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D.F. Barry Biography

David Frances Barry (1854-1934)

D.F. Barry's photographs of the American Indian and U.S. Army participants in the Sioux War of 1876 are some of the most recognizable surviving images from this period in the history of the American West.

Barry first came west in the 1870s as an apprentice to photographer O.S. Goff, who worked as a photographer at Fort Abraham Lincoln, located near present-day Bismarck, N.D. It was from this post that Lt. Col. George Custer led his Seventh U.S. Cavalry division in May 1876 to the now-famous battle along the banks of the Little Bighorn River in southern Montana.

Goff photographed Custer and his officers extensively before their departure and made the last known image of Custer. Following the battle, Goff and Barry became partners in a Bismarck photo studio that concentrated on producing and selling portraits of Custer, other military figures and American Indians.
From his studio, Barry traveled to several Indian reservations making images of Lakota, Apsaroke, Cheyenne, Arikara and other tribal members. Though Barry and Goff severed their partnership in the 1880s, Barry continued to photograph soldiers, American Indians and others who passed through the Dakotas, including William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

The Lakota knew Barry as Icastinyanka Cikala Hanzi, “The Little Shadow Catcher.” Usher Lloyd Burdick was a member of the United States House of Representatives from North Dakota. “Without doubt the Barry pictures of Indians, soldiers and frontiersmen take equal rank, in their class, with the Brady photographs of the Civil War,” wrote Usher L. Burdick. Many agreed, from frontier legends like Buffalo Bill Cody to William S. Hart and others who depicted them. “Barry’s photographs have kept the days of the Golden West fresh in our memories,” said Burdick, encapsulating the sentiments of Barry’s admirers.