James Brownlee Rankin photograph collection: Charles M. Russell, circa 1875-1939  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Rankin, James Brownlee, 1900-1962
James Brownlee Rankin photograph collection: Charles M. Russell
circa 1875-1939 (inclusive)
1 box
138 photographic prints and 1 tintype
1 nitrate film negative
3 copy negatives (2 safety and 1 nitrate film)
Collection Number
Lot 009
James Brownlee Rankin, a New York and San Bernardino, California, teacher and historian, collected information concerning Montana artist Charles M. Russell in preparation for writing a Russell biography and an illustrated catalog of his work. The photograph collection includes a few views of Rankin, but primarily consists of photographs of Charles M. Russell, Russell's studio and residences, the Russell family and their friends, and people who knew Russell or collected his work.
Montana Historical Society, Research Center Archives
Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives
225 North Roberts
PO Box 201201
Helena MT
Telephone: 406-444-2681
Fax: 406-444-5297
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

James Brownlee Rankin was born January 31, 1900, in Denver, Colorado, the son of Reverend James Doig Rankin and Daisy Meloy Rankin. In his college years, Rankin developed a great love for books. Later he also developed an interest in art, particularly western art. This avocation led him to begin the collection of books illustrated by western artists, notably Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington.

By 1936 Rankin had developed a very strong interest in the work and life of Charles M. Russell. That summer, he decided to research and write a biography of the artist and produce an illustrated catalog of all of Russell's known works. This was his primary goal and the object of his free time until 1940.

Rankin took ads in national and regional newspapers as well as pertinent magazines. From this, he developed a wide range of contacts that had known Russell, knew of him, or owned works by the Montana artist. He made extensive trips to interview individuals and to catalog Russell's art.

Rankin moved to Pasadena, California, in 1939, to be closer to his father and to pursue his teaching and research interests. He married Josephine Crenshaw of New York City in 1940. He never lost his lifelong interest in Russell, but did not continue working on the biography/catalog after that year.

Ultimately he destroyed his manuscript after the publication of a Russell biography by a friend, who Rankin believed, had plagiarized much of his earlier work. The one piece Rankin did publish on Russell was a bibliography of published works illustrated by the artist which appeared in American Book Illustrations in 1938. James Brownlee Rankin died at San Bernardino, California, August 2, 1962.

Charles Marion Russell was born March 19, 1864, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Mary Elizabeth Mead (daughter of Edward Mead) and Charles Silas Russell. He had one sister, Susan Mead Russell (who married T.G. Portis) and brothers: Silas Bent, Edward, Guy, and Wolfert. Silas Bent Russell had a son and daughter, Austin and Isabel. Florence M.N. Russell was Charles M. Russell's stepmother.

At the age of sixteen, Russell’s parents sent him to Montana under the guardianship of a sheepherder from who he soon parted. Working for some time as a cowboy in the West, he continued to sketch, spending his summers on the open range and his winters in various frontier towns, where he often painted pictures in exchange for food or lodging. He sent the original of "Last of the 5000" to Louis Stadler of the Stadler and Kaufman partnership.

In 1896 Russell married Nancy Cooper in Ben Roberts' home at Cascade, Montana. Under her influence and direction he developed from an itinerant cowboy into an artist who painted pictures for a living. The Russell’s adopted a son, Jack Cooper Russell.

By 1920 Russell had achieved financial success and made frequent trips to New York, where he painted for such patrons as Malcomb MacKay and Phillip G. Cole. Russell seldom used models for his paintings or sculpture and took pride in the accuracy of his memory for the details depicted in his scenes of cowboy and Indian life in the West.

For more than a quarter of a century Russell produced works depicting the West as he had known it before the advent of barbed wire, the automobile, etc. He maintained a studio in Great Falls, Montana, and for a brief period in Pasadena, California. Charles M. Russell died October 24, 1926.

James W. Bollinger, William S. Hart, Harry Stanford, and Phil Weinard were among the collectors of works by Russell.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The photographs in the James Brownlee Rankin photograph collection: Charles M. Russell span the years 1875-1939. The collection contains a few photographs of James Rankin, but the majority of the photographs are images of Charles M. Russell, Russell's family and friends, Russell's residences and studio, and people who knew Russell or collected his work. There are a few photographs of Russell's Native American friends and the Russells and their friends dressed in Indian costumes, and of the hearse at Russell's funeral. The collection contains 138 photographic prints arranged by subject.

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

Many of the photographs in this collection are attributed to specific photographers or photographic studios and lists of these photographers and/or studios follow. However, numerous photographs are unattributed and are not listed.

