The Nineteenth Century Photographs


Alice Dixon Le Plongeon


Augustus Le Plongeon



A Catalog of Collections



American Museum of Natural History,

Donald Dixon Album,

Getty Research Institute,

Peabody Museum at Harvard University,

Philosophical Research Society.




Lawrence G. Desmond, Ph.D.

Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology

Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project

Peabody Museum, Harvard University



Catalog funding from:


National Endowment of the Humanities

Grant RT-20746

The Getty Research Institute

English Heritage


Lawrence G. Desmond




© 2005 Lawrence G. Desmond, Ph.D.














Introduction to the Collections


            The Collections: A Historical Overview


            The Photography of Alice Dixon and Augustus Le Plongeon


            Catalog Organization and Materials Description


            Summary of Collections by Subject Matter


            Locations of Original Dixon/Le Plongeon Photographic Materials


            Location of Duplicated Dixon/Le Plongeon Photographic Materials


            Selected Bibliography


The Catalog


Collection I.

            American Museum of Natural History

            Museum & Catalog Number Cross-Index I

            Museum & Catalog Number Cross-Index II


Collection II.

            Donald Dixon Album


Collection III. 

            Getty Research Institute

                        Museum & Catalog Number Cross-Index I

                                    Museum & Catalog Number Cross-Index II


Collection IV. 

            Peabody Museum at Harvard University

                        Museum & Catalog Number Cross-Index


Collection V. 

            Philosophical Research Society

                        Museum & Catalog Number Cross-Index I

                        Museum & Catalog Number Cross-Index II








They knew the importance

of Alice and Augustus’ photographs

from the start.


This work is dedicated with great respect to—



Pearl Thomas,



Research Society


Manly P. Hall,

its founder.











            The 1,034 negatives, prints, tracings, and lantern slides cataloged in this five collection volume were made by Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and Augustus Le Plongeon during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. 

            The photographic materials and tracings were first duplicated, and then cataloged individually on separate computer data “cards” each with ten fields. 

            The images in the collections have not, as yet, been electronically attached to their respective data cards nor has the data been entered into a software database program. 

            The lack of imbedded images and a software database limits the catalog, but to facilitate researcher access this interim text-only version has been printed and made available as a Microsoft Word document in PDF format.  It can be searched by keyword.

            Should a researcher need to work with the duplicated Dixon/Le Plongeon images, the Center for Maya Research at 1459 Dillingham Road, Barnardsville, North Carolina, 28709 should be contacted.  A complete collection of duplicated photographs, fully cataloged, is archived at the center.







The work of cataloging and duplicating the five collections of photographs by Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and Augustus Le Plongeon required collaboration and assistance from a number of very generous and dedicated persons.

Pearl Thomas, librarian of the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, comes to mind first.  She passed away in 1995, and any visit to the society will not be same without her.  Once she learned of my interest in the Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs, it was Pearl who introduced me to the society’s founder and president, the late Manly P. Hall.  Hall’s vision and understanding of the historical importance of the work of Alice and Augustus inspired him to acquire a significant number of their photographs for the society in 1931.  He also encouraged my years of  research on those materials. 

Hall saw that the photos were important to an understanding of the contribution of Alice and Augustus to nineteenth century archaeology, and that they were a very early record of Maya buildings that had changed considerably during the past 100 years. 

My work with the society collection began in 1978, and Manly Hall, Pearl Thomas, and Edith Waldron, Hall’s administrative assistant, went out of their way to provide encouragement and gracious hospitality during the long hours of research, cataloging, and duplication of the Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs.

In 1987 my proposal to catalog and duplicate Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs archived at the Philosophical Research Society, American Museum of Natural History, and the Peabody Museum at Harvard University was accepted by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  Great thanks are due to Dr. Steven Mansback with the Office of Preservation at NEH for assistance, and to the NEH for financial support of the project under grant RT-20746.

In 1988 at the Philosophical Research Society, Douglas Munson, a photo conservator and director of the Chicago Albumen Works in Housatonic, Massachusetts, spent long hours in a makeshift photographic lab producing superb copies of the hundreds of Dixon/Le Plongeon negatives and prints, and their tracings of murals at Chichen Itza.

