Lee Moorhouse photographs , 1880-1920

Overview of the Collection

Moorhouse, Lee, 1850-1926
Lee Moorhouse photographs
1880-1920 (inclusive)
100.5 linear feet, (319 containers)
Collection Number
PH 036
Thomas Leander "Lee" Moorhouse (1850-1926) was a photographer and businessman in Pendleton, Oregon. From 1888 to 1916 he produced over 9,000 images documenting urban, rural, and Native American life in the Columbia Basin and Umatilla County, Oregon. The collection consists primarily of glass-plate negatives.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public.

Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.

The entire collection of glass-plate negatives has been digitized and is available on-line. Access to the negatives is restricted for preservation purposes.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Thomas Leander "Lee" Moorhouse was born Feb. 28, 1850 in Marion County, Iowa. In 1861 the family emigrated on the Oregon Trail to Walla Walla, WA; Moorhouse spent the first year living with the Henry Bowman family, acquaintances from Iowa, in the Pendleton vicinity. He attended Whitman Seminary in Walla Walla. As a young man he traveled and worked throughout the west, prospecting in Boise, breaking horses in Helena, and droving cattle in Nevada. He studied at a Portland business college briefly.

Moorhouse returned to the Pendleton area in 1874, first using his surveying skills from the Oregon & California railway on behalf of the county. He was then employed by Lot Livermore, a prominent merchant. Moorhouse married Sara Ella Willis in 1876 and the couple moved to Umatilla Landing. He served as a field secretary to the governor during the Bannock War, and from 1879-1883 was assistant adjutant general of the third brigade of the Oregon State Militia. The rank of "major" stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Lee Moorhouse was a stockholder in Prospect Farm, near Stanfield, and served as its manager. From there Moorhouse went back to Pendleton and joined Livermore in the Lee Moorhouse and Company General Store. In 1889 Moorhouse became Agent for the Umatilla Indian Reservation. He oversaw a survey of the land, allotment to individual tribe members, and sale of the "surplus" land under the 1891 Allotment Act. Returning to business in 1891 he brokered wheat for a while and then entered into insurance sales. Moorhouse was very active in civic work in Pendleton, serving as mayor in 1885 and as treasurer and surveyor in 1888. He was a member of the Elks and active in the Repulbican party. Lee Moorhouse served on the Oregon Geographic Names board for several years. He was admitted to the Oregon Bar in 1900 but never practiced law. He served as clerk of the Eastern Division of the Oregon Supreme Court from 1901-1926. .

Lee Moorhouse was interested in photography early in life, possibly learning from Henry Bowman's cousin, professional photographer W.S. Bowman, and he served as president of the Pendleton Camera Club for several years. Moorhouse became a passionate and prolific photographer in the 1880s, photographing the people and events of the city of Pendleton, visiting the reservation, and making portraits of tribal members in the backyard of his home. During his life he also assembled a collection of Native American artifacts--baskets, weapons, regalia, bags and horse trappings--from a variety of tribal cultures. He exhibited the collection at local fairs and used it to adorn the tribal members who came to sit for photographs; many of the images in the collection contain a mixture of artifacts from different Native tribes.

Moorhouse considered himself an amateur, but mastered the equipment of professional photographers: gelatin dry glass-plate negatives, large cameras, and a tripod. His work appeared on postcards and in many publications. In addition to his work on the reservation and his composed tribal portraits, Lee Moorhouse was an enthusiastic participant and documenter of progress and events in the region.

Lee Moorhouse had three daughters (Celestine "Lessie", Augusta "Gussie" and LaVelle) and a son, Mark. Mark Moorhouse was a founder of the Pendleton Roundup. Lee Moorhouse died Jun.1, 1926.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection consists of approximately 6,500 glass-plate negatives. Moorhouse also acquired negatives from other photographers including O.G. Allen, W.S. Bowman, C. Moore, Frank H. Nowell, and Thomas H. Rutter, in some cases replacing the photographer's name with his own. The images are arranged by the photographer's number. In cases where the photographer's number was a duplicate, a substitute unique identifier has been assigned. There is a small group of copy prints and several vintage prints. The collection also contains a cursory photographer's logbook and an automobile mirror imprinted with advertising for Moorhouse's insurance business.

The Moorhouse collection was inventoried as a WPA project. (There are entertaining messages from the clerk who performed the inventory and complained about working in the basement of the house while the residents tromped about upstairs.) While the bulk of the negatives are at the University of Oregon, about 150 images of tribal peoples were chosen for what is now the National Anthropological Archives and portraits of the townspeople of Pendleton were given to the Umatilla County Historical Society. The Moorhouse home burned to the ground in later years, destroying most of the photographer's documentation.

The primary importance of the Moorhouse collection is its depictions of tribal people: Cayuse,Yakama, Umatilla, Colville, Walla Walla, Palouse, Wisham, Warm Springs, Nez Perce, Flathead, Bannock, and Crow. While the portraits posed in front of the blanket backdrop are suspect due to his provision of regalia and artifacts from his "curio" collection, the reservation images are more valuable documents. Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and the Tamastslikt Cultural Center have used the images for historical purposes and to identify tribal artifacts now scattered to museums and private collections.

The remainder of the images documents the economy, landscape and events of Umatilla County and the region. Moorhouse also traveled to Portland, for the national Elks convention, and in 1901 went to the site of the Little Bighorn to view the battlefield.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Cayuse Indians--Social life and customs--Photographs
  • Indian agents--Oregon
  • Indian art--Oregon--Photographs
  • Indians of North America--Oregon--Photographs
  • Landscape photography--Oregon
  • Photographers--Oregon--Pendleton
  • Rodeos--Oregon--Pendleton--Photographs
  • Umatilla Indians--Social life and customs--Photographs
  • Walla Walla Indians--Social life and customs--Photographs

Corporate Names

  • Pendleton Round-Up

Geographical Names

  • Umatilla County (Or.)--Photographs
  • Umatilla Indian Reservation (Or.)--Photographs

Form or Genre Terms

  • Glass negatives--Oregon--1897-1920