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William Stinson Soule - Photographer (1836 - 1908)

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

While reading a book about the history of the United States, I happened upon one of those beautiful black and white photos of a Plains Indian taken back in the 1860s. The photographer's name was listed as William Stinson Soule. Being married to a Soule descendant I had to ask whether they were related and who was William Stinson Soule.

Further investigation led to a wealth of information on the subject. Apparently William Soule is my husband's sixth cousin and was widely known for his monochrome studies of the southern Plains Indians during the late 1860s and early 1870s.

Soule was able to photograph a wide variety of tribes including Kiowas, Apaches, Cheyenne, Arapahos and Comanches. His work is considered the most comprehensive of the period and demonstrated a friendly working relationship between himself and his subjects, even though many were captives. Soule's dignified depiction of chieftans such as Satanka, Powder Face and Stumbling Bear, among many others, has left an indelible record of their strength and resolution during the most bitter of times; their lands and customs being

consumed by the inexorable progression of white settlers.

Soule enlisted to fight in the Civil War and was wounded at Antietam. Afterwards he operated a photographic studio in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania which sadly burned down. Never fully recovered from his war injury, Soule went west for his health, taking his photographic equipment and arrived in 1868 at Ford Dodge, Kansas. He followed General Sheridan's troops to Camp Supply and finally settling at the new construction of Fort Sill in Oklahoma, deep in Kiowa and Comanche territory, where he remained until 1874. Soule returned to Boston where he remained until his death in 1908. Undoubtedly, Soule's photography is invaluable and has left us with a profound record of the Plains Indians in their last days.

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