At the American Museum of Natural History, registrar Barbara Conklin was always ready to provide technical support, and helped to track down some hard to find archival Le Plongeon materials during my cataloging and duplicating project in 1988. 

Dr. Gordon Ekholm, curator of Mesoamerican archaeology at the museum and well known for his important contributions to American archaeology, encouraged the writing of this catalog.  He generously took many hours to go through the Le Plongeon archive and explain the circumstances of the museum’s acquisition of Le Plongeon materials. 

Larry Harwood, University of Colorado photographer, and his assistant Andrea Olsheski-Grey worked closely with me in the university’s photographic laboratory to process and print Dixon/Le Plongeon photos copied from the American Museum of Natural History’s collection.

Over the past 25 years a number of people at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University provided assistance.  In the 1980s, when preliminary studies were carried out at the photographic archive the following people were always ready to provide help and assistance: Daniel W. Jones, Jr. photographic archivist; Sally Bond, collections administrator;  Melissa Banta, then director of the photographic archives; Hillel Burger, director of the photographic studios; Martha Labell, curatorial assistant for the photographic archives; C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, then director of the Peabody Museum; and later in 1998, Barbara Isaac who was coordinator of the photographic archives.

In 1998, the Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles generously allowed examination and cataloging of its collection of 42 Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs that had been acquired in 1997.  A grant from the GRI provided funding for travel and for the acquisition of duplicates of their photographs.  Support and assistance was provided by Lynn M. O’Leary-Archer, associate director of the Institute’s Research Library, Judith Dillin, administrative assistant, and Beth Ann Guynn who was reference specialist for special collections.

An album of 239 Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs owned by the Donald Dixon of London, the grand nephew of Alice Dixon, was cataloged in 2004.  At the Guildhall Library in London, Lynne MacNab, assistant librarian for the print room, worked closely with the Dixon family and encouraged the cataloging of their holdings.   

MacNab has extensive historical knowledge of this illustrious family, and in 1999 she mounted an exhibit at the Guildhall Library of carbon photographic prints of London made in the late nineteenth century by Alice’s father Henry Dixon.  My cataloging of the album was completed thanks to the generosity of Donald Dixon, and with logistical support from English Heritage.  Considerable thanks are due to Paul G. Bryan, director of English Heritage’s Photogrammetric Survey Team, who helped with the cataloging logistics.

My thanks again to the many generous people who assisted me, and it is my hope that this catalog will provide a useful research tool for all those with an interest in the photography and archaeology of Alice Dixon and Augustus Le Plongeon.  And, that it will encourage a broader assessment of their photography and that of their many contemporaries who worked under such difficult conditions during the nineteenth century to record the ancient ruins.


Lawrence G. Desmond, Ph.D.

Palo Alto, California


May 2005






Introduction to the Collections


The Collections: A Historical Overview

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and Augustus Le Plongeon spent from 1873 to 1885 in Yucatan, Mexico, and Belize (then British Honduras) photographing the ancient Maya ruins, the contemporary people, cities and villages.  Their work is an extraordinary record, and fortunately more than 2,200 of their negatives, prints, and lantern slides have survived.

Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs are held at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and by Donald Dixon in London.  Duplicates of the original photos in the above collections are archived at the Center for Maya Research in Barnardsville, North Carolina.

Of the more than 2,200 extant Dixon/Le Plongeon photos, 1,034 were duplicated and cataloged beginning in 1988 for this five collection volume.  A collection of more than 1,200 Dixon/Le Plongeon photos was acquired by the Getty Research Institute in 2004.  That Getty collection has not been included in this volume, but an earlier Getty Research Institute acquisition in 1997 of 42 photos was duplicated and cataloged for inclusion.

The photographic materials include albumen and collodio-chloride printing-out paper prints, wet collodion glass-plate negatives, stereo-cards, and lantern slides all made by the Le Plongeons.  In addition, there are manufactured dry glass-plate negatives, and the Le Plongeons’ tracings on paper of the murals in the Upper Temple of the Jaguars at the archaeological site of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico.

