Wilfred Dudley Smithers was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, August
31, 1895, where his father was employed as a bookkeeper for the American Mine
and Smelting Company. When he was 10, his family moved to San Antonio, Texas.
He started his career in commercial photography in 1910, taking pictures at
Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio of pioneer aviation. He became an aerial
photographer for the U.S. Army Aviation Service during World War I and he
worked with the Army Civil Service as a wagon master, until his retirement
shortly before the outbreak of World War II.
Between 1935-1939, under a contract with the International Boundary
and Water Commission, Smithers photographed the entire U.S.-Mexican Border from
Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California. During the 1930s, while living in
El Paso, he also took photographs for the U.S. Border Patrol. He had opened a
commercial photography shop in San Antonio in the 1920s and after his
retirement from the Army, moved the shop to Alpine, Texas, where he operated it
for another 30 years. While living in Alpine, Smithers wrote articles for the
El Paso Times,
Sul Ross Quarterly, and
Western Horseman. In 1974, he moved back
to El Paso from Alpine and remained there until his death.
Shortly before his death in 1964, Smithers' book
"Circuit Riders of the Big Bend" was
published by Texas Western Press, the University of Texas at El Paso, as part
of the Southwestern Studies Series.