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Walter McClintock Papers

Call Number: WA MSS S-1175

Scope and Contents

The papers and photographs in this collection document the history and customs of the Piegan Indians (also known as the Blackfeet Indians) in Montana, and their contact with Europeans and Anglo Americans. The collection provides detailed information about McClintock's photographic practice, as well as his public presentations about the Piegan Indians. A significant part of the collection records the development and production of Poia, an opera based on Piegan Indian legends, composed by Arthur Finley Nevin, with a libretto by Randolph Hartley (1870-1931).

The photographic material in the collection provides rich visual documentation of the activities of Piegan Indians in the early twentieth century, as well as views of the landscape in western Montana and southern Alberta. McClintock used these images for lantern slides to accompany his lectures, to create prints for his photographic exhibitions, and to illustrate his publications.

Photograph albums in the collection document the activities of McClintock as student at Yale College from 1887 to 1891, as well as his participation in the Princeton University Expedition in Utah and Yellowstone National Park in 1895 and a tour by the National Forest Commission in the western United States in 1896. Many albums also detail the activities of the Piegan Indians. Scrapbooks document Poia, his lecture series, photographic exhibitions, and books.

The collection includes contemporary archival reproductions of most of the original negatives created by McClintock, as well as a set of contemporary photographic prints made from the reproduced negatives. The contemporary prints represent the most complete set of prints of McClintock’s work in the collection. A microfilm of these prints provides an alternate way to browse the collection.


  • 1874 - 1949
  • Majority of material found within 1888 - 1949


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Existence and Location of Copies

Series X, Archival Copy Photographs is also available on microfilm. Much of the photographic material in the collection is available in the Beinecke Library's Digital Images Online database.

Conditions Governing Use

The Walter McClintock Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights to material created by Walter McClintock in the Walter McClintock Papers, including copyright, belong to Yale University and are administered by the the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Walter McClintock Papers may include the work of other writers, artists, photographers, and people for whom the Beinecke does not own copyright. In such cases, scholars must contact the appropriate copyright holder for permission to publish. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Walter McClintock (Yale 1891, 1911 MAH), 1927-1949.


Organized into ten series: Series I. Papers, 1874-1949. Series II. Scrapbooks, 1899-1925. Series III. Photograph Albums, 1888-1910. Series IV. Exhibition Photographic Prints, 1918-1946. Series V. Vintage Photographic Prints, 1898-1915. Series VI. Lantern Slides, 1905-1941. Series VII. Glass Transparencies, 1898-1909. Series VIII. Photographic Negatives, 1896-1915. Series IX. Collected Photographs, circa 1888-circa 1940. Series X. Archival Copy Photographs, circa 1981-1982.

Associated Materials

Walter McClintock Manuscript Collection. Braun Research Library, Autry National Center.

McClintock -- Blackfoot Recordings. Sound Archives, Braun Research Library, Autry National Center.

Scrapbook of Yale memorabilia, compiled by Walter McClintock, of the class of 1891, Yale College. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.


87.5 Linear Feet ((207 boxes) + 9 broadsides)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

Walter McClintock (1870-1949)

Walter McClintock was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the second son of Oliver McClintock (Yale 1861) and Clara Courtney Childs McClintock. He attended the Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh, and entered Yale College in 1887. His older brother, Norman McClintock (born 1868) was also a member of the Yale class of 1891.

After graduation from Yale, Walter McClintock worked in the carpet business of his family. In 1893, he worked with Jones and Laughlin, steel manufacturers in Pittsburgh. In 1895, after a severe case of typhoid fever, McClintock went to the American West to recuperate and joined a Princeton University Scientific Expedition. In this geological expedition, McClintock traveled through North Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho, and made a long horseback journey through the wilderness areas in the West.

When McClintock returned to Pittsburgh, he rejoined the family business. In the summer of 1896, he visited Montana and the western United States with the National Forest Commission, a creation of the National Academy of Sciences and funded by the United States Congress. The commission, which consisted of Charles Sargent (chair), Henry L. Abbot, William Henry Brewster, Alexander Agassiz, Arnold Hague, Gifford Pinchot (secretary), and Wolcott Gibbs (member ex-officio) traveled throughout the West touring existing forest reserves and areas for proposed reserves. John Muir and Henry Solon Graves accompanied the commission on parts of their investigations. McClintock, who had some interest in forestry, went along as a photographer.

When the commission completed its work, McClintock chose to stay in Montana. He had become friendly with a guide of the expedition, William Jackson (1860-1899), also known as Sik-Sik-Ka-Kwan (Little Black Foot), a quarter-blood Piegan Indian (the Piegan Indians are also known as the Blackfoot Indians or Blackfeet Indians) and a former United States Army Indian Scout. Jackson offered to take McClintock with him to the camp of the Piegan Indians and introduce him to the tribal leaders.

