A Survey of the Tulsa Race Riot Photographs, Part 2

These are the 15 post cards. Please be aware that some of these images are very graphic. The titles are taken from the postcards themselves. The numbering sequence is from The Department of Special Collections and University Archives, McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa. The images are the set labeled TU1. They are used with permission. Dimensions given are in centimeters, and are of the actual image, not the post card. Other collections mentioned are

  • Ruth Sigler Avery Collection OSU Tulsa.
  • HJ. Hannibal Johnson’s private collection
  • Beryl Ford Collection
  • OHS Oklahoma Historical Society
  • GCC Greenwood Cultural Center
  • Digital Set.

Post Card Backs:
There are two backs found on the post cards, the first is found on the sets at TU, the second is found in Hannibal Johnson’s set. It is my belief that HJ’s is a set printed in the 1940s (based on the finishing) and is a reproduction of one other original sets.


Typical backpostcardback2HJ’s back.


Riot011. Scene during Tulsa Race Riot, June 1st, 1921 A post card showing a group of African Americans and armed Whites in civilian attire standing on a road. There is. A building and two vehicles behind the crowd. One man is refilling the radiator of one of the vehicles. TU 1: 12.8×8.2 TU 2: 12.4×7.75. Noticeably less detailed, brighter. Post card stamp is darker. Crop loses 2mm on the left side, and 4mm off the bottom. Ruth Sigler Avery: Three photographic reproductions, one (c:76) is not of postcard and shows far more detail on the left including another car. (c:74) also not of post card but more cropped. (c:75) is image of postcard, and heavily cropped. Beryl Ford: Two photographic reprints. (A2441) is not of the post card, and shows more detail of the left. May be a copy from the same original image that (Ruth Sigler Avery: c:74) is. (A2530) the lower left corner has been torn away. OHS: Photo reproduction appears file, no source attribution, although probably TU1. A second copy is numbered 16947. Digital set: Card has been folded and the emulsion damaged. Crop cuts off the man filling the radiator. GCC: 3 photographic reproductions of the original image, and one of TU 1.
Riot022. Little Africa on fire. Tulsa Race Riot. June 1st, 1921. A scene from the roof of the Hotel Tulsa on 3rd St. Between Boston Ave and Cincinnati Ave. The first row of buildings is along 2nd St. The smoke cloud on the left (Cincinnati Ave. and the Frisco tracks) is identified in the Tulsa Tribune version of the photo as being where the fire started. The “standpipe” water tank of Standpipe Hill is in the distance along Cincinnati. A rough estimate of the shadows places this photo at about 8 am the morning of the 1st of June. Alvin Krupnick, Photographer? TU 1: 12.8×8.2 TU 2: HJ: 12.9×8. The enlargement, crops off 12mm from left, although there is a little more data on the right side. Digital set: Emulsion is damaged and bubbled. The crop loses the buildings in the near foreground. GCC: Photographic reproduction of TU 1.

Riot033. Scene at Convention Hall. Tulsa Race Riot, June 1st, 1921. A truck is parked in front of the Convention Hall. One man lies on the bed of the truck, either wounded or dead, while two others sit to either side. It is my belief that the man lying on the truck may be Dr. Jackson.  A man in civilian attire stands guard over them. A crowd is gathered around the door to the building. The shadows suggest late morning, possibly around 11. Charles L. Reeder? TU 1: 12.2×8.2. Faded. There is a 2mm wide strip to the left of the gearshift that is present, and 4mm cropped out from the right. There is 6mm more at the top. TU 2: 12.8×7.8. Darker HJ: 13×8 Ruth Sigler Avery: Two photographic reproductions, not of postcard. One is seriously cropped (c:62), other shows moored information on the left. (C:63) Beryl Ford: Two photographic reproductions. (A2517) is cropped along the left side. (A2536) is heavily cropped all around. OHS: Two photo reproductions appear, no source attribution. Digital set: In very good condition. GCC: 4 photographic reproductions of the original image, but not of the post card.

Riot044. All that was left of his home after Tulsa Race Riot, 6-1-1921. An unidentified man standing along amidst the desolation and ruins of what is described as his home. The placement of the ruins of Dunbar Elementary School in the background indicated that this photo was taken either on North Greenwood, or North Frankfurt, facing east. Not ruins of Dunbar, down town, so facing south TU 1: 13×8.2. Faded. Shows soil before the leading edge of the foundation. TU 2: 12.5×7.8. Darker. Cropped to the leading edge of the foundation. Loses part of the trees to the left. HJ: 13×8.2. Faded.cropped to the top of the leading edge of the foundation. Ruth Sigler Avery: Photographic reproduction. Text present but very faint. Cropped in on the sides (c:54) Beryl Ford: (A2509). Photographic reproduction, no text shows, and there is more data on both left and right sides. Likely not the post card. OHS: Digital set: In very good condition. GCC: One original postcard, and 1 photographic reproduction.

