Superior Man Grips Nation with Photographs

Northland Uncovered

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David F. Barry couldn’t be missed on the streets of Superior.

“He was loved by everyone in town; he was kind of a celebrity,” said Joann Jardine, Assistant Director at the Douglas County Historical society, “he’d walk down Tower Avenue to the superior hotel and have dinner and people would wave and he was in parades.”

He was one of the first photojournalists in America and had to work his way up.

“Back in the day he had to develop his images in a little tent on his hands and knees on the ground,” said Jardine.

His career started in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“He had to print from glass plates and carry plates by pack mule and wagon and so the times in photography was really difficult back then and very dangerous,” said Jardine.

Barry spent his days photographing Native Americans and military personnel and he became very good friends with all of them.

In the early 1890’s, he took his business to Superior.

“Superior was growing so fast in the 1890’s, it was the place to go and it was a big boom town so Barry came here to open a studio,” explained Jardine.

He had three studios at different times in the city and spent the last 40 years of life in Superior.

“He still kept his relations with a lot of the Native Americans and military people who would come here just to see Barry and visit with him,” said Jardine.

His line of work was something that fascinated people across the country.

“People out east were very anxious to see images of the Wild West and it was a very lucrative business for Barry to sell images to the magazines and newspapers,” said Jardine.

Barry’s pictures all had special meaning.

He had personal relationships with each person photographed.

“He wrote their stories and he recorded them and he was one of the few people that had firsthand accounts of Custer’s Last Stand,” said Jardine.

“You see that they have so much experience and feelings. People didn’t pose for pictures back in those days, they were just very real,” said Jardine.

Through his 80 years, Barry brought photographs to life and secured history.

“I think people come in and they look into the eyes of the people in these pictures and it’s very gripping,” said Jardine.

The Douglas County Historical Society has the largest collection of David Barry images in the world.

There is a permanent exhibit at the historical society and it just $3 to see.

On March 6th, the anniversary of the day Barry died, Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen will proclaim it David Barry Day.

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