Photographs in the collection are the work of the following Montana photographers:

H.C. Eklund Studio, Great Falls and Fort Benton (3 photographs)

Leslie Lyle, Helena (1 photograph)

Pearl Thompson, Great Falls (1 photograph)

Thiri Aerial View Service (T.A.V.S.), Polson (1 photograph)

Yaw Photo Shop, Great Falls (3 photographs)

Photographs in the collection are the work of the following non-Montana photographers:

A.J. Fox, St. Louis (1 photograph)

Free Studio, Davenport, Iowa (1 photograph)

Gilbert and Bacon, Philadelphia (1 photograph)

Habenicht (1 photograph)

T.L. Rivers, St. Louis (1 photograph)

Scholten, St Louis, Missouri (1 photograph)

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Montana Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Photograph Archives collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Photograph Archives before any reproduction use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in its collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

James Brownlee Rankin photograph collection: Charles M. Russell. Lot 009. Box and folder number. Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The photographs are arranged by subject and organized into the following 18 subject-based series: Series I. Rankin Family, Series II. Russell Family, Series III. Russell Family Residences, Series IV. Russell Studios, Series V. Mead Family, Series VI. Portis Family, Series VII. Art, Series VIII. Artists, Series IX. Campbell Family, Series X. Cities and Towns, Series XI. David Family, Series XII. Groups, Series XIII. Landscapes, Series XIV. Marchand Family, Series XV. Men, Series XVI. Native Americans, Series XVII. Roundups, and Series XVIII. Women.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition information available upon request.

Processing Note

The bulk of the photographs were transferred from the Archives, MC 162, in accession PAc 83-107. One photographic print was also transferred from each of the following accessions, PAc 99-68, PAc 2000-40, and PAc 2004-13. Images from these four accessions were combined to form this collection.

The collection was reprocessed by Rebecca Kohl in 1999.

Separated Materials

2 duplicates of photographs already cataloged in the Huffman photograph collection were separated from the collection.

Related Materials

See the James Brownlee Rankin research collection: Charles M. Russell, 1910-1962, MC 162. Biographical information was taken from MC 162 biography, biographical reference books, and vertical files.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series I:  Rankin FamilyReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 1
James Brownlee Rankin, alone and with unidentified women

Series II:  Russell FamilyReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 2
Charles M. Russell: portraits, undated; wearing Native American dress and holding gun, undated; seated on his horse Monte in front of the Park Hotel, Central Avenue, Great Falls, 1899; in front of his studio, Great Falls, no date; at his mountain lodge, undated; and fishing, undated
undated; 1899
1 / 3
Charles M. Russell: portraits, undated; and view with horse Nena, Great Falls, May, 1913
undated; 1913
1 / 4
Charles M. Russell with Nancy Russell: circular Kodak card photograph of both of them taken circa 1896; horseback riding with Young-Hunter, 1915; seated with pistol and rifle, undated; with Austin and Isabel Russell and CMR and Isabel in Indian costume, circa 1910; with Fergus Mead while painting "In the Wake of the Buffalo Runners," circa 1911; with groups including J.W. Bollinger and the Charles Schlatzlein family at Bull Head Lodge, undated
circa 1896; circa 1910-1911; 1915; undated
1 / 5
Charles M. Russell with others: carte de visite of CMR and Archie Douglas in uniform at Burlington Military School in New Jersey, circa 1878; on horseback with Hank Warehime, Pete Vann, Henry L. Keeton, and Dan Martin, 1883; twirling rope with Albert Trigg in front of log cabin studio, undated; with Phil Weinard in Native American dress, Helena, 1888; with Weinard, Big Belly, and Charlie, Palliser Hotel, Calgary Stampede, 1919
undated; circa 1878; 1883; 1888; 1919
1 / 6
Charles M. Russell with others: William S. Hart; son Jack Russell; James W. Bollinger and John Lewis
Charles M. Russell with Bill Rance
1 / 7
Charles M. Russell's funeral: horse drawn hearse in front of Great Falls home and studio
1 / 8
Florence M.N. Russell (CMR's stepmother): with Marion and Christmas tree, 1939; on the beach, undated; with Helen (in fur coat) and Homer Britzman, and Britzmans' dog in Pasadena, California, 1937-1938
undated; 1937-1938; 1939
1 / 9
Carte de visite portrait of James Russell (CMR’s paternal grandfather); Mary Elizabeth Mead Russell and Charles Silas Russell (CMR’s mother and father); Edward Russell, Guy Russell and Wolfert Russell (CMR’s siblings)
1 / 10
Nancy Cooper Russell: portrait; and with Louise Fernald, Josephine Trigg, and Jack Russell)
1 / 11
Silas Bent Russell (CMR’s brother); Austin Russell (Silas's son) with Bill Kreighoff sitting in front of fireplace illustrated with CMR's art and autographed screens at Bull Head Lodge, Lake McDonald; and portrait of Silas's his daughter Isabel Russell Wenneis

