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Dean C. Worcester collection of Philippine photographs

Identifier: Ayer-Philippine-Photographs

Notice of Culturally Sensitive Indigenous Materials

This collection contains content identified by the library as Culturally Sensitive to Indigenous People(s). See the "Processing Note - Terminology" about the terminology used in this description. For more information please see the Newberry Library’s policy on Access to Culturally Sensitive Indigenous Materials.

Scope and Content of the Collection

Early 20th Century ethnographic photographs created and collected by Dean Conant Worcester, a professor and zoologist with interests in Philippine History. The over 8,000 photographs represent thirty-six “linguistic groups” of Indigenous peoples of the Philippines. In this collection there are also photographs from negatives owned by Dr. A.B. Meyer, friend of Jose Rizal.

The 5 volume Index to the Philippine Photographs (Ayer 290 .A983 1905) can be used as a supplement to the collection of photographs. This index contains several detailed notes by Dean Worcester regarding the photographs and can be consulted as a record of his views but is not necessary or helpful to use as a guide to the contents of the photographs themselves.

Worcester rarely provides exact dates for each photograph. Some of the photograph's date from before the end of the Spanish colonization and some of them from after Worcester's Philippine Commission had changed administrative divisions, leading to occasional issues with correctly denoting geographic or administrative regions. This is especially true in the Mountain Province, which was created from combining six previously Spanish sub-provinces in 1908, but which was reapportioned in 1920, all while many of the same names were reused. When possible, the spellings of names have been updated to make locations easier to find and to reflect use outside of Worcester’s own writing.


  • Creation: 1890-approximately 1913


Conditions Governing Access

The Dean C. Worcester collection of Philippine photographs are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Dean C. Worcester collection of Philippine photographs are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Dean Conant Worcester

Dean Conant Worcester (1866-1924) was born in Thetford, Vermont, the youngest son of an impoverished family of nine children. In 1884, his older brother and sister paid his expenses to the University of Michigan where he majored in zoology and came under the influence of Joseph B. Steere, chair of the Department of Zoology. In 1887, still an undergraduate, Worcester joined Steer's expedition to the Philippines, financing the costs by ensuring his life and borrowing on the policy.

The Steere expedition was recognized as a scientific success. With academic credit for his participation in the expedition and a semester's work in zoology, Worcester obtained his A.B. degree in 1889. He and Frank Bourns, also of the Steere expedition, planned a longer sojourn in the Philippines and found financing through the University of Minnesota and a wealthy Minneapolis businessman Louis F. Menage. The Menage Expedition, 1890-1893, resulted in the collection of over three thousand specimens of birds, bats, butterflies, reptiles, mammals, corals, shells and ethnological material. Upon his return, Worcester married Nanon Fay Leas and in the autumn of 1893 became an instructor in animal morphology at the University of Michigan. He began publishing monographs on Philippine birds, with Bourns and alone, and in 1895 he was promoted to assistant professor of zoology and appointed curator of the Zoological Museum.

In 1897 Worcester delivered his first general public lecture on the Philippines to the Unity Club of Ann Arbor and in that same year published his first general article on the Philippines, "Spanish Rule in the Philippines, co-authored with Bourns. With Dewey's victory over the Spanish in Manila Bay (May 1, 1898), Worcester began to think of the prospect of the Philippines as an American colony. During a six-week period, July 10 to September 1, 1898, Worcester wrote a very successful book The Philippine Islands and Their People, based on the letters he had written home during his scientific expeditions. A few months later, and as the McKinley government moved to extend American military control over the Philippine archipelago, a letter from his expedition colleague Frank Bourns warning of the danger of a Philippine insurgency led him to seek a meeting with President McKinley at which time he presented Bourns' views and augmented them with his own. On January 20, 1899, McKinley asked Worcester to join the Schurman Commission, a "civilian commission composed of men skilled in diplomacy and statesmanship," as requested by Admiral Dewey who was alarmed at the rejection by the newly declared Filipino government of the U.S. program of benevolent assimilation.

Through his participation in both the First and Second Philippine Commissions and in his position of Secretary of the Interior in the Commission government from 1901 to 1913, Worcester continued to have great influence on the formulation and implementation of American policy in the Philippines. His tenure on the First and Second Philippine Commissions would be the longest of all the commissioners. Worcester's rejection of independence for the Philippines, first voiced in an 1899 interview with Dr. Apacible, a Philippine insurgent with whom Worcester met in Hong Kong on his voyage to the Philippines, would never waver.

In 1913 Worcester resigned his position with the Philippine Commission to become vice-president of the Philippine-American Company. The following year he published The Philippines Past and Present and continued to direct various business enterprises until his death. Worcester's influence on American colonial policy and the various and controversial roles he played in the Philippines from his first visit in 1887 to his death in Manila in 1924: scientist, government official, propagandist and entrepreneur, earned him both accolades and deep resentment.

Historical Note

From 1890 until 1913, Dean Conant Worcester (1866-1924) took thousands of photographs of people and places throughout the Philippines. Worcester had first traveled to the region as an undergraduate zoology major in the 1880s on a scientific collecting mission for the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. He returned to the region after he graduated in 1890, this time making zoological collections for the Minnesota Academy of Natural Science. In 1893, Worcester was hired as a lecturer and curator in the University of Michigan Zoology Department and authored several scholarly and popular works on the Philippines. When the Philippines came under U.S. control at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Worcester was recognized as an American expert on the region. He quickly rose to prominence in the colonial government, serving on the first and second Philippine Commissions and then as Secretary of the Interior of the colonial government, a position he held until 1913.

