SCOPE AND CONTENT
The William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection dates from the 1870s to 2004, and measures approximately 140 linear feet. This collection documents Shemorry’s lifetime as a photographer, feature writer for the Williams County Press-Graphic, member of Company L (North Dakota State Guard), combat photographer of the 164th Signal Corps, organizer of the Williston Rural Volunteer Fire Department, manager and editor of the Press-Graphic, creator and co-publisher of the Williston Petroleum Picture, manager and member of the board of directors of the Williston Plains Reporter, owner of a photography business, feature writer for the Williston Plains Reporter, the Williston Basin Oil Reporter, and the Williston Daily Herald, award winner, and author, in Williston, North Dakota. The Collection consists of photograph collection files (office files), negatives, glass plate negatives, prints, photographs and slides.
The photograph collection files (office files) consist of 85 boxes of folders, most of which are arranged topically and alphabetically. The collection also contains 19 boxes of photograph collection files (office files) and prints, and 6 boxes of photograph collection files (office files) prints and negatives. The folders in the office files contain article drafts, brochures, business cards, certificates, copies of pages from books, correspondence, flyers, magazines, mailings, negatives, newsletters, newspaper clippings, notes, photographs, post cards, press releases, prints, programs, receipts and sketches.
Major subjects covered within the photograph collection files include activities, advertising, aerials, anniversaries, automobiles; aviation, awards, bands, biographies, businesses of Williston and the surrounding area (buildings, personnel, histories), celebrations, churches, events, fires and fire departments; flooding, Forts in northwestern North Dakota, holidays, homesteaders, irrigation projects, military activities, newspapers, oil, organizations, parades, parks, people, places, police, reunions, river boats, Shemorry’s publications, the Shemorry family, and World War II.
Due to computer errors, the complete inventory for the photograph collection files in boxes 1 to 21 was lost, but much of the information was recovered and added to a searchable table. The folders do not always follow a precise alphabetical order, and some of the boxes begin halfway through the alphabet, and resume alphabetically within the next box. In addition, there are several “A-Z” series within the photograph collection files.
The photograph collection files contain Shemorry prints, as well as prints by other photographers, including Anderson, John Brekke, R.R. Doubleday, Hartvig Hanson, Kloss, Mendro, F.A. Muntzer, Olson, J.E. Pasonault, and A.M. Thompson. The majority of prints by photographers other than Shemorry are by Kloss, Olson and Pasonault. Non-Shemorry images within the photograph collection files were scanned and are searchable by box number within the Negatives database.
The negatives within the collection consist of 68 boxes of Shemorry’s negatives. The negatives are of various sizes, and most are filed either alphabetically, topically, by Shemorry’s indexing system, or for publication in the Williston Herald. Additionally, some boxes are marked “negatives to file,” which means that they were waiting to be identified and filed by Shemorry.
Nine of the 56 boxes contain rolled negatives, seven of which were originally housed in plastic ice cream pails. The rolled negatives were removed from the pails and combined into large photograph boxes; the outer part of each roll was sleeved in a negative sleeve and numbered. Loose negatives within each pail were individually sleeved, and boxed with the rolled negatives.
The majority of the rolled negatives were unidentified, and sample scans of four images from each roll were taken; these scans are searchable by box number within the Negatives database. Within the boxes of Shemorry negatives, are negatives by other photographers, such as A.M. Thompson’s photographs of Wildrose, North Dakota. Within the boxes of negatives, one box of negatives and prints is exclusively by J.E. Pasonault.
Major topics within the negatives boxes are: Alamo, Alexander and Alexander old settler’s picnics, anniversaries, aerials, bands and Band Days, baseball, basketball, birthday parties, Burma, Calcutta, children, churches, construction, co-ops; Epping, farms, ferries, festivals, fires and fire departments, football, funerals; Grenora, individuals, law enforcement, motorcycles, oil companies and personnel, oil wells, rigs and refineries, organizations, parades, Ray, schools; Shemorry (William and family), sports, Stanley, store interiors and items, Tibet, Tioga, Trenton, United Nations trip, weddings, Wildrose; Williams County, Williston and the surrounding areas, Williston businesses, Williston old settler’s picnic, and World War II. A damaged negative of an unidentified oil well is boxed by itself, in box 59, because of its poor condition.
One box, box 63, contains a drawing and screened negative of the famous Clarence Iverson #1 discovery well, taken by Shemorry on April 4, 1951. The screened negative was used by Shemorry for a publication. Also in this box is a painting of Bill’s grandmother, Mary Shemorry, dating from either 1870 or 1875. There are 4 other boxes with screened negatives.
The 16 boxes of glass plate negatives within the collection were collected by Shemorry, and are largely unidentified. General descriptions have been applied to all negatives: the 4” x 6”, 5” x 7”, and 1 ¾” x 2 ⅜” sized glass plate negatives. All of the glass plate negatives have been scanned, and the images are searchable on the Negatives database by box number.
