National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Emilio Herbruger photographs

Collection ID:
Circa 1860-1880
English, Spanish, Castillian
Physical Description:
44 Photographic prints
The Emilio Herbruger Photographs consist mostly of full length portraits of Mayan people in Guatemala. The photos depict adults and children, sometimes demonstrating a domestic task, or wearing garments indicating leadership status or for special occasions.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Emilio Herbruger Photographs consists of 44 carte de visite photographs taken in Guatemala of Mayan peoples, prinicpally from the Kaqchikel, Quiché, and Tz'utujil ethnic communities. Many of the prints are hand labeled with a description of the ethnicity and place of origin of the person(s) photographed. It is not known if Herbruger traveled to take the photographs, nor if he provided any part of the regalia or objects depicted in them.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.

The materials are arranged in alphabetical order, first by the name of the ethnic and linguistic community of the person(s) photographed, then by town of origin, when indicated. It is not known whether the location reference refers to the location the photo was taken, or the origin of the subject of the photo. Prints lacking specification are located at the end.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Emilio ("Emil") Herbruger, Sr. was born in Rheda-Wiedenbruck, Germany in 1808 and died in New Jersey in 1894. Principally a daguerreotypist, ambrotypist, and photographer, he was also a composer, musician, and pharmaceutical agent. After immigrating to New Jersey as a young man, he lived and worked in several Latin American countries beginning in the 1840s. These include Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, and Panama. He is considered the first commercial photographer in Guatemala, where he established a gallery in Guatemala City around 1846. His photographs often depict local people, nature, and city scenes. He worked on occasion with his sons, Florencio C. Herbruger and Emilio Herbruger, Jr., also known as Emilio Herbruger Rietbrok. Additionally, the noted Guatemalan photographer Alberto Valdeavellano studied with the Herbrugers in Antigua, Guatemala.
Sources Consulted
Cruz, Keneth. "Día Mundial de la fotografía: ¿Por qué se celebra el 19 de agosto?" Prensa Libre. 19 August 2019.
Garzon Díaz, Valia. "Panamá a través de la lente de Emil Herbruger Wheling (1808-1894),"Mesoamérica 45 (Enero-Diciembre 2003), Pp. 85-99.
Palmquist, Peter, and Thomas Kailbourn. "Herbruger, Emil, Sr.," Pioneer photographers of the far west: A biographical dictionary, 1840-1865, 295-296. Stanford UP, 2000.
1808 April 24
Born in Rheda-Wiedenbruck, Germany
Emigrated to U.S.
Participated in exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky
Travelled through Cuba, Mexico, and Central America
Established a gallery in Guatemala City, Guatemala
Lived in Colombia
Traveled in Peru and Brazil
Opened Emilio Herbruger e Hijos in Panama City, Panama
Opened gallery in Guatemala City, Guatemala
Displayed at exhibition sponsored by Sociedad Económica
Published polka composition "La Unión"
Worked and traveled through Honduras
Established Fotografía Imperial gallery in Guatemala City, Guatemala
Operated gallery with son Emilio Herbruger, Jr. in Panama City, Panama
Died in Egg Harbor, New Jersey

Lisa Carney
Immediate Source of Acquisition
There is currently no information available regarding the provenance of this collection.
Processing Information
The photographs in this collection were separated from Photo Lot 97, having been identified as the work of Emilio Herbruger in Guatemala. The prints are organized by the archivist according to the ethnicity of the photographed individual(s) as written on the back of the photo, followed by the town referenced.
Processed by Lisa Carney, July 2022.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
The Emilio Herbruger Photographs are open for research.
Access to Emilio Herbruger Photographs requires an appointment.

Related Materials
Information about the articles of clothing worn by the subjects of these photos is avaiable in the NAA vertical file.
Photographs by Emilio Herbruger are also held by the Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica in the Fototeca Guatemala, and the Archivo Fotográfico of the Bilbioteca Pública Piloto in Colombia. Sheet music by Emil Herbruger is held by the Library of Congress.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Kaqchikel Maya (Cakchiquel) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tz'utuhil Maya (Tzutuhil/Zutigil) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pipil Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Guatemala Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
K'iche' Maya (Quiché) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, Maryland 20746