Lee Moorhouse photographs
Historic Photograph Collections: The Pendleton Group
Lee Moorhouse photographs, 1888-1925.
Collection number: PH036
Extent: 99 linear ft. (328 containers)
Access restrictions: None.
Publication rights: Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish images must be submitted to the Photographs Curator of Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Provenance: The collection was donated by the Moorhouse family in 1948.
Preferred citation: [Identification of item], Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_[item number], Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
On-line access: Additional Moorhouse images are available in our Digital Collections.
Processed by: Normandy S. Helmer
Date Completed: February 2009
Major 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. During his lifetime Moorhouse achieved substantial acclaim in the US and in Europe for his images of tribal people, including his signature image, "The Cayuse Twins" [one version shown at left, PH036_6459]
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. A post office in his name operated 1880-1883. 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 Easter 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 assembled a magnificent collection of "Indian curios"--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 people who came to sit for portraits. Like the work of Edward Curtis, who used some of Moorhouse's curios on his subject, the posed portraits reflect a romanticized view and cannot be considered accurate ethnographic documents. However, the images taken on the reservation are important records of tribal clothing and dwellings. Lee Moorhouse commonly inscribed the name of the sitter on his negatives, a relatively unusual act that has played an important role in identifying members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla.
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 such as the Portland, Oregon West Shore. His 1898 images of the crying and smiling babies in cradleboards, known as the "Cayuse Twins," sold by the thousands. He published multiple editions of a Souvenir album of noted Indian photographs that provided romanticized captions to his tribal images.
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. Pendleton was surrounded by wheat farms and cattle ranches, and hosted fairs, parades, circuses, and theatrical troupes while creating irrigation projects and increasing rail and shipping lines. Umatilla County was an economic engine and a vibrant place, and Lee Moorhouse captured it all through his lens.
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. The East Oregonian put his obituary on the front page to honor "one of the best known and beloved pioneers."
1. Self-portrait, Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_5042.
2. Cayuse Twins, Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_06459.
3. Moorhouse and his family by their Pendleton home, Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_2563.
4. Lee the businessman, portrait by W.S. Bowman, C.W. Furlong collection, PH244_0195.
5. "Blanket portrait" of Anna Coyote, Cayuse tribal woman, in beaded deer-tail dress and leggings, with cornhusk hat, quirt, hatchet-style pipe and beaded bag, in Moorhouse yard. Dress dated c. 1860-188., Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_4007
6. Moorhouse and his Curios, Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_1439.
7. Moorhouse on the reservation, preparing to take photos of his tribal wards, Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_5034.
8. Detail of Princess Redbird competing on a bucking horse at Pendleton Roundup, Lee Moorhouse collection, PH036_3578.
Scope and Content Note
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. 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 [link], 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 [link] 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.
The Moorhouse negative inventory is based on a database that has been assembled over several decades. It has not yet been comprehensively updated and verified. Titles are transcribed from the negatives when possible. Additional information is enclosed in square brackets. Please be aware that names, particularly tribal ones, have generally not been regularized and Moorhouse's notes on tribal affiliation are highly variable.
- Full list of images, by image number
- Images by other photographers
- Tribal images
- Rodeo images
- Agriculture & ranching
- Hotels & resorts
This collection forms part of the Pendleton Group, a series of photograph collections from the Pendleton area, 1880s-1940s. Images from certain photographers, such as Moorhouse, may be found in many of these collections. The Pendleton Group includes the Lee Drake photographs (PH021), the Charles W. Furlong photographs (PH244), the Walter S. Bowman photographs (PH004), and the Electric Studio/O.G. Allen photographs (PH033). Related images are included in the photographs of Park Weed Willis, Moorhouse's brother-in-law (PH288). The Lee Moorhouse papers consist of a few letters (A 082).
The National Anthropological Archives [link] holds negatives of tribal people, selected during the WPA survey. Following Moorhouse's death, the family donated negatives of portraits of the townspeople of Pendleton to the Umatilla County Historical Society. Many repositories in the Northwest hold vintage prints of Moorhouse images, which he gave to his sitters. The Curio collection was partially dispersed; the remnants are now in the collection of Tamastslikt Cultural Center [link].