The Philosophical Research Society collection was purchased by the late Manly P. Hall in 1931 from Maude Blackwell who was living in Los Angeles at that time.  Blackwell was a close friend of the Le Plongeons, and had inherited their photos and other research materials from Alice.  But, Alice had instructed Blackwell to destroy the photos if the American people did not show an interest in the Maya.  Fortunately, in 1929 archaeologist Alfred Kidder photographed the Maya site of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico from an airplane piloted by Charles Lindbergh, and one of those photos was published in the New York Times.           

When Blackwell saw the photo she took it as a sign that the American public had begun to show an interest in the Maya, and contacted archaeologist Sylvanus G. Morley at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and archaeologist Frans Blom at Tulane University.  Morley criticized some of Augustus Le Plongeon’s theories about the ancient Maya during an interview with Blackwell—angered by his comments Blackwell refused to sell the collection to the Carnegie Institution.  While Blom’s letters to Blackwell are sympathetic, she finally decided to sell part of the collection to Manly Hall.

Except for an examination of a few of the collection’s glass-plate negatives in the mid-1960s by Henry B. Nicholson, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, the photographs and tracings went virtually unnoticed by archaeologists until 1978 when permission was given to this writer by Manly Hall to work with the photographs.

In 1979 during a visit to the late Dr. Gordon Ekholm, curator of  the Mesoamerican holdings at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, this writer asked him if the museum had any archival materials pertaining to Augustus Le Plongeon.  To my great surprise he stated he had a collection of Augustus’ photos in his office!  Of course in 1979 all photo credit went to Augustus, but within a few years this writer learned that Alice Dixon was a photographer, and she was also was responsible for the photographs.

Ekholm explained that the photos had come to him in the mid-1950s in a trunk which had been delivered first to Professor William Duncan Strong at Columbia University in New York City.  Strong considered the materials more appropriately housed in a museum and had them transferred.

The trunk had been shipped to Strong by a New York storage company where it had sat unclaimed for a number of years.  The photos and other contents had been stored by Maude Blackwell, and she may have died in the early 1950s.  Luckily the company recognized the historic value of the contents, and delivered them to the university rather than selling or destroying them. 

Ekholm mentioned that, along with the photographic materials in the trunk, there was a copy of Augustus Le Plongeon’s book, Queen Móo and the Egyptian Sphinx, and an experimental telephone with the name Henry Field Blackwell (Maude Blackwell’s husband) inscribed on it. 

Since 2004 the American Museum of Natural History’s Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs have been housed in the photographic archive of the Division of Anthropology, and cataloged and curated by archive staff.  Each photograph been assigned a museum accession catalog number, and the collection is now open to researchers. 

The catalog numbers used for this catalog are different from the accession numbers recently assigned by the museum.  But, duplicates of the museum’s photos are archived at the Center for Maya Research in North Carolina, and each photo is inscribed using the numbering system in this catalog.  Thus the duplicate photos can be linked to this catalog’s data cards, and then by comparison to the original images at the museum.

The prints at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University came to the museum from the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts around 1900, along with virtually all of the society’s Mesoamerican artifacts.  The majority of the collection’s 135 photos are glued to 10 thick paper boards with about 12 prints pasted onto each board.

The Getty Research Institute acquired 42 Le Plongeon prints from Throckmorton Fine Art in New York City in 1997.  The collection was cataloged in 1998 for inclusion in this catalog of Le Plongeon collections.

            The Dixon family has cherished an album of 239 Dixon/Le Plongeon prints for more than 100 years.  The album was probably put together by Henry and Sophia Dixon, Alice’s parents, from prints she sent to them from Yucatan in the mid-1870s.  The current owner, Donald Dixon, is the grandson of  Alice’s brother Harry Dixon who was a sculptor and painter.  The album was probably passed from Harry to his son Bertram, then from Bertram to his daughter Diana, and to her brother Donald after her death in 2003.  In addition to photos of Yucatan and the Maya ruins, the album has 38 views of Belize taken in 1876 that may be the earliest photos taken of what was then called British Honduras.