Worcester's fascination with the Philippines was coupled with his fascination and commitment to the relatively new technology of photography. During his time in the region, he and his employees in the Interior Department's "Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes" took thousands of photos. A passionate imperialist, Worcester used many of his photographs in public lectures and popular articles supporting the colonial mission, and America’s responsibilities to "civilize" the tribal peoples of the Philippines. Others sought to be scientific records, framed through troubling 19th-century racial classifications and evolutionary paradigms.

Like the man himself, Worcester's photographs are controversial, and many are troubling. Nonetheless, they provide an invaluable archive of the history of American colonialism, the colonial history of early anthropology, and of the late 19th and early 20th-century Philippine history, communities, and individuals. Today these images are of wide interest to descendant communities and scholars alike.


55.2 Linear Feet (130 boxes and 5-volume index)

Language of Materials



Early 20th Century ethnographic photographs created and collected by Dean Conant Worcester, a professor and zoologist with interests on Philippine History. The over 8,000 photographs represent thirty-six linguistic groups of the people of the Philippines. In this collection there are also photographs of negatives owned by Dr. A.B. Meyer, friend of Jose Rizal


Photographs are organized in the following series; primarily ethnographic, organized by ethnic groups, with sections for topics and geographic areas at the end. Note that there is no Series 14

Series 1: Negrito Peoples
Boxes 1-8
Series 2: Ilongot (Ibilao) People
Boxes 8-10
Series 3: Mangyan People
Boxes 10-14
Series 4: Tagbanwa People
Boxes 14-16
Series 5: Kalinga People
Boxes 16-19
Series 6: Itneg People
Boxes 19-26
Series 7: Ifugao People
Boxes 27-35
Series 8: Bontoc People
Boxes 35-46
Series 9: Lepanto Igorot People
Boxes 46-48
Series 10: Ibaloi, Kankaneay, and Kalanguya People
Boxes 48-55
Series 11: Bukidnon People
Boxes 55-59
Series 12: Tiruray People
Box 59
Series 13: Manobo People
Boxes 59-60
Series 13 1/2: Mandaya People
Box 60
Series 15: Bagobo People
Boxes 61-62
Series 16: Bilan People
Boxes 62-63
Series 17: Ata People
Box 63
Series 18: Guianga People
Box 63
Series 19: Tagakaulo People
Box 63
Series 19 1/2: Dulangan Manobo People
Box 63
Series 20: Kalagan People
Box 63
Series 21: Subanen People
Boxes 63-68
Series 22: Moro People
Boxes 68-72
Series 23: Remontado People
Box 73
Series 24: Gaddang People
Box 73
Series 25: Ilocano People
Boxes 73-74
Series 26: Pangasinan People
Box 74
Series 27: Kapampangan People
Box 74
Series 27 1/2: Sambal People
Box 74
Series 28: Tagalog People
Boxes 74-75
Series 28 1/2: Bicolano People
Box 75
Series 29: Visayans
Boxes 75-76
Series 30: Zamboangueño People
Box 77
Series 31: Chinese People
Box 77
Series 32: Mixed Race
Box 77
Series 32 1/2: Mixed populations
Box 77
Series 33: Zoology
Boxes 78-82
Series 34: Botany, Plant and Tree Products, and Forestry
Boxes 82-86
Series 34 1/2: Agriculture and Work of the Bureau of Agriculture
Boxes 86-91
Series 35: Geology and Mineralogy
Boxes 92-94
Series 36: Volcanos
Boxes 94-97
Series 37: Geography
Boxes 97-106
Series 38: History
Boxes 106-126
Series 39: Industries
Boxes 126-127
Series 40: Assorted Duplicates
Boxes 127-128

Collection Stack Location

3 17


Gift, Edward E. Ayer.

Related Archival Materials note

Related collections can be found in the Philippine Photographs Digital Archive, Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan and the Photo Archives - Philippines Collections, The Field Museum.

Processed by

Stuart Fraser and Analú López, 2019.

Processing Note - Terminology

This finding aid has been constructed to honor the Philippine Indigenous groups that Worcester photographed, to preserve their history, and to promote their study, rather than to repeat Worcester’s colonialist concerns. While Worcester’s ethnographic groupings have been maintained, much of his terminology for the ethnolinguistic groups he depicts has been changed. This has been done to more accurately reflect the Indigenous peoples of the Philippines, using endonyms instead of American or Spanish colonial terms when possible. While an attempt was made to remove much of Worcester’s own racist language from the captions, in some instances throughout this finding aid, it was chosen to use terminology employed by Dean C. Worcester regarding the names of various groups in the Philippines. It was done so researchers can more clearly understand Worcester’s problematic ideas about racial and ethnic identity in the Philippines. We recognize that some of the terms included are no longer in use and, in fact, that some of them may now be considered offensive and do not reflect the values of the Newberry Library.

Worcester’s separation and organization of ethnographic groups is itself a product of his colonialist ideology and inescapable from his desire to rank various Indigenous groups through willful misrepresentation. In some instances, Worcester’s separate photographic series create the appearance of delineations within a single Indigenous culture, while in other series, up to twenty-five different Indigenous groups are condensed into a single categorization. In addition, the spelling of some groups varied over time and by user (e.g., Igorot and Igorotte, Tingian and Tinguiane). We have tried to standardize the spelling when using the term but kept the varied spelling when quoting from the index created by Worcester.

Inventory of the Dean C. Worcester collection of Philippine photographs, 1890-approximately 1913
In Progress
Analú López and Stuart Fraser
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States