Macdonald Calabar photographs, EEPA 1996-019, circa 1895

Collection ID:
Macdonald, Claude, Major General
circa 1895
Physical Description:
135 Negatives (photographic)
dupe negs
black & white
4 x 5 in.
135 Photographic prints
black & white
14 x 21 cm.
135 Photographic prints
copy prints (2 v.)
black & white
8 x 10 in.
Photographic album formerly belonging to Major General Claude Maxwell Macdonald (1852-1915), Commissioner, Oil Rivers Protectorate, in West Africa, circa 1895. The album contains photographs of the consulate general in Old Calabar, Opobo and Bonny. Images, such as the arrival of Lady Macdonald in 1895 (returning from a home leave), interiors of British residences, and (named) group portraits of the British reflect colonial life and infrastructure. Native and British troops are depicted as well. Several images show the results of the British attacks on Brass and Nembe, in retaliation for King Nana's unwillingness to cooperate. Several images were taken of chiefs, among them a copy photograph of a 1882 image of King Nana of the Benin River, King Jaja of Opobo, King Koko of Brass, King Duke IX of Old Calabar, and King George Pebble of Bonny. Perhaps the most outstanding imagery is a series "On the way to Benin," which contains the photograph of an altar, a crucified woman, a forest path, and a contingent of British colonials. Several remarkable photographs depict Cross River masquerades with head crests, dances of Kru "Boys," and portray women of the Niger Delta. One photograph, showing the bronze sculpture of a Benin horseman placed on a rug in front of a wall (very likely taken in Nigeria), is of great interest for art historians. This particular figure left Benin before the city was ransacked and destroyed by the British Punitive Expedition in 1987, and, according to William B. Fagg, eminent historian of Nigerian art, came to the Merseyside County Museums, Liverpool, UK, as early as 1892 (note that Macdonald arrived in the Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1891).

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
Images indexed by negative number.

Paul Wood
Custodial History note
Purchase, 1996. Conserved through a preservation grant funded by the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee, 2006.


Geary, Christraud M. "Early Images from Benin at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution." African Arts, 30, Summer 1997, pages 44-53, 93

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to reproduce images from the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives must be obtained in advance. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Conditions Governing Access note
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More Information

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Photographic prints Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nigeria Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Africa Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art
National Museum of African Art
P.O. Box 37012
MRC 708
Washington, DC 20013-7012