            In 2004, the Getty Research Institute acquired a privately held archive of Dixon/Le Plongeon textual and photographic materials, and while it is not included in this volume it will be briefly described because of its significance. 

            In the 1990s, Claire L. Lyons, collections curator for the Getty Research Institute, saw the importance of the collection to art and archaeology, and labored over several years to conclude the acquisition.  Once acquired, it was then processed and cataloged by Beth Ann Guynn who is special collections cataloger for the Getty Research Library.  The collection can be accessed using the Getty Research Institute’s “online finding aid” that includes a detailed listing of the photographic materials.  For a direct access address to the “finding aid” see the entry, Getty Research Institute, 2005 in the Selected Bibliography of this catalog.

In the collection are approximately 1,200 Dixon/Le Plongeon photographs including lantern slides, stereo cards, prints, and collodion glass negatives of archaeological and ethnographic subjects in Yucatan, Mexico, Peru, and Hawaii.  In addition, there are general views of  Hawaii, the southwest United States, Yucatan, Belize and London, portraits, mammals, birds and insects, and the original tracings of murals in the Upper Temple of the Jaguars at archaeological site of Chichen Itza made by Alice and Augustus. 

The acquisition also includes a rich collection of textual material such as published and unpublished manuscripts by Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, and correspondence from Alice and Augustus’ years in Mexico and Belize, and from Augustus’ years in Peru during the 1860s.          

Alice Dixon’s personal journal is part of the acquisition, and it gives a lively and unfiltered view of her life and work in Yucatan from 1873 to 1876.  She also provides a considerable amount of  historically descriptive material about the people of Yucatan and the on-going struggle of the Maya during the mid-nineteenth century to keep the central government of Mexico from annexing their land.

The acquisition of the journal ended a 26 year search that began the day it was described to this writer by Manly Hall in 1978.  Hall stated it was part of the Philosophical Research Society acquisition in 1931 along with the photographs and other materials, but for unexplained reasons the owner, Maude Blackwell, demanded its return.          Unknown to Manly Hall only a fraction of Blackwell’s Dixon/Le Plongeon materials had been purchased by him for the Philosophical Research Society.  A significant part of the original collection of photos and textual materials, including the journal, had been archived at the Theosophical Society in Los Angeles from the 1930s until the 1980s.  After the mid-1980s the collection was owned by Los Angeles actor, painter, and philosopher Leigh J. McCloskey until it was acquired by the Getty Research Institute in 2004.

            Another collection of Le Plongeon photographs may yet be found in a museum or private collection in Yucatan.  In 1876, Alice stated in her journal that she made a set of 125 prints for the governor of Yucatan.  Those photos, pasted on paper boards, should be identical to the collection at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. 

September [no day number] 1876

Sent 125 views mounted on varnished boards to Ramon Aznar in N.Y. that he might forward them to the exhibition in Philadelphia.  [These photos are now at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University]

The governor, Eligio Ancona saw the collection of photos and ordered one [set] for the museum.

September 18, 1876

Completed and delivered the views for the museum.  The boards were fourteen in all – the bill 150 dollars.

(Le Plongeon, Alice Dixon 1873-76: 261)


The Photography of Alice Dixon and Augustus Le Plongeon

Both Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and Augustus Le Plongeon were practicing professional photographers when they arrived in Yucatan, Mexico in 1873.   Alice Dixon, born in 1851, had been trained in photography by her father Henry Dixon, an important nineteenth century London photographer.  He is best known today for his photographs of  London buildings for the Society for Preserving the Relics of Old London.  His carbon prints are held today in London by the society, and in the United States by George Eastman House, and the Gernsheim Collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas.   

Alice was noted as a “photographer assistant” in the 1871 London census, and was living at home at 112 Albany Street.  Her brother Thomas James joined his father in the photographic business in the 1880s while Alice was working in Yucatan, and continued to work as a practicing photographer until a few years before his death in 1943.  Another brother, Harry, trained in painting at the West London School of Art, was a sculptor, an illustrator of books, and an artist of some note with paintings still housed in London’s Tate Gallery.

