Family Photo Album

Edward Ernest Palmer, 1868-1950

Teacher and Photographer

Edward Ernest Palmer was born in Washington DC on November 3, 1868, the son of William G. and Mary Virginia (Webster) Palmer. The boy was named after his uncle Edward Palmer, plant collector and explorer. Young Edward was a diarist whose writing shows his early interest in all things scientific. He was often employed by his uncle to work up specimens, which were sent back from the Western United States, Central and South America. These specimens are found today in the collections at Kew Gardens and the Smithsonian, as well as other herbaria in the United States and Europe.

He entered Dickinson College in 1889, with the class of 1893. As a freshman he won the Muchmore Prize and joined the Union Philosophical Society, serving as its head librarian the following year. Perhaps more significantly for his own future, Colonel Richard Pratt of the Carlisle Indian School lectured that year at the College on the "Past, Present, and Future of the Indian." He served as the president of the junior class, and anchored the champion tug-of-war team of his senior year. Significantly, under the tutelage of pioneer photographer Professor Charles Francis Himes of the Physics Department, Palmer developed his life-long interest in photography. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in June, 1893. 

The influences of his undergraduate years on the remainder of his life were substantial.  He was evidently very much impressed by Colonel Pratt and became determined to make education of Indian children his career. Following a short stint at Carlisle Training School, he took the civil service exam to teach in the Indian Service. His assignments included the Crow Agency in Montana, Oraibi Mesa in Arizona, Martinez Day School in California, Seger Colony in Washita County, Oklahoma and the Salt River Reservation in Arizona. He spent a total of 24 years in the Indian Service followed by years teaching in the Phoenix public schools. From behind the camera, he left a photographic record which spans his college years and his career in the Indian Service. Many of his photographs are to be found today in the National Archives, the Oklahoma State Archives, and in the collection of Dickinson College.

EE Palmer at graduation

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