|Frank Cundill was born August 26, 1887 in Maquoketa, Iowa, the oldest of four children born to Will and Ella Cundill. During his childhood, Frank’s father was establishing himself as one of Iowa’s top photographers.
As a boy, Frank worked in his father’s studio. After graduation from high school in 1905, he attended Southern School of Photography in McMinnville, TN. He worked as a professional photographer in Indiana and Illinois and again in his father’s studio in Iowa. <p>In 1911, Frank joined the migration of people settling the newly opened Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations in South Dakota. He filed on a homestead nine miles south of Firesteel, SD. He lived on this farm for the next 46 years. <p>Almost as soon as he arrived in South Dakota, Frank began taking pictures and selling post card prints of his work. His post cards were sold locally and eventually found their way all over the country. He took many photos of the newly opened country and of children in natural settings. He also photographed the early celebrations and rodeos and took pictures of people at work and at play. Some of Frank's best and most valuable work was of the Indian people of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Reservations. <p>In South Dakota, Frank never had a photo studio for taking pictures or making enlargements. His 5x7 glass plate negatives were used to make contact prints of postcard size. Many of his glass plates and negatives were also sent back to his father’s studio in Iowa for developing and printing. <p>In some ways, the lack of a studio worked to Frank's advantage. It gave his photographs a more natural or honest quality. His Indian subjects were photographed in front of their homes or tents in their own traditional or everyday dress and children were photographed outside with whatever was handy for a backdrop, sometimes with farm animals in the picture alongside them. What Frank gave up in technical quality he gained in historical value. <p>The bulk of his known photographic work was completed between 1911 and the late 20’s. Frank recorded the every day life of his friends and neighbors. This was the last of the homestead frontiers. He was both a participant in and an observer of the struggle to open the reservation and develop a new community. Many stayed only a year or two and most had left by the end of the Dirty Thirties. Frank and his wife were among the few who stuck it out. <p>Over the years, Frank held many local offices and served on many local boards. He is well known for his 18 years of service with the South Dakota Board of Regents of Education (1937-55). Prior to that, he served six years as director of the State Fish and Game Commission and six years as a state legislator. He was also active in farm organizations as a director of the SD Crop Improvement Association and a charter member of the SD Hereford Breeders Association. <p>Frank’s photos are considered to be valuable historical records and have been shown throughout the United States. The bulk of his work is held by the Timber Lake and area Historical Society. Many of Frank's photos of the early days were published on post cards and in the 1965 and 1984 Timber Lake history books. For more information on Frank Cundill and/or his photographs contact the Timber Lake and Area Historical Society or www.timberlakehistory.org.
|Home Town (Maquoketa, IA)|