Augustus Le Plongeon was born in 1826 on the Island of Jersey and was schooled in France.  In the mid-1840s, while in his twenties, he traveled from Jersey to Chile to teach mathematics. Then, upon hearing of the Gold Rush in California he left Chile and settled in the Sacramento Valley near the gold fields in the small but thriving settlement of Marysville.  Once there, Augustus worked as a land surveyor and drew-up plans for the city, but within a few years he moved to San Francisco. 

Alice reports he learned photography in the 1850s from William Henry Fox Talbot who had invented a photographic process using paper negatives and prints known as the Calotype.  In an article a few years after Augustus’ death, Alice provides a few tantalizing details about how he learned photography: “In 1851, having contracted severe fever in the course of his official duties [in California], Dr. Le Plongeon visited Europe and England.  At the Sydenham Palace exhibition [The Great Exhibition in London] the paper photographs made by Fox Talbot were admired by the Doctor and he lost no time in inducing that gentleman to teach him his method” (1909:277).

After his return from London he moved from Marysville to San Francisco, made a visit to Hawaii in 1854, and in 1855 opened a photographic studio on Clay Street in the center of the commercial district.  He worked as a photographer in San Francisco until his departure for Peru in 1862.

In Lima, Augustus opened another photographic studio, and traveled extensively in the region photographing Peruvian archaeological sites for his own research, and for the research of the writer and archaeologist Ephraim G. Squier.

In 1870, Augustus Le Plongeon returned to San Francisco, and by lectures and exhibits presented his photographs and research on the ancient civilizations in Peru to the fellow members of the California Academy of Sciences.  He then traveled to London to carry out archival research on ancient Mesoamerica at the British Museum. 

It was during this visit to London that he met Alice Dixon, and in the late summer  of 1871 they sailed for New York and were married there in October.  In July 1873 they left for Yucatan.  They had decided to carry out research on the origins and spread of Maya civilization, and to systematically photograph Maya buildings, architectural elements, bas-reliefs, and artifacts such as ceramic vases and sculptural pieces.

In the 1830s, a limited number of photographs of the ruins in Yucatan had been made by Frederick Catherwood and John Lloyd Stephens using the daguerreotype process to illustrate Stephens’ travel books on the Maya.  But, they soon abandoned the daguerreotype in favor of the camera lucida for hand drawings because of the difficulties in getting a satisfactory photographic image.  While the drawings made by Catherwood using the camera lucida were greatly admired, by the 1860s more-and-more archaeologists and explorers adopted photography for documentation.  The development of the collodion wet-plate glass negative and printing-out paper made photography in remote locations much more feasible than earlier photographic methods, and much faster than hand illustration.

In the 1860s, Désiré Charnay, a French photographer and explorer, documented buildings at a number of Maya sites in Yucatan using very large format (15x21 inches) wet collodion glass negatives.  The large glass plates provided an enormous amount of detail, and were often used by expeditionary photographers during the nineteenth century.   Charnay’s purpose was to use his photographs to illustrate his writings and document the sites for a popular audience.  He did not have the intension of carrying out a systematic photographic survey.  Nor did he have the time to build scaffolds or tall tripods to bring his camera closer to the sculpted details in the upper registers of facades or to overcome difficult perspective problems.  He used the larger format negative to capture detail in photographs taken at ground level, and often from a fair distance.  Ironically, it was the heavy glass plates and large and cumbersome camera that limited his photography to only a few views at each site since this heavy and fragile baggage had to be carried by pack animals.

Because the Le Plongeons intended to make a thorough and systematic photographic record that would require hundreds of images, they decided on the use of 3-D stereo photos for most of their work.  Augustus stated,  I took stereopticon pictures of Yucatan in preference to single ones because they are more realistic when looked at with the proper instrument and they enable me to study the monuments as well, and sometimes better, than if  I stood before them” (Augustus Le Plongeon letter to Charles Bowditch: 1902). 

They used 4 x 8 inch glass-plates for their stereo photos and 5 x 8 inch glass-plates for 2-D photos.  This change from the traditional larger photographic format allowed them to carry a very large number of glass-plates, fewer photographic chemicals,  more compact developing equipment, and use a smaller camera,.  The majority of their glass negatives were handmade using the wet collodion glass-plate process.

