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Identifier: CONS92


Due to the loss of the bulk of Ligon's professional papers by a flood at his parents’ home and others discarded during his lifetime, the selection of papers in the collection provide a sampling of Ligon's work with the Bureau of Biological Survey for the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1913-1926; 1938-1950), and the New Mexico State Game Department (1927-1938). These papers include correspondence sent and received by Ligon while working as a game specialist in New Mexico for the New Mexico State Game Department. Most of the files relate to wildlife refuges and game management, with some containing more personal greetings from colleagues. In addition, the papers include reports, articles, and speeches written by Ligon on the topics of game management, predator control, game reserves, and refuges in New Mexico. Papers in the collection date from 1916-2011, with the bulk of the materials from between 1927-1937. Some biographical data and information about Ligon's education, as well as an abbreviated list of his publications and work history, are also included.

The greater part of the collection is made up of approximately 2,500 original glass plate, nitrate, and safety film negatives with approximately 1,100 black and white prints. Most of the images were taken by Ligon between circa 1909-1954 at locations in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, Alaska, Texas, and Mexico. The photographs document Ligon’s personal interests, his work for the U.S. Biological Survey and the New Mexico Game Department, and his breeding of game birds at his farm near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Subjects include: government hunters, eradication of predatory animals, hunting, town and ranch life, birds, management and breeding of indigenous bird population, railroads, local scenery, prehistoric Indian sites, still lifes, trains, bridges, soil erosion, and collections of historic and pre-historic artifacts. Nitrate negatives in the collection have been frozen for preservation.

A number of photo indexes (some being fragmented versions of copies) compiled by Ligon during his lifetime are also included in the collection. These indexes help to document the title, subject, place, and date for most of the images. For clarity, a master numeric index has been compiled based on information found in the original, chronological indexes and notations written by Ligon on both the front and back sides of many of the photographs. The prints and negatives are arranged numerically in a system devised by Ligon, but do not, unfortunately, represent Ligon's arrangement of many of the photographs in the albums which originally housed the prints. At some time in the past, the prints were detached from their pages and the original albums were discarded.

SERIES 1 PAPERS 1913-2011, N.D. BOX 1

Although the bulk of J. Stokley Ligon's professional papers no longer exist, the files in this series provide a sampling of documents which help to characterize his professional work. Included are correspondence, reports, and articles generated during his tenure with the Bureau of Biological Science of the United States Department of Agriculture (1916-1927, 1938-1950) and New Mexico State Game Department (1927-1938).

Additional files help document the acquisition and creation of this collection by Arthur H. Carhart of Denver Public Library's Conservation Library Center in the 1960s. Some biographical information documenting Ligon's background, education, and work history, as well as an abbreviated list of his publications, are included.


The series contains various original indexes kept by Ligon to organize and help document the more than 3,400 images taken by him between 1909 to 1956. Ligon compiled handwritten photographic indexes between the years 1909-1926 and again in 1954 and 1956. Notebooks number 2 (1912-1914) and number 3 (1914-1921), as well as a typed index (1921-1926), and later, shorter ones (1954, 1956) are included in the collection. The typed index (1921-1926) was probably compiled by Ligon from a now lost handwritten notebook 4 (and 5?), page fragments of which still exist in the collection. Starting in the 1930s, Ligon abandoned his use of separate notebook indexes and instead wrote dates and descriptive information on the back of each print. The indexes help document the title, subject, place, and date for the greater portion of the images in the collection. Some of Ligon's original handwritten indexes contained errors with duplicate numbers and misattributions.

For easier access to existing prints and negatives, a master numeric index has been compiled and collated from information found in Ligon's original, chronological indexes and from his handwritten notes on the verso and recto of many of the photographs. The index also lists information for images with numbers that are no longer represented by either a negative or print.

Additional items in this series are examples of glass plate and nitrate negative storage boxes and albums used by Ligon.


Photographs in the collection provide a visual representation of 2,140 of the more than 3,400 black-and-white images taken by Ligon between circa 1909-1956. Print dimensions fall primarily into two sizes: 5 x 7" and 3 1/4 x 5 1/2."

Included in this series are approximately 82 prints without identifying numbers (NN). Many of these prints contain descriptive and date information written on their verso. Others contain no information and are grouped together based on content. The "NN" photos are also listed and described in their own section of the the master index.

