through Barry's lens into the eyes of major figures - Buffalo Bill, George Armstrong Custer, Army Generals, Sitting Bull, Gall, and a host of other Native Chiefs.

Barry was born near Rochester, New York on March 6, 1854, and in 1861 his family moved west to Wisconsin. Around 1870 Barry worked carrying water for an itinerant photographer named O.S. Goff, a relationship that was to be reestablished a few years later. Not much is known of Barry's life from 1870 until Goff hired him in 1878 to help him in his gallery in Bismarck, Dakota Territory. Here, Barry learned the finer points of photography and became Goff's apprentice, business partner, and employee.

Between 1878 and 1883, Barry traveled to Fort Buford, Fort Yates, and other forts in the Dakota Territory. He went as far north as Fort Assiniboine in Montana. For these trips he used a portable photographic studio in which he took most of his portraits. He photographed famous Native American chiefs, warriors, scouts, and women including Sitting Bull, Rain in the Face, Gall, Red Cloud, and Shooting Star. Barry also photographed some of the most important forts and battlefields of the Plains Wars, military officers including General George A. Crook, soldiers, trappers, and pioneers. In 1883 Barry returned to Bismarck where he operated a studio and gallery. He established a friendship with Buffalo Bill Cody and photographed members of his Wild West Show.

Many of Barry's images have become iconic symbols of the American West, and have preserved incomparable glimpses into a long-gone world.

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