During the Le Plongeons’ fieldwork, half of Yucatan was under the control of the government of Mexico, and other half by the Maya who continued to resist annexation of their land by a long and bloody war during the nineteenth century.  The ancient Maya city of Chichen Itza was beyond what was called the “Line of East,” hence under Maya control.  This made it very dangerous to travel into the area, let alone live at the ruins.  In spite of the dangers, the Le Plongeons lived and worked at Chichen Itza for five months in 1875 and 1876, and then five months from the fall of 1883 to March 1884. 

At  the less dangerous archaeological site of Uxmal they spent several months recording buildings, bas-reliefs, and artifacts during the years 1873, 1876, and 1881.  They also visited other sites such as Izamal, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Cancun, Ake, and El Meco, and traveled to Belize (British Honduras) where they took what may be the first views of the countryside,  people and archaeological artifacts.

The work required to photograph buildings at archaeological sites in Yucatan was prodigious.  A portable darkroom was required, and each wet collodion glass-plate negative had to be individually prepared.  Exposures varied with time of day and weather, as well as the condition of the processing chemicals.  Because their cameras did not have shutters, their experience as photographers determined the number of seconds the lens cap should be removed to make an exposure.  Of course, any movement of the camera during the long exposure would cause the image to blur.

The Le Plongeons’ documentation of the east façade of the Governor’s Palace at Uxmal is typical of their photographic methods.  The camera was mounted on a 20-foot tripod made from the trunks of thin trees that were trimmed of branches.  A glass-plate was prepared with fresh collodion, sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate, placed in a light tight box, and quickly carried up a ladder to the camera before it lost its sensitivity.  The lens cap was removed and the exposure made, then the exposed plate in its light-tight box was brought to the portable darkroom for processing.  If the negative proved satisfactory, the heavy tripod and camera were moved to another position along the façade for another exposure—it required the strength of Augustus, Alice, and their Maya assistant to move the tripod.  The 320 foot façade of the Governor’s Palace was recorded over a period of weeks with 16 overlapping stereo 3-D photos, and individual motifs of special importance were recorded with single 5x8 inch glass negatives.  The Le Plongeons used these same basic techniques for recording architecture at all the sites at which they worked.

It is not possible to establish exactly how many individual photos were taken by Alice and Augustus in Yucatan and Belize or even the number of prints and lantern slides that they made.  But it is estimated that they took more than 500 photos, and today we do know there are more than 2,200 of their negatives, prints, and lantern slides in private and public collections.

One reason we cannot establish the specific number of photos that were taken is that the glass-plates were reused for the many portraits Alice and Augustus made during their travels in Yucatan and Belize.  Once prints were made and sold there was little reason to preserve the negative image, and the reuse of glass-plates reduced the amount of baggage that had to be carted over rough roads to remote areas.

This catalog also lists lantern slides that were made for lectures and as duplicates of  important negatives.  From a slide (a positive image) a negative could be made if the original was somehow damaged or destroyed.  There was always the possibility that glass negatives might be accidentally broken during transport from archaeological sites to Merida or even on shipboard to New York.         

They also made an unknown number of prints as gifts for their friends in Yucatan such as the Bishop Crescencio Carillo y Ancona, and as noted before, photos of the ruins were purchased by many people including the governor Don Eligio Ancona.  Some prints were sent to their patron Stephen Salisbury, Jr. at the American Antiquarian Society in Massachusetts, to Alice’s family in London, and after their return to New York they continued to make prints for more than 20 years. 

After 1885, in New York Alice and Augustus continued their writing and lecturing on Maya civilization.  Alice used the Magic Lantern (an early slide projector) to illustrate her lectures with lantern slides she made from their photos.  Augustus Le Plongeon died at age 82 in 1908, Alice Dixon Le Plongeon died two years later at the age of 58, and their photos and written materials passed into the hands of their friend Maude Blackwell.


Catalog Organization and Materials Description


The catalog is subdivided into five collections.  Each photographic item in a collection has been cataloged using a data entry card with the fields listed below.  For illustration, sample data or the subject matter of entries for each field have been provided.



