University of Texas at Austin

Hillyer Family:

An Inventory of its Literary File Photography Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Hillyer Family
Title: Hillyer Family Photography Collection
Dates: late-19th-early-20th century
Extent: 63 items
Abstract: Black and white studio portrait photographs (including eleven glass plate negatives) primarily of members of the H. B. (Hamilton Brisco) Hillyer family. Many of the photographs were created by studios in Texas that were owned by H. B. Hillyer and his son, C. Ernest Hillyer. In addition, the collection includes a photograph of the headstone of H. B. Hillyer and a newspaper article about John Freeman Hillyer.
Call Number: Photography Collection PH-02639
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. Please note: Negatives cannot be accessed without curatorial approval.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Centers' Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: 958:0089:0003-0004 and 958:0402:0001-0049: Acquisition information not available; 979:0073:0001-0011: Gift of Mrs. Alton M. Compton, 1979 (G119).
Processed by: Deborah Marks, 2016

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

The Rev. John Freeman Hillyer (1805-1894), a prominent Baptist minister and educator, moved his family, including his son, H. B. (Hamilton Biscoe) Hillyer (1935-1903), from Georgia to Texas in 1847. Father and son shared a common interest in photography and John taught H.B. how to create daguerreotypes. H.B. began making his own daguerreotypes as early as 1857. H. B. Hillyer later operated successive studios in Austin, Texas, from 1867 to 1887, becoming well-known for his photographs of local sites and events as well as his portraits of Texas State government officials. H. B. Hillyer married Mary Emma Storey (died 1885) in 1858, and they had four children: Theodore, C. Ernest, Julia, and Jessie. In 1886, H. B. Hillyer and C. Ernest went into business together, establishing H. B. Hillyer & Son. This studio failed during the recession of 1887, but H. B. Hillyer soon opened a new studio in Dallas, Texas. In 1889, H. B. Hillyer moved to Belton, Texas to join C. Ernest. Together they operated studios in Belton and Bowie, Texas until H.B.’s death in 1903. C. Ernest Hillyer operated his own studios in Bartlett and Belton, Texas, but he is believed to have left the photography business around 1912. C. Ernest Hillyer married Hattie Hillyer and was the father of Louise and Elizabeth (“Betty”) Hillyer.


Palmquist, Peter E. and Thomas R. Kailbourn. Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide...1839-1865. Stanford:Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2006.
Young, William Russell III. “Hillyer, Hamilton Biscoe”. In Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed June 22, 2016.

Scope and Contents

62 black and white studio portrait photographs from the late 19th century and early 20th century (including four ambrotypes and seven glass plate negatives). These photographs primarily document four generations of the Hamilton B. Hillyer family: Hamilton B. Hillyer and his wife, Mary Emma, and their children: daughters Jessie and Julia, and sons Theodore and C. Ernest Hillyer; Hamilton B. Hillyer’s father, John Freeman Hillyer; and son C. Ernest Hillyer’s wife, Hattie, and daughters, Louise and Elizabeth (“Betty”). The photographs were mostly taken by galleries in Texas owned by Hamilton B. and/or C. Ernest Hillyer as evidenced by the gallery names found on the prints. The later photographs were taken by the Thompson gallery (Waco, Texas) and Gray’s Studio (Belton, Texas). The collection contains four ambrotypes, seven glass plate negatives (of which five have corresponding prints) and many card photographs including boudoir, imperial and cabinet card sizes. Two cabinet cards created by the H.B. Hillyer gallery contain portraits of one unidentified man and one woman identified as “Libbie”. In addition, the collection includes a late twentieth century photograph of the tombstone of H. B. Hillyer in Bowie, Texas, and a newspaper article about John Freeman Hillyer.
The photographs have been arranged by family member from oldest to youngest generation. Photographs of unidentified individuals and non-photographic materials follow. Dates have been estimated and titles derived by the archivist based on inscriptions found on the photographs, where available, as well as from biographical information.

Index Terms


Hillyer, C. Ernest.
Hillyer, Elizabeth (Betty).
Hillyer, H. B. (Hamilton Biscoe), 1835-1903.
Hillyer, Hattie (Mrs. C. Ernest Hillyer).
Hillyer, John Freeman.
Hillyer, Louise.

Document Types

Albumen prints.
Card photographs.
Gelatin silver prints.
Glass negatives.
Photographic prints.
Portrait photographs.
Wet collodion negatives.

Item List