Many of the surviving prints in this series were originally housed in two or three photograph albums donated to the conservation library by Rose Ligon in 1963. The prints were later detached and separated from their original pages/albums sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. As it is no longer possible to recreate the arrangement utilized by Ligon when he created these albums, the prints are now arranged numerically according to the original negative/print numbers assigned to them by Ligon.


J. Stokley Ligon is known to have taken more than 3,400 images during his lifetime. Of these, approximately 1,510 are glass plate negatives and roughly 1,890 are nitrate negatives. Negatives in this series are arranged numerically, with some alphabetical annotations, based on a numbering system devised by Ligon.

Between circa 1909 and 1919, Ligon numbered his 5 x 7" glass plate negatives #1-790. Starting in May 1914 with the use of the smaller 3 1/4 x 5 1/2" size negatives, he restarted his numbering system. The 3 1/4 x 5 1/2" negatives (with some 5 x 7" additions), both glass plate and nitrate, are numbered #1-2477.

Of the black-and-white glass plate negatives, approximately 609 out of the original 790 5 x 7" and 650 of the original 808 3 1/4 x 5 1/2" negatives taken between circa 1909 and January 1, 1921, are still extant in the collection. Starting in May 1914, around the time that Ligon acquired his Kodak Premo Special camera, he alternately used nitrate film or glass plates. He later switched exclusively to nitrate in the Spring of 1921. Nitrate negatives taken by Ligon totaled about 1,890, of which more than 1,500 are included in this collection.

An additional 73 nitrate negatives labeled under the headings: "NN" and "NP" are included in this series. Approximately 50 of these images, NNs, were taken and described by Ligon on their corresponding prints, but were not numbered. The remaining 23 nitrate negatives, NPs, are attributed to Ligon based on image content, but their provenance is unproven.

Nitrate negatives in the collection have been frozen for preservation.


  • 1902-2011
  • Majority of material found within 1909-1956


The collection is open for research.


J. Stokley Ligon papers and photographs are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


James Stokley Ligon was an ornithologist, wildlife specialist, and conservationist based in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He was born in Buda, Hays County, Texas, on June 22, 1879, the son of Sidneyham "Seddie" Ligon (January 8, 1851; Virginia-April 16, 1940; Stockton, Pecos County, Texas) and Rebecca Louise "Lou" Barton (May 25, 1853; Arkansas-August 22, 1933; Stockton, Pecos County, Texas). The Ligons had at least 11 children: Ella Mae (1872-1873), Lucy Saluda (1874-1892), Margarett Olene [Bell] (1875-1954), Arthur Lee (1877-1962), James Stokley (1879-1961), Sidneyham "Seddie" Earl (1884-1973), Burney (1885-1971), Kate Talbot (1887-1892), Lloyd V. (1889-1975), Robert Aston (1891-1967), and Eddie Barton (1893-1977).

Educated in Texas at the Justus Academy in San Angelo (1898-1899), J. Stokley Ligon then attended Trinity University in Waxahachie, Texas (1900-1902) where he studied biology and natural history. Ligon also worked with his father and brothers in the family business drilling wells and installing windmills. In 1907, he was employed as a machinist before moving to work as a windmill repairman for his uncle, Lee A. Renick on the Bar Cross Ranch near the town of Jornada in Sierra County, New Mexico. Renick also operated a family well drilling and windmill business.

On June 1, 1913, Ligon, then age 33, began working for the U.S. Biological Survey to investigate and observe the breeding of waterfowl in New Mexico. He was later appointed field assistant to map the distribution of prairie dogs in the state of Arizona (May 1 to October 31, 1914). On May 16, 1915, he was given another three-month appointment to assist in organizing predator control operations at the Pole Military Reservation near Fort D.A. Russell, Wyoming. Ligon's appointment was extended and he became a Field Assistant to the Inspector of Predatory Animal Control for the District including New Mexico and Arizona. On November 1, 1915, he was promoted to Inspector, Predatory Animal Control and later Inspector-at-Large. He also trained hunters and leaders regarding predator control in other states including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Michigan. While leading predator control operations in Michigan, Ligon was assigned to a special detail in southeast Alaska where the Fur Game Warden and the Forest Service needed a study of wolf-game relationships (1922-1923). He then returned to New Mexico as the Supervisor of Predator Control.

