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I enjoy looking at all the old photos of westerners and their firearms, clothing, hats,etc. It is obvious that a number of the photos are taken in a studio. That makes me wonder if the firearms and clothing actually belongs to the person in the photo or do they belong to the studio.

Any input on that?

Joe
 

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I cant prove anything but I agree. Hell, I had it done myself with my ex wife and a girlfriend (not the same time) at Virginia City where they had a lot of old timey clothes available to choose from. They are found in tourist traps., Virginia City, Calico, Knotts Berry Farm etc.
 

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fullsizeoutput_299.jpeg

Here's the real thing. The fellow on the right with the 7.5" 45 Colt strapped on was Carl Wills and the other person is his oldest son Don Wills. At the time of the picture Carl was a rancher in Baca County Colorado, west of Springfield out in the Cedars. He was also a US Deputy Marshall for the southern district of Colorado. He used to have to trail his prisoners over 100 miles to the Federal Court in Trinidad, Colorado on horseback. The picture is not dated so it is pretty much unknown when it was taken. After he was divorced by my great Grandmother due to too much love of hard liquor, he got to rodeoing and ended up out in southern california where he opened a riding academy to teach people to ride etc. He taught a lot of movie stars or so he used to say. His son used to be a farrier at Santa Anita raceway before he died. Carl was buried in Lancaster, California in 1964. All four of his ex wifes were at the funeral. I spent a couple of weeks with him when I was 12 and he taught me to take horses over some pretty high jumps. I liked him and never saw him drunk. But in my family his consumption of alcohol was legendary.
 

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L.A. Huffman was a very prolific photographer before barbed wire and the last of the buffalo in Montana's earlier days.





Huffman has a lot of fine old photos to look at. But there is a pearl handled Colt with a broken grip that shows up in a lot of the shots of cowboys. They used all sorts of "props" inside and outside to get the best effect and tell the best story. But unlike some studio photos that dress up the model in the extreme I think most of Hoffman's phots were trying to realistically tell the stories he photographed mostly out doors. Props were hauled around in his little wagon where ever he went to take photos.
 

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There is a clear difference between the real-life shots, even if somewhat staged, shown above and the quite distinct category of studio portraits which the OP addresses in his question.

These types of portrait photos were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the guns and often the “Wild West” equipment like holsters, hats, and other accoutrements were standard props provided by photographers, who often advertised and recruited customers the same way their modern successors do in Old West theme parks as feralmerril describes above. Many studios had stage sets with themed backgrounds for such photos. Analyzing these for any insight into how folks actually armed themselves and carried back then is unlikely to yield accurate results.
 

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I think the majority of them are staged- some have the subjects in there regular clothes with personal weapons etc. But most are studio shots with props etc..






Really fun to look at them though- I see them as real time machines.



The first two photos above are studio shots may or may not be the weapons the individuals took to combat in the civil war. The third is a outside shot of a union cavalryman with at least two revolvers and a saber- saddled up and ready to head out. I think that is his real load out almost for sure.

When I look at the "time machines", I am damn glad I was born when I was- back in the day a tooth ache could croak you.
 

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L.A. Huffman was a very prolific photographer before barbed wire and the last of the buffalo in Montana's earlier days.





Huffman has a lot of fine old photos to look at. But there is a pearl handled Colt with a broken grip that shows up in a lot of the shots of cowboys. They used all sorts of "props" inside and outside to get the best effect and tell the best story. But unlike some studio photos that dress up the model in the extreme I think most of Hoffman's phots were trying to realistically tell the stories he photographed mostly out doors. Props were hauled around in his little wagon where ever he went to take photos.
+1
 

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I like all these old photos too. Here is probably my favorite, ever since I saw it as a kid in Time Life's 'The Gunfighter's'. The reason is that the two sitting are holding my favorite Colt's. Conversions. In this case 1st model Richards.
 

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This was my gr, gr, grandfather. Born in germany, he joined the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer`s the first to go in the civil war. Taken prisoner at Bull Run, escaped or traded out to fight again and got wounded at Gettysburg. He went through the entire civil war.
The picture is blew up from a much larger picture my wife cropped. It was of a large thrashing crew of about ten people on his farm.
Not too romantic dressed but a "working" picture.
 

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My point was everyone staged photos back in the day. The earlier the photo the more so, it didn't make a differnce if it was a studio shot or the best photographers working out doors.

Photographs were a treasured piece of the family's history, folks wanted to make them "right", often showing the best of what they had.





 

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They pretty much had to be staged or posed due to the size of the cameras and the slow films of the time. Any movement equalled blurry photos.
 
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The OP is asking about too broad a time period. "Old West Photos" could have been from 1855 to 1910. That transcends the Daguerreotype, Wetplate, Dryplate, and Film mediums. It transcends wars, frontier tent camps, then small mining camps, then boom towns. It transcends itinerant wetplate photographers who took wagons or mules into the field, to studios that had props. The question cannot be answered, because every photo is different. It's like asking if every photo of someone sitting on an automobile was "their car."

In general, most indoor shots from the earliest photography til about 1875 were studio shots, or itenerant photographers, who set up a temporary studio, like in Civil War camps. Any outdoor shot is more likely to be unstaged, and is rare on wetplate or dag.
 

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Most photographers sometimes staged scenes or added props, from Gardner on battlefields to Curtis in Indian Camps. It's really hard to know.
 

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We’re getting too lost in generalities here. Of course the technical limitations dictated what photographers could or couldn’t do.

But the posed photo with Old West accoutrements and guns, frequently overdone, was a distinct genre of portrait photography, and while we see some from gold rush days, its heyday coincides with the “popularization” of the West in the later 19th century, through the “dime novel westerns” and most famously Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
 

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I agree. Most old west period photos were done in studios. Maybe the studio in St Louis handed out prop guns. Probably the frontier studio in NM at Fort Sumner did not. So the Billy the Kid tintype was probably his guns and clothing, but many other shots from big studios probably added some items at times. Lots of "probables" Again....it's hard to know.

An example of "probably his guns"



An example of "uncertain ownership".



An example of "definitely their own clothes"

 

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Not staged for sure are the photos of the aftermath of the battle of Wounded Knee. I find them to gruesome to post here. But who's interested may look them up.
 
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