American Museum of Natural History (AM)

Donald Dixon Photo Album (DA)

Getty Research Institute (GRI)

Peabody Museum at Harvard University (PM)

Philosophical Research Society (PRS)


Catalog number:  # 17

Museum photo identification number:  PM-P2500F


Archaeological Site






            European exploration


            Henry Dixon





            Lantern slide

            Print or Tracing




Collodio-chloride printing-out paper

Dry glass-plate

Gelatin glass-plate

Wet collodion glass-plate


Yes or No


            4 x 8 Inches


Upper Temple of the Jaguars.

Entrance to inner temple, south pilaster, north façade, K-8, bas relief. 

                        [Any recognizable person in a photo is identified]

Cross Reference:

X Ref: PM-P2500F


X Ref: PM-P2500F similar


The Cross Reference field gives the catalog numbers of identical or similar photos in other collections.  Similar photos are defined as having the same subject matter, but they were taken at a slightly different angle or time of day from about the same camera position. The differences between similar photos are often subtle and hardly noticeable at first viewing. 

When the Cross Reference field does not list an identical photo in another collection that indicates that the photographic item is unique to that collection.

Cross Index Numbers:

            Because the photos in the collections are not organized in chronological order by museum number, a Cross Index of catalog and corresponding museum numbers for each collection (except the Dixon Album) is provided.  If the paper version of the catalog is being used, this can speed up the search for a photo data card in a large collection such as the Philosophical Research Society when a researcher has only the museum number of that photo.


Summary of Collections by Subject Matter

            Items listed as documents, drawings or paintings, etc. are photographic copies made by Alice and Augustus of original materials.  The tracings of the murals at Chichen Itza are not photographic, and were duplicated by Douglas Munson using 8x10 inch negatives.  It should be noted that the tracings housed at the Philosophical Research Society are copies made by Alice and Augustus from the original tracings made in the field at Chichen Itza.  The field tracings are archived at the Getty Research Institute.


Subject                                                Quantity

Archeological Site                  52

Artifact                                      9

Document                                  1

Biological                               23
Ethnographic                           36

Henry Dixon                              3

Painting                                     3

Portrait                                      2

View                                       59

TOTAL                                 188







Subject                                                Quantity

Archaeological site                 93

Artifact                                      8

Biological                               17

Ethnographic                           28

Geological                                2

Portrait                                    13


            Yucatan                       35

            Belize                          38

            New York                     5

TOTAL                                   239




Subject                                                Quantity

Archaeological Site                41

Portrait                                     1

TOTAL                                   42




Subject                                                Quantity

Archeological Site                  113

Artifact                                        4

Ethnographic                             13


Portrait                                        5

TOTAL                                   135




Subject                                                Quantity

Archeological Site                  238

            Tracings                        25

Artifact                                      63

Biological                                   2

Document                                    2

Drawing                                      2

Ethnographic                             20

European exploration                  1

Geological                                  2

Painting                                       1

Portrait                                      19

View                                         55

TOTAL                                   430


*The catalog of the Philosophical Research Society collection does not give an accounting of the society’s holdings of duplicate prints made by Alice and Augustus from the same negative.



Locations of original Dixon/Le Plongeon photographic materials


American Museum of Natural History

Registrar for Archives & Loans/Anthropology

Division of Anthropology

Central Park West at 79th Street

New York, NY 10024

Mr. Donald Dixon

5 Jillian Court

19 Adelaide Road

Surbiton, Surrey KT6 4SY England


Getty Research Institute

Suite 1100

1200 Getty Center Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688


Peabody Museum at Harvard University

Photographic Archives

11 Divinity Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02138


Philosophical Research Society

3910 Los Feliz Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90027



Location of duplicated Dixon/Le Plongeon photographic materials


            Copies of original Dixon/Le Plongeon prints, negatives, lantern slides, and mural tracings are archived at:

The Center for Maya Research

1459 Dillingham Road

Barnardsville, NC 28709  Contact: Dr. George E. Stuart

            Duplicate photographic materials archived at the Center for Maya Research were made from original materials at the following archives:

American Museum of Natural History  (Duplicated by L. G. Desmond)

Dixon Album  (Duplicated by L. G. Desmond)          

Getty Research Institute  (Duplicated by GRI staff)   

Peabody Museum at Harvard University  (Duplicated by Peabody Museum staff)

Philosophical Research Society  (Duplicated by Douglas Munson)


Selected Bibliography


Davis, Keith

1981    Désiré Charnay: Expeditionary Photographer.  Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.


Desmond, Lawrence G.

