Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Prettyman, William S.

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

PRETTYMAN, WILLIAM S. (1858–1933).

One of Oklahoma's best-known frontier photographers, William S. Prettyman was born in Maryland on November 12, 1858.He moved to Emporia, Kansas, in 1879. After employment in various jobs, he became a photographer's apprentice in Arkansas City, Kansas. Following his apprenticeship, he opened his own photography gallery there.

After photographing a group of Osage Indians in his studio, he became interested in Indian Territory. Beginning with his first trip in 1883, he made at least one per year over the next decade to photograph the existing landscape and cultures. As a result of these numerous photographic expeditions, Prettyman produced many prints and glass plate negatives that have survived to the present.

He photographed a variety of people and events south of the Kansas state line in present Oklahoma. Some of his best work included the cowboys of the Cherokee Outlet, also known as the Cherokee Strip, and various American Indian groups living in Indian Territory. He was also present for the opening of the Outlet in September 1893. Oklahoma historian Muriel H. Wright noted that his work that day in capturing images of settlers participating in the Run of 1893 was an especially valuable landmark in news photography.

In 1893 Prettyman opened a photography gallery in Blackwell, Oklahoma Territory. In 1905 he sold his business there and completely abandoned his large collection of glass plate negatives and prints. He moved to California and established a wholesale drug company. William S. Prettyman died in California on February 11, 1933.

John R. Lovett


Robert E. Cunningham, A Frontier Photographic Record by W. S. Prettyman (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1957).

William S. Prettyman Collection, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, Oklahoma.

Browse By Topic

Arts and Humanities




The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
John R. Lovett, “Prettyman, William S.,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=PR010.

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.