Lesson Plans

Integrating portraiture into the classroom provides exciting opportunities to connect students with history, biography, and visual art. The portraits found in Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West have incredibly useful classroom application as your students study the American West.  Below are two lesson plans that can be used in conjunction with this exhibition (either in the classroom or while visiting the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery). All lessons are designed for grades 4–12 in United States history classes.



Photo of General Winfield Scott

Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, 1845-1924

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William F. Cody 1846–1917
Unidentified photographer
Woodburytype, 1887


Photo of Frederick Jackson Turner

Faces of the Frontier: Make Your Own Stereograph.

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Carleton Watkins in a mining pose
Albumen silver print, c. 1883
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C; gift of Larry J. West


For Further Reading

Stephen Aron, American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Ned Blackhawk, Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.

James Brooks, Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.

Philip Deloria, Playing Indian, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

John Mack Faragher, Women and Men on the Overland Trail, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

William Goetzmann, Exploration & Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West, New York: W. W. Norton, 1966.

Susan Johnson, Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush, New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.

Patricia Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West, New York: W. W. Norton, 1987.

David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.

Jeffrey Ostler, The Plains Sioux and U.S. Colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Peggy Pascoe, Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-1939, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890, New York: Atheneum, 1985.

Sherry Smith, Reimagining Indians: Native Americans through Anglo Eyes, 1880-1940, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Mark David Spence, Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Shelley Streeby, American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian-Americans, Boston: Little Brown, 1989.

Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990, New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

Samuel Truett, Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Elliot West, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Richard White, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own”: A New History of the American West, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Western Photography

Susan Bernardin, et. al., Trading Gazes: Euro-American Women Photographers and Native North Americans, 1880-1940, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

May Castleberry, et. al., Perpetual Mirage: Photographic Narratives of the Desert West, New York: Abrams, 1996.

James Faris, Navajo and Photography: A Critical History of the Representation of an American People, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Paula Fleming and Judith Luskey, The North American Indian in Early Photographs, New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

Mick Gidley, Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian, Incorporated, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Frank Goodyear, Red Cloud: Photographs of the Lakota Chief, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.

Peter Hales, William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.

Richard Jensen, et. al., Eyewitness at Wounded Knee, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Drew Johnson and Marcia Eymann, ed., Silver & Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998.

Robin Kelsey, Archive Style: Photographs & Illustrations for U.S. Surveys, 1850-1890, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Dolores Kilgo, Likeness and Landscape: Thomas M. Easterly and the Art of the Daguerreotype, St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1994.

Anthony Lee, Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Douglas Nickel, Carleton Watkins: The Art of Perception, New York: Abrams, 1999.

Sandra Phillips, et.al., Crossing the Frontier: Photographs of the Developing West, 1849 to the Present, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996.

Martha Sandweiss, Print the Legend: Photography and the American West, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

Carol Williams, Framing the West: Race, Gender, and the Photographic Frontier in the Pacific Northwest, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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