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Exhibit features vintage rodeo action

The public will see rodeo action from 100 years ago when the Dickinson Museum Center's Joachim Museum presents its newest exhibit.

The exhibit titled "Ralph R. Doubleday: Rodeo Photographer" is a photographic and digital presentation that documents work by one of America's first rodeo photographers and a former Dickinson resident.

"There were little pieces of history here and there, but none of us had ever put it together -- that's what makes my job fun," museum coordinator Dan Ingram said.

The exhibit opening is from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Joachim Museum, 188 Museum Dr. E.

Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

The exhibit evolved from an Internet search by Ingram. He was looking for items to purchase for the museum when he came across a Doubleday postcard depicting the 1914 Elks convention rodeo.

"I did my own research, and discovered a huge collection of his work in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City," Ingram said.

Ingram said Ralph R. Doubleday and E.A. Myers partnered to form a photo studio in Dickinson in 1914. Their advertisement in the city directory indicates they were capable of all manner of the photographic arts from studio portraits to Cirkut camera panoramas to motion pictures. Their panorama of the city of Dickinson, now in the Library of Congress collection, was copyrighted in 1914.

Like most photographers of the era, Doubleday produced postcard prints of town scenes and events. His images of Dickinson included street scenes and events like the Elks state convention rodeo.

Doubleday was fond of rodeo photography and is credited as being the first photographer to capture a rider being thrown from his horse in 1910, Ingram said.

Research about his Doubleday's life is shrouded in mystery.

"He appears to have enjoyed misleading people about himself and his life," Ingram said.

Born Edward Cochran in Canton, Iowa, he alleged to have worked as a stereo photographer. He even claimed to have accompanied Theodore Roosevelt to Africa and joined Gen. John Pershing on the chase of Pancho Villa along the Mexican border.

"In spite of his imaginative biography, what is known is that he was a pioneer of rodeo photography," Ingram said.

Will Rogers devoted a newspaper column to him in 1926.

"You have all seen at various times wonderful pictures of cowboys and cowgirls on bucking horses, in every kind of sport connected with a horse or a steer," he wrote. "You have seen buckers in the most inconceivable shapes. You marveled at the picture as much as you did the boy or girl that was on the horse, because sometimes they wasn't. You said to yourself, 'Where in the world was the photographer when he shot that?' Well, this bird I am introducing you to right now is the one that has taken 90 percent of the good rodeo pictures ever made. He don't get 'em till they are doing something unusual. But when they do, he is right down under them shooting up at 'em. He has had horses jump over him, wild steers run over him. But he always comes up with an exact likeness of the animal."

For more than 40 years, Doubleday traveled across the country, shooting rodeos and making picture postcards. His collection of more than 4,000 negatives is part of the Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

The majority of the images in the upcoming exhibition have been drawn from this collection, Ingram said.

In recognition of Doubleday's promotional and documentary activities with regard to the sport of rodeo, the Rodeo Historical Society inducted him into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame's Rodeo Hall of Fame on Nov. 27, 1988.

Shanna Shervheim, vice president of the Southwestern North Dakota Museum Foundation, said the display offers a fuller picture of the history of the area.

"We didn't realize this photographer was a famous rodeo photographer who actually had his beginning in Dickinson, so that's one of the amazing aspects of the project," she said. "And in particular, it's very important to the history of the area as it pertains to rodeo and the cowboy way of life."

The Dickinson Museum Center is a museum complex at 188 Museum Drive East.

The Joachim Museum partners with the City of Dickinson, The Stark County Historical Society and others to create a greater understanding of the region by portraying its historical heritage.

For more information, contact the museum at 701-456-6225 or visit www.dickinson

museumcenter.com.

Linda Sailer contributed to this story.

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