Riot055. Little Africa on fire. Tulsa Race Riot, June 1st, 1921 Taken from on top of the Santa Fe Freight office at 1st St. and Elgin Ave., showing the fires on Archer towards Greenwood. The Goodner-Malone company (1 N. Frankfurt Ave.) building is in the center of the photo. TU 1: 12.6×8.1 TU 2: Ruth Sigler Avery: 2 photographic reprints. One heavily cropped, other has a few mm more data than TU1 (1:3, 1:4) Beryl Ford: (A2432, A2525). Two photographic reproductions. 2432 is lastly more cropped on the left. OHS: Digital set: GCC:

Riot066. Negro slain in the Tulsa Race Riot. June-1-1921. A man lying dead in the street, with a sheet or piece of paper covering his face. This victim appears in a number of images taken from different angles at different times. TU 1: 12.8×8.5 TU 2: HJ: 13×7.9. Cropped to remove standing guy’s face. Ruth Sigler Avery: Two photographic reproductions. (C:91) similar to TU1, with notation on original image, “no he’s white. See his [arm]. Covered his face to call him colored.” Notation is in error. (c:92) shows a much clearer image, but slightly cropped along the left. Beryl Ford: (A2465) Photographic reproduction. Too much has been cropped away to tell if is from the post card or not. Note: image is reversed. Digital set: Crop shows more of the standing man’s face.

Riot077. Captured Negroes on way to Convention Hall during Tulsa Race Riot, June 1st, 1921. A group of detainees being marched past the corner of 2nd and Main under armed guard. The building in the background is 202 S. Main, on the southwest corner. Based on the shadows of the building and the people, it is late morning. They are heading east (or are turning to head east) on 2nd, so it is more likely that they are among those being marched south towards the trucks to take them to McNulty Park than to be heading towards the Convention Hall, which is several blocks north of this intersection. This indicates that the title which was taken from the writing on the face of the postcard is incorrect. TU 1: 12.8×8.1. More faded. Cropped higher. Shows all of dentists sign, but cuts off shoes. TU 2: 12.8×7.1. Cropped lower, cuts off part of dentists sign, and shoes. HJ: 12.8×8. Cropped lower, cut off dentists sign, but shows shoes. Ruth Sigler Avery: 2 photographic reprints. One shoes more detail above dentist’s office, caption on back is wrong (c:57), one more cropped (c:58) Beryl Ford: (A2510). Photographic reproduction. Heavily cropped. Some damage to original card is evident. Digital set: Image shows some sign of poor storage, GCC: 5 photographic reproductions

Riot088. National Guard machine gun crew during Tulsa Race Riot, 6-1-21 A squad of National Guard troops on a flatbed truck holding an M1917.30 caliber machine gun.   It should be noted that there is no water hose to the cooling system, supporting the National Guard’s reports that the machine gun they drove around really wouldn’t work for sustained fire.  TU 1: 12.9×8. Brighter, lower contrast. Blurrier, consistent with being a photographic copy. However, 4mm more data exist along the left side. TU 2: 12.5×7.8. Higher contrast, better image. OHS: Photo reproduction appears file, no source attribution, although probably TU1.

Riot099. Truck being used to gather up colored victims during Tulsa Race Riot, 6-1-21 A pair of men have loaded two wicker coffins onto a truck at the Courthouse. TU 1: 12.7×8.5. Brighter, lower contrast. Shows 8mm more image on the left, revealing more building, and part of another vehicle. TU 2: 12.8×7.4. Shows 10mm more data along the right side, revealing a woman standing behind a tree. Ruth Sigler Avery: Two photographic reproductions. One heavily cropped, with notation on front of original image “no they were white, colored were not so decently carried” (c:60). One shows far more detail of the truck on the left. (C:61) OHS: Photo reproduction appears file, no source attribution, although probably TU1. Digital set: Slight staining on the image. GCC: Photographic duplicate.

