Are These Arizona Rangers? A prominent collector works to identify whether these men were part of the territorial force

jeremy-rowe_western-collecctor._arizona-rangers-historical-photoIncreasing demand for identified historic photographs has driven both the hunt by collectors and the research related to these images. Attributions vary—some are close to ironclad, while others are looser or nonexistent. The evidence, how it is interpreted and the conclusions made become part of each image’s story.

Ideally, multiple copies of an image exist, and one or more is identified. Sadly, sometimes even when other copies exist, none have associated identification. The more scarce the image, the more likely the trail of evidence is weak or missing. Serendipity also plays a part, determining which images make it through time and which surface in collections.

Images of the Arizona Territorial Rangers are scarce, even those taken after 1901. Views of the first era, from the creation of the force in 1860 until it disbanded and joined the Confederate Army in 1861, are individual portraits, like cartes-de-visites of Capt. James Henry Tevis. I’m not aware of any group portraits of the Rangers made during this era.

Images from the second era, beginning in 1882 under Capt. John H. Jackson, are usually in the form of cabinet cards or stereographs. This second iteration of the Arizona Rangers lasted only one month, since funding failed to materialize.

Two images of the third era define the Arizona Rangers. The first is a panorama of 25 armed Rangers posed in a ragged line, some with badges, some without (see p. 22). The other photo shows the 25 Rangers loosely grouped into three rows (see p. 20-21). Both images appear to have been made while the Rangers were in Morenci to stop labor strikes in 1903. Many other images of the Rangers from this era exist as mounted photographs and postcards.

In my collection, I own the cabinet card portraying five armed gentlemen (opposite page). Two of them, with the number two stitched to their bib shirts, have been attributed as being Arizona Rangers. The sewn numbers on front are more typical of firemen as a unit designation, yet the dark wool bib shirt was also worn by miners, troops and others. Military bib shirts in blue date from the late 1870s and early 1880s, a period consistent with the dates of the second era of the Arizona Rangers.

My copy came to me about 15 years ago with a group of other Arizona-related material; the collector verbally attributed that the photo depicted Arizona Rangers. As other sources identify their copies of this photo as Arizona Rangers, I have become fairly comfortable with the attribution. Yet I would still prefer a definitive trail of evidence—period identification on a copy, identification of the individuals, a photographer imprint. To date, I have not physically examined these other copies nor reviewed their provenance.

That said, the cabinet card format appears correct for this second era of the Arizona Rangers. Based on the attribution of the other known Ranger photos, this appears to be the only second-era Arizona Ranger photograph to date.

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