An adobe chapel in Los Ranchos, New Mexico, 1938.

A Pictorial History of New Mexico

curated from public archives
and personal collections

The historic pictures in this archive chronicle life in New Mexico up through the early 20th-century. Old photographs, vintage documents and ephemera, and other materials form a narrative of the people, places, and events that have shaped New Mexico's cultural identity.

Jun 20, 2018

Photograph portrait of a young Clara Belle Williams wearinng a light-colored dress with a cameo brooch, and beaded choker necklace.

Clara Belle Williams (1885–1994) was the first African-American graduate of New Mexico State University, in 1937. She was born Clara Belle Drisdale, the daughter of sharecroppers in Plum, Texas, in 1885. She graduated from Prairie New Normal and Independent College (now Prairie View A & M University) in 1905 as valedictorian of her class. In 1917 she married Jasper Williams, and eventually the couple settled in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

While teaching at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Las Cruces, Williams began to take classes in the summer of 1928 at New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now New Mexico State University). Professors would not allow her in the classrooms because she was black, so she took notes from the hallways—standing up, as she was not even provided a chair. Williams persevered, and in 1937, at the age of 51, she graduated with a B.A. in English. She was not allowed to walk with her class in the graduation ceremony, which did not stop some of the other graduates from boycotting the event. Williams continued to take graduate classes well into the 1950s.

May 7, 2018

Firemen work to extinguish flames at Grant's Opera House, Railroad Ave. and Third Street in Albuquerque, as a crowd looks on.

In June, 1898, a fire broke out at the Grant Building, on the northwest corner of Railroad Ave. (now Central Ave.) and Third Street in Albuquerque. Volunteer firemen fought the flames, but the building was destroyed. The Grant building housed several stores on the first floor, and the Grant’s Opera House on the second floor. It was later rebuilt, but without the opera house.

Apr 9, 2018

Two men in suits sit in wooden rolling chairs in front of open rolltop desks. A dog sleeps in front of the stove. Framed pictures, documents, and advertisements hang on the walls from wires.

Selling insurance, 1897 Albuquerque style. The New York Life Insurance office was located in the N. T. Armijo building, on Second Street just north of Central Ave. It’s an interesting look at an office of the time—the rolltop desks packed full of papers, the wooden swivel chairs on rollers (I had no idea they existed back then, but it turns out swivel chairs were invented by Thomas Jefferson in the 1770s), and the stove with its long pipe. The carved doorframe is still a familiar sight today in many Albuquerque homes and buildings. And of course, no office is complete without a small dog napping in front of the stove. This photo is one of a series taken by William H. Cobb of Cobb Studios in Albuquerque.

Mar 28, 2018

Map of Arizona and New Mexico Territories published in 1867, with colored areas and detailed geographical features, towns, and Native American tribal areas.

This beautiful map of Arizona and New Mexico was produced by S. Augustus Mitchell in 1867, probably as part of Mitchell’s New General Atlas published by his company (this is not stated in the Library of Congress notes on it, but is the same map used in later volumes of the atlas). In addition to counties and towns, the map notes Native tribal territories and pueblos, Indian and Spanish trails, military routes, and wagon and caravan routes. Mitchell’s hand-colored maps were known for their pastel colors, vine borders, and detailed geographical features.

Mar 19, 2018

Black & white studio photo portrait of Goyathlay (Geronimo) kneeling with rifle.

This portrait of Goyathlay (aka Geronimo, Spanish for Jerome) was taken by Ben Wittick in 1887, after the Apache leader’s third and final surrender and deportment to Florida. Goyathlay led the last Native American fighting force to formally surrender to the United States, after nearly 30 years of fighting against Mexican and American troops. His daring raids, numerous escapes, and ability to evade thousands of troops for decades made him one of the most famous, and feared, Natives of the time.

Goyathlay (“One Who Yawns”) was born in 1829 to the Bedonkohe band of Apache near Turkey Creek, in the Gila Mountain region of what is today New Mexico, but was then still Mexican territory. Goyathlay was not a chief, but after marrying into the Nednhi band of Chiricahua Apache he became a spokesman for their chief, his brother-in-law Juh, who had a speech impediment. As a result, he was often mistakenly assumed to be the leader by outsiders.