Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Phillips family
Phillips Family Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
circa 1880-1973 (mostly 1900-1940)
6 boxes and 4.0 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 3-4
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-2; 5-6


Consists of photographs, manuscripts, diaries, and ephemera relating to Edward H. Phillips (1868-1944), his wife Marie Kempton Phillips (1881-1946), and their daughter Jean Sarah Phillips (1908–1985) that document ranch life in and around Montana around the turn of the 20th century as well as Ed Phillips' involvement in Wild West shows, including Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and his career as a Hollywood actor.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of photographs, manuscripts, diaries, and ephemera relating to Edward Phillips, his wife Marie Kempton Phillips, and their daughter Jean Phillips that document the family, in particular Edward Phillips' career as a cattle rancher, Wild West show performer, and Hollywood actor. Notably, there are over 550 negatives (available in digital form) taken by Marie Kempton Phillips with a hand-held camera dating from circa 1904 to 1938, many of which depict life on a Montana ranch, novelty steer riding and rodeo scenes, horse races and other performances, branding, cattle, wagon trains, horse-breaking, and more.

Also of special interest are Marie's diary for 1904 documenting the period when her and her husband traveled back and forth from Montana to New York working various jobs at cattle ranches and performing in contests and a Wild West show in Coney Island; photographs of Kempton family members (some with stamps from Miles City, Montana, the studio of frontier photographer L. A. Huffman); a letter from Ed and Marie Phillips and a short diary written while on board the U.S.M.S. "St. Louis," describing the voyage to England with the cast of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show; a draft of an unpublished autobiography by Ed Phillips and his daughter Jean; and Jean Phillips' 1939 diary that documents her father's time working for Columbia Studios.

Also included in the collection are research materials about the Phillips family, the Kempton family and ranch, and related topics.

Collection Creator Biography:

Phillips family

Born in Saline, Kansas, Edward (Ed) Harford Phillips (1868-1944) moved west in 1882 to pursue cattle ranching. He primarily worked as a horse handler on multiple ranches, including James B. Kempton's XIT ranch near Terry, Montana, one of the largest cattle ranches in eastern Montana. A skilled horseman and steer roper, Phillips joined the cast of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in New York in 1900 as a stunt horse rider. In 1902, Phillips married Mary (Marie) N. Kempton (1881–1946) with whom he had two children: Jean Sarah Phillips (1908–1985), who also performed in Wild West shows, and Joseph Edward Phillips (1913–1972).

Marie Kempton Phillips, an accomplished horsewoman and relay rider, joined her husband as a performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The couple celebrated their honeymoon in London while touring with the show during its four-month run at the Olympia Building beginning in December 1902. Over the next couple of years, the Phillips traveled back and forth from Montana to New York working various jobs at cattle ranches, farms, and race tracks, and performing in rodeo and horse-racing contests, and a Wild West show in Coney Island. From 1906 to 1912, the Phillips family lived at Cross L. ranch in Medora, North Dakota before moving back to Terry, Montana.

In 1919, the family moved to Los Angeles, California, and Ed Phillips joined Tom Mix's stock acting company. He left after a year to work with cowboy stars such as Buck Jones, Harry Carey, Fred Thompson, William S. Hart, and Hoot Gibson, and others. From 1922 to 1930, the Phillips family lived and worked a farm in Merced before returning to Los Angeles where Ed again worked as a film actor and consultant for westerns. During his Hollywood career, Phillips was in movies made by Leo D. Maloney (1888-1929) and had minor roles in the movies "Gun Play" (1935) and "In Old Chicago" (1938), among others. His movie career ended with Columbia Studios (1939-1942). Phillips was an honorary member of the Chuck Wagon Trailers.

Photographs and some information about Ed Phillips and the Kempton ranch can be found in Mark H. Brown and W. R. Felton's book, Before barbed wire; L. A. Huffman, photographer on horseback (New York, Holt [1956]). The Kempton ranch and family, including Ed and Marie Phillips, were also documented by photographer Evelyn Cameron whose farm sat adjacent to the Kempton's property.

Collection History


Purchase, 2010 . (AM 2011-104).


Published materials were removed from the collection during 2015 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Faith Charlton in May 2015. Finding aid written by Faith Charlton in May 2015.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Marie Kempton Phillips and Jean Phillips' negatives are closed to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Phillips Family Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 3-4
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-2; 5-6