Series III:  Russell Family Residences Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 12
Drawing of Charles S. Russell family residence, Oakhill Farm, 1875; Jake Hoover cabin, undated; Ben Roberts house and C.M. Russell cabin, Cascade, Montana, circa 1937; and gazebo at Bull Head Lodge, Lake MacDonald, no date)
undated; 1875; circa 1937

Series IV:  Russell Studios Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 13
Charles M. Russell studio, Great Falls: exterior view showing stone wall in front with drawing of buffalo head, undated; and interior view when a museum showing display cases with artifacts, 1937)
undated; 1937

Series V:  Mead Family Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 14
Portraits of Edward Mead (CMR's maternal grandfather) and his second wife

Series VI:  Portis FamilyReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 15
Susan Mead Russell Portis (CMR’s sister) and her husband, T.G. Portis

Series VII:  ArtReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 16
Sculptures: Indians and tepee, probably by C.M. Russell; plaster cast of Russell by Jessie Lincoln, selected for American Hall of Fame

Series VIII:  ArtistsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 17
Erin Hoy standing with his pencil portrait of Charles M. Russell, circa 1939; portrait; and same portrait in the front window of THE MINT bar, Great Falls, circa 1939
circa 1939

Series IX:  Campbell FamilyReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 18
Mr. and Mrs. Alex Campbell with Mina Mathey, and James B. Rankin, at the Campbell home in Great Falls, Montana

Series X:  Cities and Towns Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 19
Great Falls, Montana: public library

Series XI:  David FamilyReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 20
I. Finch David: sitting on bench with an unidentified man (an American flag is reflected in the window behind them), Kendall, MT, undated; standing with unidentified man, July 25, 1937; on horseback, undated; standing beside the grave of his wife, Grace, in Utica cemetery, July 26, 1937; with I.F. David Jr., W.A. Shaules, and automobile, September 6, 1938)
undated; 1937-1938

Series XII:  GroupsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 21
Groups - Unidentified: includes people seated on a large rock formation and people standing in front of a house

Series XIII:  LandscapesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 22
Giant Springs and Missouri River near Great Falls

Series XIV:  Marchand FamilyReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 23
John N. Marchand and Mrs. Marchand, wearing cowboy clothes; and posed in artists' studio

Series XV:  MenReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 24
Judge James W. Bollinger, undated; Will Crawford, New York illustrator, alone and with J.B. Rankin, undated; Pony Bill Davis, undated; Wallis Huidekoper, owner of American Ranch, Two Dot, MT, undated; Charles M. Joys on horseback, undated; Henry Keeton, undated; Frank B. Linderman and Harry P. Stanford, Kalispell, MT, July 16, 1937; and James W. Masterson, undated
undated; 1937
1 / 25
Ben Roberts standing in front of his home and shop in Helena, MT, July 23, 1937; Louis Stadler, Helena, MT, July 23, 1937; F.E. Stranahan, undated; Buck Taylor "King of the Cow-boys", undated; W.C. Tyler, St. Louis, undated; Robert Vaughn wearing buckskin coat and holding a gun, undated; and Phil Weinard dressed as an Indian and in a suit, undated
undated; 1937
1 / 26
Men: includes a tintype of unidentified men wearing Indian headdresses and unidentified portraits

Series XVI:  Native AmericansReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 27
Mo-See-Ma-Ma-Mos (Young Boy), Cree Indian, portraits and standing by C.M. Russell's grave; and portrait of One Bull, Hunkpapa Sioux

Series XVII:  RoundupsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 28
Judith Basin roundup crew on horseback

Series XVIII:  WomenReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 29
Cassandra O. Phelps standing next to hollyhocks in front of her cottage, July 26

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Ethnic Costume.
  • Art, American -- Montana
  • Indians of North America
  • Women -- Montana.

Personal Names

  • Russell, Charles M. (Charles Marion), 1864-1926.
  • Russell, Nancy Cooper, -1940.

Family Names

  • Russell family.

Geographical Names

  • Great Falls (Mont.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Kodak card photographs.
  • Photographic prints.