In 1926, Ligon was given a year's leave of absence at the request of the New Mexico Game Commission to do the first statewide inventory of game species. His work resulted in the publication of the book: Wildlife in New Mexico (1927). On May 31, 1927, Ligon resigned from the U.S. Biological Survey to continue working with the New Mexico Game Department in order to assist with the implementation of the program for wildlife conservation in the state. In 1938, with the establishment of the new Division of Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration in the Fish and Wildlife Service, he was reinstated as a Biologist, at the Division's headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico. From October 31, 1943 through July 13, 1950, Ligon served as a Federal Supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 1929, Ligon and his wife, Rose, moved to Carlsbad, Eddy County, New Mexico, and established a game bird farm to preserve threatened species such as the masked bobwhite and lesser prairie chicken. The couple later sold the farm to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. They retired to a smaller property nearby, where Ligon continued to write and raise quail. During his lifetime, Ligon wrote numerous conservation-oriented articles for New Mexico Magazine and published a number of books on wildlife topics. In 1952, he was honored by the University of New Mexico with a Doctor of Laws degree for his work in conservation. His final book, New Mexico Birds and Where to Find Them, was published a few months after his death. He died in Carlsbad, New Mexico, on April 23, 1961.

Ligon married Rose Kuntz (October 21, 1893; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-December 16, 1977; Santa Barbara, California) on April 23, 1921 in Bessemer, Michigan. He and his wife are buried with other members of the Ligon family in the East Hill Cemetery, Fort Stockton, Texas.


Ligon was known to have owned at least three cameras during his lifetime. His first camera was a view camera that he purchased by mail order in about 1900. He used this camera to document his flat boat trip down the Pecos River in Texas (1910?), cowboys, and well drilling. He later purchased another view camera (5 x 7") in about 1909 after moving to New Mexico. Ligon used this camera to document much of his work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a predatory animal inspector. A number of his glass plate negatives were sent to the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, known currently as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, in Washington, D.C., where they remain in 2017. According to Ligon's second handwritten index, he purchased a new Kodak Premo Special camera in 1914. His use of a smaller negative size (3 1/2 x 5 1/4") appears to coincide with the purchase of this camera. He also either borrowed or purchased a Kodak Gothic camera (3 1/2 x 5 1/4") during a trip to Northern California in June 1939 and may have used a similar type of camera during the remainder of his life.

Based on surviving documentation, it appears that over the years Ligon used the Milner Studio, located on West Central Avenue in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the processing and printing of his film.


2 boxes (1.5 linear feet)

27 photo boxes

31 envelopes (freezer)

Language of Materials



Rose K. Ligon donated J. Stokley Ligon's papers, photographs and negatives to the Conservation Library Center at the Denver Public Library in 1963 and 1967.

U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey reports acquired through the assistance of the Arizona State Library, Phoenix, Arizona in 2017.


Photographs and negatives originally transferrd to the Western History and Genealogy Photograph Collection, accession number 2003.23, have been returned to the collection.


  1. Ligon, J. Stokley -- Archives.
  2. Ligon, Rose K. (Rose Kunz), 1893-1977 -- Correspondence.
  3. United States. Bureau of Biological Survey -- Officials and employees.
  4. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- Officials and employees.
  5. Animals -- Southwest, New.
  6. Predatory animals -- Control -- Southwest, New -- 20th century.
  7. Ranch life -- Southwest, New -- Photographs.
  8. Mines and mineral resources -- Southwest, New -- Photographs.
  9. Hunting -- Southwest, New -- Photographs.
  10. Water well drilling -- Southwest, New -- Photographs.
  11. Railroads -- Southwest, New -- Photographs.
  12. Southwest, New -- Photographs.
  13. Personal papers.
  14. Office files.
  15. Black-and-white photographs.
  16. Glass plate negatives.
  17. Cellulose nitrate film.


Number of Boxes: 2 (1.5 linear ft.)

Photographs: 5 boxes (2 linear ft.)

Negatives (glass plate): 22 boxes (8 linear ft.)

Negatives (cellulose nitrate): 31 freezer envelopes




Claudia Jensen

February 2005


Martin Leuthauser

December 2017


Ellen Zazzarino

Abby Hoverstock

Revised December 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States