Riot1010. Ruins of the Tulsa Race Riot 6-1-21 Taken from the Tulsa Pressed Brick Co. The ruins of Dunbar Elementary School and the Masonic Hall (501 N. Greenwood) are in the background. TU 1: 7.8×12.6. Lighter, but clearer. 4mm along the top show more of the train in the background. 4mm cropped from the left side, 3mm along right side more of the bedstead. About 3mm cropped from the bottom. TU 2: 7.9×12.6. Darker. Ruth Sigler Avery: Two photographic reprints. One heavily cropped, other shows more info on the left side. More clear view of train and buildings in the background. (1:7,1:8) Beryl Ford: Two photographic reproductions. (A2430) is cropped all around. (A5237) resembles TU1. OHS: There is a very similar picture in the NYC Illustrated News, June 6, 1921 taken from virtually the same spot, but part of the Masonic Hall is collapsed (attributed to Underwood). However this photo does appear in the Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921, the St Louis Argus, June 10, 1921, NYC Midweek Pictoral June 16 1921, Chicago Whip June 11 1921, NYC Literary Digest, June 18, 1921, Digital set: Crop shows more of Dunbar Elementary School and the train behind it. GCC: Photographic reproduction of TU 1:

Riot1111. Burning of church where ammunition was stored during Tulsa Race Riot 6-1-1921. Mt. Zion Baptist Church is burning in this picture taken about Cameron St. and Elgin Ave. The Church was rumored at the time to have been a storehouse for weapons and ammunition. TU 1: 12.7×7.9. Ruth Sigler Avery: Photographic reprint, slightly more cropping that TU1 (c:21). Caption on back is wrong. Photographic reprint. Shows far more detail on the left, including more buildings. (C:20) Digital set: Staining of the emulsion, but otherwise more clear than usual .

Riot1212. National Guards taking Negroes to ball park for protection. Race Riot at Tulsa June 1st 1921 A large group of people are being escorted by several men in civilian attire with an automobile alongside. They have just crossed the tracks and are passing in front of the Continental Supply Co. (offices at 19 S. Main). There is an issue with this image since while the Continental Supply Co. on the south side of the tracks, the address is on the east side of the street. The structures in the rest of the image are also not consistent with this being that part of Main St. TU 1: 12.8×8.3. Dark. 3mm extra on right. There are several marks on the negative that suggest damage to the emulsion on either the negative or the picture these were copied from. HJ: 13×8. Brighter, lower resolution. 2mm more information on the right show a more detail of an automobile. Ruth Sigler Avery: Photographic reproduction (c:72). Note (c:73) was taken in same location at a slightly different time. Beryl Ford: (A2450, A2538). Two photographic reprints, A2450 is more heavily cropped on the left. OHS: Photo reproduction appears file, no source attribution, although probably TU1. GCC: 2 photographic reproductions of TU 1.

Riot1313. Ruins of the Tulsa Race Riot 6-1-21 Taken from the Tulsa Pressed Brick Co. looking towards downtown. TU 1: 12.6×8.4. TU 2: 12.4×7.2. Darker. Image has been tilted slightly to straighten the image of the burnt pole in the foreground, losing 4mm, and the top has been cropped by the same amount. Ruth Sigler Avery: One photographic reproduction. Heavily cropped. (C:5) Beryl Ford: Two photographic reproductions, both show damage to the original image not apparent on other copies. (A2429) is heavily cropped. (A2542) resembles TU1. OHS: Photo reproduction appears file, no source attribution. Digital set: Crop shows a little more of the foreground. GCC: 3 photographic reproductions.

Riot1414. Charred Negro killed in Tulsa Riot 6-1-1921 The unidentifiable body of a person after being burned, a motorcycle lies nearby. This same body appears in 3 photographs. In the original Schmidt image: 5.3×7.8. Good detail and depth. A small part of the right side, and a large chunk of the left side have been cropped away top and bottom have also been heavily cropped. Average area of the postcards would be about 3.5×6.3 at this scale. Francis Schmidt, photographer. TU 1: 8.3×12.1, although slanted slightly down to the right. Very light and low contrast. 2mm more on right edge. TU 2: 8.2×12.5. Darker and better contrast. HJ: 8×13. An enlargement from the other postcards. Ruth Sigler Avery: Two photographic reproductions of the postcard. Badly cropped. (C:85, c:86) Digital set: Image is good condition.


