Sumner W. Matteson Photographs

Sumner W. Matteson lived from 1867 to 1920. During his last year at the University of Minnesota, Kodak roll film was introduced. In 1895, Matteson became the Saint Paul agent for the Overman Wheel Company, where they sold bicycles. Upon his move to Colorado he merged these two interests and used his bicycle to travel and take pictures. In 1899 Sumner started a new career as a traveling correspondent.

From 1898 to 1908 Matteson traveled all over North America taking pictures of people working and living. His images were some of the earliest photographs of people living in the American West. He then ventured to Cuba and spent four months traveling around and taking pictures. After that he spent some time in Montana, the Pacific Northwest coast, into Vancouver, and then finally settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He traveled some after this on and off until his death in the fall of 1920.

The Science Museum of Minnesota has 800 of Sumner Matteson prints in our accessioned collections and a very small few are noted below to give you an idea of his work. All of the information under each picture is from handwritten notes by Sumner Matteson to describe the image.

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-5A1 – “Manna grinding corn at Sitchomovi Aug 1900.”

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-5B3 – “The Mojarow of Acoma with sister on left & niece on his right. They are the finest potters of Acoma. This man has elected to dress like a woman and do woman's work rather than fight. He is far more particular of dress than the women. Sep 2 - 1900." Also written and lined through: “3015.”

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-5G3 – “Bad Land Charley - Ouray Ute at home on White River Utah. Oct. 1899.”

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-5K9 – “The grass dance Fort Belknap Resn Mont.” 7/1905

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-7C19 – “Packing snow ice in grass & jute on Colima Mountain for burro transport to Zapotlan.” 1907

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-7J16 – “Making tortillas at Tepoxtlan near Cuernavaca. Corn ground on metates and patted thin & cooked on earthen plate. This patting of hands can be heard in the humble homes all over Mexico, and it is a very cheerful sound.” 1907

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-8E9 – “Packing pineapples on an American plantation near Havana Cuba.” 1904

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-819 – “Baracoa. Loading bananas of the Coast of Cuba. Those in near end are red variety.” 1904

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Sumner W. Matteson photograph
Catalogue #37-8U4 – “A Go(at) cart on the Isle of Pines.” 1904Matteson

Institute of Museum and Library Services

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services MA-30-13-0443

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