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Osborn, Lawton E.
b. October 2, 1901; d. July 8, 1996
Discipline: Photography

Lawton Osborn was born and raised in Dickinson. After high school, he enrolled in a general business course at Dickinson State Normal School (now Dickinson State University). He had hopes of studying law at the University of North Dakota, but had to give up school when his father became ill and could no longer run the family business. (He eventually purchased the business from his father.)

In 1921, he married Dorothy Robinson and they had one son, L.E. “Buzz” Osborn.

In 1925, he enlisted with Company K of the North Dakota National Guard. Recognizing his proficiency as a marksman, the Army transferred him to Fort Benning, Georgia for further training. He participated in two national sharpshooting competitions at the base, both of which his team won. He retired from the service as a captain in 1939.

In 1931, he and his wife divorced. He remarried Isabel McCannel in 1936.

When he returned to Dickinson, he became a prominent citizen who was elected as both the fire and police commissioner. He served on the auxiliary board of St. Joseph’s Hospital and on the Diocesan Council of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Also, he was a district deputy of the Elks Club, president of the Rotary Club, a master of the Masons, a Shriner, and a member of the royal order of Jesters.

As a professional photographer, Osborn was known for his images of people and events of southwestern North Dakota. Dating back to the 1890’s, subjects of his photographs include a horse race with tepees in the background, horse sales, homesteaders, immigrants, several images of streets and buildings in Dickinson, military personnel, and surrounding pastures, mines, and communities. He also made photographs of a few historic events in Dickinson including of Theodore Roosevelt during a campaign stop in 1904 and of area soldiers leaving to fight the Spanish-American War.

Recognized nationally, he was elected president of the National Photographers of America and was invited to become a member of The Camera Craftsman of America.

He died at the age of ninety-four and was preceded in death by his wife Isabel and two brothers. He was survived by his son, three grandchildren, two sisters, and one brother.

- Ben Nemenoff


Obituary. The Dickinson Press, July 10, 1996.

Other Sources:
State Historical Society of North Dakota

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