The 346, 1 ¾” x 2 ⅜” sized, glass plate negatives are housed in 30 small boxes within two photograph boxes. The only identifying information for the individual slides was written on the smaller boxes and mostly pertained to the dates and years when the photographs were taken. Additionally, all of these 30 boxes of slides were originally housed together in one box, but were separated and re-boxed because of preservation concerns. The 1 ¾” x 2 ⅜” slides cover the years 1917-1938, and several are undated. Specific months within these years include: March-November 1917; February-March, June-September, and December 1918; February-March, June-July, and December 1919; January-February, and April-December 1920; January, March-May, and September 1921; May-July 1922; June-July 1923; January and July 1925; March and May-December 1926; June-September 1927; February-July 1928; September 1929; May-June and August 1930; December 1931; June-August 1932; June and August-October 1933; June-August 1934; February, June-July and October-November 1935; June-November 1936; June and September 1937; and February and March 1938. Specific topic within this size of slides include: a bridge, building LCC Bridge, drawbridge, elephants on Main Street, Fort Union celebrations, Fourth of July celebrations, a railroad wreck, and swimmer.
The remaining 13 boxes of 5”x7” and 4”x6” glass plate negatives span the years 1909 and 1915-1928, and many are undated. Specific months within these years include: March 1909; November-December 1915; February-June and August-November 1917; March-April, June and November 1918; February-March, June-August 1919; April-June 1920; April, July-August, November 1923; May-August and October-November 1924; February –May 1926; July-September 1927; February, July and September 1928.
Topics found within the 5”x7” and 4”x6” glass plate negatives are: bulls, claim shacks, Cook car, cowboy with chaps and gun, crowd with oxen & wagon, Epping, Fairview Left Bridge, Fourth of July celebrations, family portraits and groups, grain shocks, groups, hens and chickens, homestead family, horse and buggy, horses pulling sleigh, horses pulling two-wheeler, horses pulling wagon, Lewis and Clark Bridge, man on horse, man riding motorcycle, men with horses, military negatives, Model-T Ford, neighbors of Holbergs, new car, people in Model-T, road building, roof blown off barn, schools, sod barn, steam threshing machine close-up, threshing scene, Wildrose, Williston, woman on horse, young man, and Zollbergs. This topical identifying information was written directly on the boxes by Shemorry. Finally, the Wildrose glass plates were given to Shemorry by Mrs. Dr. McCoy.
Also within the collection, are 16 boxes of negatives and prints, and 2 boxes of humidified prints. The collection includes 50 boxes of Shemorry prints, which are usually arranged topically, geographically, or chronologically. These boxes of prints range from 1880 to the 1970s, although the bulk of the prints date from the 1950s to the late 1970s, and are primarily of Williston, North Dakota. In addition to prints of Williston, there are also several prints of Alamo, Bismarck, Cando, Epping, Grenora, Ray, Tioga, Trenton and Wildrose. Specific topics that the prints are filed under include: aviation, Bergen, Norway, bridges and floods, Divide County and Pioneer Village, fire action, oil, oil celebrations, oil related, old time and miscellaneous (oversized), old-time/Williston, Pasonault, and Tioga’s 30th anniversary oil celebration. Once again, the topical identifying information was provided by Shemorry.
For the filenames of Shemorry prints that were scanned, the first numbers are the box number, followed by the folder number, then the item number (ex. SP-69.P55.1). Several of the filenames of the scanned prints do not include any folder numbers (ex. SP-22b.4). The acronym SP stands for “Shemorry prints.”
The slides within the collection comprise 4 boxes. The individual slides are housed within the original plastic containers that Shemorry used, and are identified by the topic written on the container. Box 50A and 50B consist of 51 containers of slides from the 1960s. The slides primarily feature images from Shemorry’s United Nations trip. Specific countries visited on this trip are: Finland, Denmark, Iceland, India [the Taj Mahal, Calcutta and New Delhi], Iran [Tehran], Japan [Tokyo], Mexico, North Vietnam, Norway, Russia, South Vietnam [Saigon], Sweden, Taiwan [Taipeh], the United States [Hawaii]. These slides from the United Nations trip include Shemorry’s studies of the fire departments of these countries, as well as general travel photographs. Other topics featured in the box of slides include other vacations Shemorry took (to San Diego, Rancho La Puerta, and Glacier Park), as well as Kitty Hawk, Williston Band Days, a swimming meet, the Williams County Agricultural Experiment Station, and a birthday.
There are 10 boxes of scrapbooks in the Shemorry Collection. Four of the scrapbooks consist of articles written by Bill Shemorry that were published in The Williston Basin Oil Reporter and The Williston Plains Reporter including his “Nostalgia” and “History Remembered” articles. Box 214 is an Old Settlers Picnic scrapbook of newspaper clippings. Two scrapbooks, box 218 and 219 are about oil, including the Second Annual Oil Discovery Day in Williston, N.D. in 1953. Box 220 contains a scrapbook of World War Two Era newspapers compiled by Bill Shemorry and box 221 which houses a Newspaper Study Mission around the world from the Vietnam Era, with newspapers compiled by Bill Shemorry and publications by Shemorry from his tour. Box 201 contains an eight page Fire Department scrapbook.
The Shemorry Collection also contains 5 boxes of artifacts; one box of disks, Shemorry’s filing system; 5 boxes of newspapers, Petroleum Picture; 4 boxes of sports programs; one box which stows one roll of microfilm, and there is one box which retains one tintype.
612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.