May 11: Photographer D.F. Barry
Bismarck was home to a number of historical characters in its early years. One of them was photographer D.F. Barry. He is remembered for his photography of Native Americans, frontier forts, battlefields and military officers. His subjects included Sitting Bull, Gall, Rain-in-the-Face, Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley and General George Crook.
David Francis Barry was born in 1854 in New York. His family moved in 1861 to Wisconsin. In 1878, photographer Orlando Scott Goff hired Barry to help in his gallery in Bismarck. Barry honed his skills under Goff as his apprentice, employee and business partner. For several years, Barry traveled to locations like Fort Buford, Fort Yates and other forts in the region, bringing with him a portable photography studio. His photographs are considered classics of the American West.
In 1884, Barry took over Goff’s studio in Bismarck. Barry befriended Buffalo Bill Cody, and photographed the folks Cody’s Wild West Show. The Lakota gave Barry the nickname “Little Shadow Catcher.” An advertisement for Barry’s studio in 1889 boasted of the “largest collection of Indian photographs in the world.”
Barry had also made several visits to the site of Custer’s Last Stand, the 1876 battle where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry met their fate in present-day Montana. His advertising claimed his photos of the site were the only correct set of views ever taken.
Around this date in 1890, Barry was loading his goods to leave Bismarck, due to faded interest in his photographs. He set up shop in booming Superior, Wisconsin. He moved New York in 1897, but missed the west and his old friends. He returned to Superior, and in 1934 he died at age 80. His headstone reads: “The Little Shadow Catcher - Celebrated Photographer of Famous Indians.”
In 1934, the Denver Public Library purchased Barry’s collection of more than 1,000 original glass negatives. His images are now available on the library’s website.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
- Heski, T.M. (1978). The little shadow catcher. Superior Publishing Company: Seattle, WA
- Metz, R. 2014, August 20. Acclaimed western photographers: David Francis Barry. Denver Public Library. Retrieved from: history.denverlibrary.org/news/david-frances-barry-great-western-photographer
- Smithsonian Institution: sova.si.edu/record/NAA.PhotoLot.R81-71?s=0&n=10&t=C&q=Buffalo+Bill%2C+1846-1917&i=4
- Guide to the David Francis Barry Collection at the Leland D. Case Library for Western Historical Studies: library.bhsu.edu/case/research/findingaid/MSS202%20David%20Francis%20Barry%20Collection.pdf
- Valley Fine Art: D.F. Barry Photography: valleyfineart.com/artist-bio/?at=DFBarry
- Find A Grave: David Francis Barry (1854-1934): findagrave.com/memorial/6762227/david-francis-barry
- Sunwall, C. 2008, September 10. Orlando Scott Goff. Prairie Public, Dakota Datebook. Retrieved from: news.prairiepublic.org/show/dakota-datebook-archive/2022-05-19/orlando-scott-goff
- The Bismarck Weekly Tribune. 1884, May 16. Page 3: Barry’s photograph parlors
- Bismarck Weekly Tribune. 1889, August 16. Page 5: D.F. Barry, photographer
- Bismarck Weekly Tribune. 1890, April 18. Page 7: Photographer Barry will leave
- Bismarck Weekly Tribune. 1890, May 16. Page 8: Bismarck in brief
- The Weekly Wisconsin. 1897, January 9. Page 7: Wisconsin small talk
- Portage Register-Democrat. 1934, March 7. Page 3: Famed as an Indian life photographer
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1934, March 12. Page 4: Photographer Barry
- The Montana Standard. 1984, May 27. Page 35: Photos portray West’s combatants