15. A victim of Tulsa Race Riot 6-1-1921 An unidentified man lying between some tracks and a fence. Another man stands behind him, and shadows indicate several others just outside the image. This same body appears in 4 photographs. Based on correlating information from these images, the body was lying along the north side of the main Frisco tracks, just west of Cincinnati Ave. This image also appears in several crops. Based on the shadows, this image was taken as early as 7 in the morning of the 1st of June. TU 1: 11.3×8.8. Sides and top copped off. TU 2: 12×8. Washed out. Left side cropped out. HJ: 12.2×7.9. Sides cropped slightly. Ruth Sigler Avery: Two photographic reproductions, (c:89) heavily cropped, closely resembles TU1. (C:90) has a much wider view of the feet of the men on the right .

A Survey of the Tulsa Race Riot post cards, Part 1

The firmgun2st question that seems to occur to most people when confronted by the existence of the postcards is “Why would someone do something as creepy as print post cards of this event?” To address that, we need to step back from the issue and look at the artifacts themselves. Because of the length of this discussion, broken into two sections.

This history of photographic post cards is going to be fairly simplistic. The 3 1/4″ by 5 1/2″ postcard was historically a very popular format for making images in the early part of the 20th century. The Kodak 3A folding pocket format camera was the first camera designed to take specifically postcard sized images, so the image could be easily transferred as a contact print, laying the negative on the card, and exposed with a light, then the image developed to be the same size as the negative. Bear with me, this is important.

Just to be clear, this is different from lithographically printed photographic postcards, which are made up of little dots. We are talking about true photographic prints, from a negative.

Kodak developed the 3A camera and the 122 format film in 1903 to take advantage of the popularity of the postcard for sending as mail, and the photographic postcard, with pictures the user had taken quickly became a major hit. So much so that until the 1940s, Kodak, and Anso, the primary competition kept 3A variant cameras in production, and the film was only discontinued only 1971. At 3 1/4″ by 5 1/2″ (8.3 x 13.9 mm) for an image, there were 6 or 10 images on a roll. Postcards done in this fashion are technically known as Real Photo Post Cards (or RPPC)

Why a contact print? Although the techniques for enlargement and reduction of photographs were developed in the early years of photography in the mid-19th century, and even allowed for a form of micro-filming to be done during the Siege of Paris in 1871, these techniques required expensive equipment, and a great deal of time and effort to make. Therefore, until the 1930s, although the technology existed, the majority of images made were done as contact prints, under

Just to add a couple of details. During the period of 1915/16 – 1930, Real Photo Post Cards, as well as normal postcards, were printed with white borders. In normal post cards, this was to save ink, I’m not sure what the rationale was for the real post cards, other than to emulate normal post cards, but this is a way of dating the images.

Another method for dating the images is that the silver gelatin used for these sorts of prints was relatively unstable until the after 1926, leading to the fading, and “sepia” appearance as the print ages. True photographs, printed properly did not generally have this problem.

Another method is the printing on the back of the card, specifically the box for the stamp. In the case of all the postcards that I could examine the backs, the printing indicated they are all “AZO” paper, and the 2 up, 2 down triangles, dates that paper as being made between 1918 – 1930.

Some of the images have different crops, which means that they were not necessarily taken with the correct type of camera meant for making a postcard. And because some of the images show up in other contexts (for example Image No. 2 was likely taken by Alvin Krupnick, and No. 14 was taken by Francis Schmidt), we may speculate that these sets may have been developed by the business that developed the pictures, and retained the negatives. These were then used without the permission of the photographers.

So, why were they being used? Of course we don’t know for certain, but presumably because the post card paper was cheaper that’s why they were generally used. However, because there is a clear “set” of pictures being made, we appear to have an attempt to make souvenir images. Were they ever meant to be mailed? Probably not, but even as souvenirs they are still disturbing to modern eyes.

For this survey, I examined two sets of cards in the collections in the Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa, and photocopies of a set in the private collection of Hannibal Johnson. The TU sets were acquired in 1989 and 2012. I also examined the photographs in the OSU Tulsa Ruth Sigler Avery Collection. I also examined the online versions of the postcards from the Beryl Ford collection. I used the online versions since what is housed at the Tulsa Historical Society and displayed at the Tulsa City-County Library, are photographic reproductions on 4×5 negatives made by Beryl Ford as opposed to original pieces. Finally I took a look at the images on the Oklahoma Historical Society’s microfilm compilation “The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921: Tulsa, Oklahoma”. I have also examined the collections at the Greenwood Cultural Center. Finally I also have in my possession a digital set made from an incomplete collection that is currently held in an unknown repository. There are 15 post cards in the most complete sets, although some have fewer.