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