The Photography of Lora Webb Nichols

The American Heritage Center recently premiered a new exhibit featuring the photography of longtime Encampment, Wyoming resident Lora Webb Nichols.  This exhibit, which is on display at the American Heritage Center until late July, was curated by Lora Webb Nichols scholar Nicole Hill, and features a selection from the thousands of photographs taken by Nichols which are cared for here at the Center.

Lora Webb Nichols labeled this photograph: “Me on same rock.” Note the camera box on the right.
Box 3, photo #65, Lora Webb Nichols papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962), a native of Boulder, Colorado, lived most of her life in Encampment, Wyoming, and in 1899, at the age of sixteen, Nichols began photographing the people and places around her. 

Lucy Davies writing in The Daily Telegraph, described her work as recording Wyoming’s “inconsequential chores and rituals (washing, shoveling snow, braiding hair) rather than grand events. Even so, her frank, bold pictures capture the clean-cut thrill of pioneer life, of America’s hugeness and scope.”

Guy Nichols shown stacking wood. Lora married her cousin Guy in 1914 at the courthouse in Walden, Colorado, about 50 miles south of Encampment. They had four children: Ezra, who was born in 1915, followed by Clifford in 1917, Frank in 1919, and Dick in 1921. Guy stayed in Encampment after Lora’s move to California. He died there in 1955.
Box 4, photo #2309, Lora Webb Nichols papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Around 1905, Nichols built a darkroom and worked as a photographer and a photo finisher. In 1925, she founded three businesses in Encampment: The Rocky Mountain Studio which developed film and loaned cameras; The Encampment Echo newspaper; and The Sugar Bowl, selling soda and ice cream.

Picnic group on hillside showing showing family friend and relatives.
Box 16, photo #17585, Lora Webb Nichols papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

When cowboys and young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps passed through town, Nichols would loan them a camera and ask them to return with photographs.

In 1935, Nichols moved to Stockton, California, and worked in a children’s home, eventually becoming its director. However, she returned to Encampment in 1956, where she died in 1962.

The Lora Webb Nichols collection at the American Heritage Center contains transcripts of her diaries (1897-1907), an unfinished manuscript, “I Remember” (ca. 1962, covering events from 1859-1905), and many photographs and negatives documenting Nichol’s life in Wyoming, California, and the Rocky Mountain region. More than 21,000 of these images have been successfully digitized and placed online.  They can be accessed via the Center’s online platform, Luna.

The American Heritage Center invites everyone to enjoy these unique images of everyday life in Wyoming by this remarkably talented and prolific artist.

Post contributed by AHC Assistant Director and Collections Manager William Hopkins.


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