1983    Augustus Le Plongeon: Early Maya Archaeologist.  Ph.D. Dissertation.  Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International.

1989    Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon: Early Photographic Documentation at Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico.  In Mesoamerica: The Journal of Middle America, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 27-31, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

1989    Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon: Early Fieldwork in the Puuc Region of Yucatan, Mexico.  In, Juan Antonio Siller, Ed., Cuadernos en Arquitectura

            Mesoamericana, National University of Mexico, Vol. 11, Series Arquitectura Maya No. 5, September, pp. 11-15.

1989    Of Facts and Hearsay: Bringing Augustus Le Plongeon into Focus.  In, Andrew L. Christenson, Ed., Tracing Archaeology's Past, Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 139-150.

1996       Rediscovery: Exploration and Documentation.  In, Jane Turner, Ed., The Dictionary of Art, Vol. 21, Part X, pp. 262-264.

1999    Augustus Le Plongeon: From Center to Periphery.  In Alice B. Kehoe and Mary Beth Emmerichs, editors, Assembling the Past: Studies in the Professionalism of Archaeology, University of New Mexico University Press, 1999.

2001    Augustus Le Plongeon (1826-1908): Early Mayanist, archaeologist, and photographer. In, David Carrasco, Ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of          Mesoamerican Cultures, 3 Vols.,  New York, Oxford University Press, Vol. 2, pp. 117-118.


Desmond, Lawrence G. and Paul G. Bryan

            2003    Recording architecture at the archaeological site of Uxmal, Mexico: A historical and contemporary view.  Photogrammetric Record, 18(102):                             105-130, June.


Desmond, Lawrence G. and Phyllis M. Messenger

1988       A Dream of Maya: Alice and Augustus Le Plongeon in Nineteenth-Century Yucatan.  Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.


Eastman Kodak

1985       Conservation of Photographs.  Kodak publication number F-40. Rochester:  Eastman Kodak Company.


Eder, Josef Maria

1945    History of Photography.  New York: Columbia University Press.


Foote, Kenneth E.

1987       Relics of Old London: Photographs of a Changing Victorian City.  History of Photography, Vol. 11, No. 2: 133-153.


Getty Research Institute

2005    Internet address to access the Finding Aid for Le Plongeon photographic and textual materials archived in GRI Special Collections.                                          


Jones, Bernard E. (ed.)

1974       Encyclopedia of Photography.  New York: Arno Press.


Le Plongeon, Alice Dixon

1873-76  Unpublished handwritten personal journal.  Archived in Special Collections of         the Getty Research Library, Los Angeles.

1909       Augustus Le Plongeon, M.D. L.L.D.  Journal de Societe des Americanistes (Paris), No. 2: 276-279.


Le Plongeon, Augustus

1873    Manual de fotografica,  New York: Scovill Manufacturing Company.

1896    Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx.  New York:  By the author.

1902    Letter to Charles Bowditch, December 13.  Cambridge: Peabody Museum                                at Harvard University.


Newhall, Beaumont

1964    The History of Photography.  New York: Museum of Modern Art.


Reilly, James M.

1986    Care and Identification of 19th Century Photographic Prints.  Kodak publication number G-2S.  Rochester: Eastman Kodak Company.


Squier, Ephraim G.

1877       Peru: Incidents of travel and explorations in the land of the Incas.  New York: Harper and Brothers.


Stephens, John L. and Frederick Catherwood

1843       Incidents of travel in Yucatan.  New York: Harper and Brothers.


Weinstein, Robert A., and Larry Booth

1977    Collection, Use, and Care of Historical Photographs.  Nashville: American Association for State and Local History.







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