Music to Our Eyes The earliest-known outdoor tintype of Arizona Territory preserves a military band scene at Camp Verde.

Camp Verde Military Band True West
Measuring 4.25 by 5.5 inches, this 1871 half-plate tintype of Camp Verde in Arizona Territory is believed to be the earliest outdoor tintype that was definitively taken in Arizona. Earlier photographs of the territory in other formats exist, some of which are shown in this article.
— Courtesy Collection of Jeremy Rowe Vintage Photography, VintagePhoto.com —

Across the bottom of a half-plate tintype, in the emulsion, was scribed, “Camp Verde, Arizona.” The 1871 image, the earliest identified tintype taken outdoors that has been attributed to Arizona Territory, initially surfaced in a catalog in 1978, then disappeared for almost 40 years before resurfacing last year.

The tintype shows a military camp scene with two tents and a group of soldiers mugging for the camera with their musical instruments. Eleven of the figures had been numbered as well, but the key with names and identities is long gone.   

Camp Verde Military Band True West
Rudolph D’Heureuse made the earliest extant photographic images of Arizona, in 1863, the same year Arizona became a U.S. Territory. While working for the Geological Survey of California that explored the Mohave Desert, D’Heureuse produced views of Fort Mohave, its troops and the area’s Paiutes. Shown at left is Capt. Atchison, his orderly and clerk in the rear of his dwelling at Fort Mohave.
— Courtesy UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library —

The U.S. Army formed its 3rd Cavalry on May 19, 1846. Many famous figures of Western history, including John C. Frémont, Samuel H. Walker and George B. Crittenden, served in its squadrons, organized into troops, companies and artillery batteries.

The 1st Squadron included Company C, nicknamed the “Crazyhorse” infantry, which was initially commanded by Samuel H. Walker and armed with his famous Colt Walker revolvers.

Camp Verde Military Band True West
Shown above are Paiutes and troops milling outside the carpenter shop at Fort Mohave.

The 3rd Cavalry saw distinguished service and suffered heavy losses in the Mexican-American War. After the war, during the first half of the 1850s, the cavalry was sent west—to Oregon and California—with its companies assigned to locations as diverse as Vancouver in Canada, Havana in Cuba and New Orleans in Louisiana.

The 3rd Cavalry originally served in what is now New Mexico and Arizona in 1856, where Company C saw duty in battles against Navajos and Mescalero Apaches.

Camp Verde Military Band True West
Following D’Heureuse, the next photographer to leave evidence of Arizona Territory was H.H. Edgerton. He entered the territory in 1864, and during his trip, captured this stereograph of Papago warriors, white scouts and a guide, in front of Old Camp in Aravaipa Canyon, northeast of Tucson. Around 1865, he presented this and other photographs to Capt. Edgar Wakeman, who piloted the steamship John L. Stephens during the early 1860s.
— Courtesy Collection of Jeremy Rowe Vintage Photography, VintagePhoto.com —

A few years later, Company C traveled east into Texas, as part of the Union force that took on the Confederates early in the Civil War. Company C continued to fight both Indians and Confederates in Texas until the soldiers’ transfer to Memphis, Tennessee, in December 1862.

After service ranging from Corinth, Mississippi; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Fayetteville, Arkansas; and Huntsville, Alabama, Company C ended the war stationed in Arkansas.

Camp Verde Military Band True West
Carlo Gentile also took stereoviews of Arizona Territory starting in 1864. This circa 1870 photograph taken by Gentile shows the first Indian school in Arizona Territory at the Pima Reservation—a group of about 50 boys and girls.
— Courtesy Library of Congress —

The 3rd Cavalry returned to New Mexico Territory once again in April 1866. Company C was originally headquartered at Fort Wingate and served as escorts for surveyors, travelers and settlers, protecting them from the Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas, Navajos and Utes.

In 1870, Company C marched from Fort Wingate to Arizona Territory’s capital, Prescott, before moving on to Fort Rawlins southeast of the town. The regimental headquarters for the company was moved to Camp Verde in April 1871.

Camp Verde Military Band True West
Timothy H. O’Sullivan captured outdoor views of Arizona Territory during Lt. George M. Wheeler’s 1871 expedition west of the 100th Meridian, but Rowe believes his Camp Verde tintype is the earliest yet to surface that can be definitively identified as taken in Arizona. Shown above is Sullivan setting up his camera and portable darkroom tent at the foot of the Grand Canyon, precise location unknown.
— Courtesy Library of Congress —

In June, President Ulysses S. Grant assigned Gen. George Crook to command the 3rd Cavalry and Military Department of Arizona, replacing Gen. George Stoneman after word had reached the East about the horrific Camp Grant Massacre of the Aravaipa Apaches that occurred under Stoneman’s command on April 30. Crook arrived in Tucson from the east, wearing his plain canvas suit, on June 19.

In July, Crook, with about 200 soldiers and scouts, marched to Camp Bowie and then Fort Apache en route to Camp Verde on the general’s initial tour of the territory.

Camp Verde Military Band True West
No photographs were taken during Maj. John Wesley Powell’s first expedition down the Colorado River, in 1869, during which he reached Arizona Territory. In the summer of 1871, William Henry Jackson joined Maj. Powell’s second expedition down that river. We don’t know if this Jackson photo of Powell’s boat, Emma Dean, was taken in Arizona Territory or elsewhere around the route. The party surveyed Kaibab Plateau in Arizona Territory in the winter of 1871-72, so the picture could be from that visit.
— Courtesy Collection of Jeremy Rowe Vintage Photography, VintagePhoto.com —

The 3rd Cavalry served with Crook in Arizona Territory only briefly, leaving by steamboat from Fort Yuma in January 1872. As a result, this elusive tintype probably dates from the late summer or early fall of 1871.

Camp Verde Military Band True West
Fall 1871 photo of the Wheeler crew, resupplying at Fort Whipple near Prescott.
— Courtesy Collection of Jeremy Rowe Vintage Photography, VintagePhoto.com —

The 3rd Cavalry continued service in many famous, and infamous, battles, including the Little Bighorn Campaign and Battle of Rosebud Creek, and saw action continuously in conflicts that included the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan in the 21st century.

Jeremy Rowe is the author of Arizona Stereographs, 1865-1930. Visit VintagePhoto.com for more on his collection.

What do you think?

Jeremy Rowe

Jeremy Rowe has collected, researched and written about 19th-century and early 20th-century photographs for more than 30 years. He has written several books and articles on the history of photography, and has curated museum exhibitions and a permanent exhibit at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is emeritus professor at Arizona State University and a senior research scientist at New York University.