Spear, Elsa, 1896-

Alternative names
Birth 1896
Death 1992

Biographical notes:

Elsa Spear Edwards Byron was a professional photographer and a historian of the Sheridan County, Wyoming, area. She was born January 21, 1896, on a ranch near Big Horn, Wyoming. Her father, Willis Spear, was a cattleman and dude rancher and a state senator from 1914 to 1931. He founded the Spear Brothers Cattle Company with his brother William “Doc” Spear and the Spear-O-Wigwam dude resort in the Big Horn Mountains. Her mother was Virginia Benton Spear, whose family homesteaded near Big Horn, Wyoming, in 1881. Elsa acted as a guide for the dudes who came to visit the Spear-O-Wigwam (including Ernest Hemingway) and used the opportunity of these trips into the Big Horn mountains to take photographs. She began selling the images in 1923 to the Burlington and Great Northern railroads, and she soon established a reputation as a photographer. Her photographs were often accompanied by explanatory text; and her interest in the history of her family and of the area led her into further writing and historical research. She served on the State Geographical Board (1928-1932) and was responsible for recording names of geographical sites in the Big Horn Mountains and in Sheridan County.

In 1916 she married Harold C. Edwards with whom she had five daughters. On May 29, 1938, she married Earl Byron. He died in 1963. Elsa Spear Byron died on January 1, 1992.

From the guide to the Elsa Spear papers, circa 1880s-1986, (University of Wyoming. American Heritage Center.)


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Ark ID:


  • Indians of North America


  • Photographers


  • Sheridan (Wyo.) (as recorded)
  • Cheyenne (Wyo.) (as recorded)
  • Fort Fetterman (Wyo.) (as recorded)
  • Dayton (Wyo.) (as recorded)
  • Wyoming (as recorded)
  • Sheridan County (Wyo.) (as recorded)
  • Bighorn Mountains (Wyo. and Mont.) (as recorded)
  • Big Horn (Wyo.) (as recorded)