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Charles Lewis Hamilton, Photographer

1872 Photographs

Hamilton worked as a photographer at Fort Randall in 1865 and 1866. He was the brother of two other western photographers, James H. Hamilton (who we have discussed earlier in relation to the "Crazy Horse" [sic.] tintype) and Grant Hamilton.

Charles Lewis Hamilton was born in Wayne County, Kentucky, about 1837 and moved to Macon County, Missouri with his family about 1841. During the Civil War, several of the Hamilton brothers fled the violence. James Hamilton settled in Omaha, Nebraska Territory where he opened a studio by mid-1864. Meanwhile, his brother C. L. Hamilton went up the Missouri River and was taking photographs at Fort Randall by 1865.

Most of his known Indian portraits appear to have been taken at the Yankton and Santee Agencies, located near Fort Randall. He also produced a great series of portraits of the officers and enlisted men of the Sixth Iowa Cavalry stationed at Fort Randall.

C. L. Hamilton then became the post trader at Fort Randall, from about 1866 until 1870. The 1870 census for Dakota Territory shows Hamilton as post trader with his brother Grant at the post as photographer.

I do not know much of C. L. Hamilton after his time at Fort Randall. He located his studio temporarily in Sidney, Nebraska, in 1875 and then went on to the Black Hills where he worked as a mine operator for ten or fifteen years. I assume he died in the Black Hills, but have not been able to find any record yet. I have been collecting copies of his images with the hopes of writing an article about his Indian portraits.


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