McClintock and Jackson traveled through the Rocky Mountains to a tribal camp, where McClintock met many chiefs. He became interested in the Piegan Indians and their culture, and stayed among the Piegan Indians and studied their way of life, their history, and their traditions. With his camera equipment from the National Forest Commission, McClintock made a photographic record of many activities and objects. McClintock immersed himself in tribal life; he traveled, hunted, and lived with them, and kept records of his experiences and discoveries.

After nearly two years among the Piegan Indians, Siyeh (died 1902, pronounced Sai-yeh), whose name means "Crazy Dog" or "Mad Wolf," adopted McClintock into the tribe. After his adoption, the tribe called McClintock, A-pe-ech-eken (White Weasel Moccasin). As a trusted member of the tribe, McClintock made both written and photographic records of sacred rituals. He also gathered information on legends, traditions, music, customs, and crafts.

In 1900, McClintock returned to Pittsburgh, and worked for the Opalite Tile Company, but he continued to visit the Piegan Indian tribes through the next decade. McClintock often described spending "fifteen years among the Indians," but this is an exaggeration. McClintock spent considerable periods among the Piegan Indians, but it is difficult to determine the exact duration.

In 1906, McClintock combined his photographs and his knowledge of the Piegan Indians in a series of lectures. The lectures featured hand-colored lantern slides and his renditions of songs and chants. His lectures met with widespread success, and he continued to lecture on American Indian topics throughout his life.

In 1907, McClintock went to Europe. He spent a significant amount of time in Berlin and lectured at the United States Embassy, as well as delivering lectures to Friedrich Wilhelm, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Prussia and members of the Prussian court. His lectures and research attracted the attention of Karl von den Steinen, a German physician, ethnologist, and explorer, who arranged for McClintock to address the Berlin Anthropological Society. McClintock also gave lectures for scientific and general audiences in Germany and Great Britain, including the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. In Great Britain, his lectures attracted interest from social anthropologist James George Frazer and classical scholar William Ridgeway. In 1911, McClintock received an Artium Magistrum (Honorary) from Yale College.

Beside his research and lectures, McClintock developed and promoted an opera based on Piegan Indian legends. Arthur Finley Nevin (1871-1943) composed the opera, Poia (Scarface), and Randolph Hartley (1870-1931) wrote its libretto. In 1903 and 1904, McClintock and Nevin made two expeditions to Piegan Indian camps to record tribal melodies and absorb knowledge of American Indian life. McClintock and others financially supported the work by Nevin on the opera, which he completed in 1906. Poia was first performed as a concert in Pittsburgh in 1907. That same year, Theodore Roosevelt invited Nevin to the White House to give an illustrated talk on his work, but little interest came from the American musical establishment. Instead, Poia received its stage premiere in 1909 at the Royal Opera House in Berlin, with musical revisions by Engelbert Humperdinck and a German translation of the libretto by Eugenie von Huhn.

McClintock wrote several articles on American Indian topics, as well as two books: The Old North Trail: Or, Life, Legends and Religion of the Blackfeet Indians (London: Macmillan and Co., 1910) and Old Indian Trails (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1923). In 1927, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles, California, appointed McClintock a Research Fellow in Ethnology. He often contributed to the institution's magazine, The Masterkey. McClintock wrote several pamphlets for the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, including "The Tragedy of the Blackfoot" (1930), "Painted Tipis and Picture-Writing of the Blackfoot Indians" (1936), and "Blackfoot Medicine-Pipe Ceremony" (1948).

In 1936, Yale appointed McClintock Curator of the McClintock Indian Collection in the Yale University Library. As part of his position, McClintock delivered an annual lantern slide illustrated lecture about the Beaver Bundle.

McClintock died in 1949 at 78 years old.

Processing Information

In 1974, archivist Andrew M. Patterson processed portions of the Walter McClintock Papers; he also wrote the biography of McClintock in this finding aid, as well as descriptions of the albums and the scrapbooks. From 1974 through 2004, staff at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library described portions of the photographic materials. In 2011-2012, archivist Matthew Daniel Mason carried out additional processing, which included editing descriptions, integrating photographic materials, and physically arranging the entire collection.

Many of the descriptions of photographic materials derive from lists created by McClintock; this includes the exhibition prints, glass negatives, and film negatives. Whenever possible, McClintock's nomenclature has been preserved. Consequently, descriptions of photographic materials in the collection inconsistently express names and terms. For example, "Brings-Down-the-Sun" and "Brings Down the Sun," "Circle-Camp," and "Circle Camp", and "tipi" and "teepee." Titles created by library staff appear within brackets in the collection.

Throughout his papers and photographic materials, McClintock refers to the Piegan Indians as "Blackfoot Indians" or "Blackfeet Indians." He also refers to individual Native Americans by different names, such as Siyeh and Mad Wolf. In his lantern slides, McClintock often appropriated the images of one person to stand in for another, for instance Onesta for Siyeh.

In 2012, library staff discarded a traveling case used by McClintock to transport exhibition prints.

Guide to the Water McClintock Papers
Under Revision
by Matthew Daniel Mason
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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