Dr. Thomas K. Todsen: New Mexico’s Pictorial Collector

photomechanical color postcard, panoramic view of Tucumcari, New Mexico

Tri-fold panoramic image of Tucumcari, New Mexico, August 1913. Photomechanical color postcard by Bortell. Thomas K. Todsen collection (02232020)

black and white real photo postcard of Mexican Revolution soldiers with rifles drawn behind earth barricade

Mexican Revolution, postcard reads: Covering a gang of suspected bandits, 1919. Real photo postcard by W. H. Horne Co. El Paso, Texas. Thomas K. Todsen collection (02230066)

Archives and Special Collections (ASC) holds the collection of Dr. Thomas K. Todsen, a prolific collector of material relating to New Mexico and the Southwest, especially photographs and postcards. His collection contains over 2,300 images and hundreds of documents. Subjects include territorial New Mexico, the Mexican Revolution, state parks, US post offices across the state, and more. Several of his donations to ASC also contributed to or created other collections in the Rio Grande Historical Collections, like the Tinnin family papers and the Charles E. Dawson family papers. The finding aid for Dr. Todsen’s collection can be viewed in the Rocky Mountain Online Archive.

Dr. Todsen was born in Massachusetts in 1918 and died in Texas in 2010. He received his degrees (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral) in chemistry and organic chemistry from the University of Florida. In 1942, Dr. Todsen enlisted in the US Army and served as an Army Chemical Warfare Service officer. After his discharge in 1947, he went on to serve in the Army Active Reserves from 1951-1962. His professional career included a brief stint teaching at NMSU before being hired as chief chemist at White Sands Missile Range in 1950, where he remained until his retirement as Director of the Army Missile Test and Evaluation Command in 1978.

color photograph of the Old Eagle Nest, New Mexico Post Office

Old Eagle Nest, New Mexico Post Office, September 13, 1995. Color photograph. Thomas K. Todsen collection (02231922)

Dr. Todsen’s various interests included Arizona/New Mexico postal history, the study of orchids and wildflowers, and photography. Several of his photographs appear in Wild Flowers of the United States. He discovered a new species of fossil snail and has a wildflower named after him: Todsen’s pennyroyal (Hedeoma todsenii). He wrote New Mexico Territorial Postmark Catalog and co-wrote The Travelling Post Offices of Mexico, among numerous scientific articles and publications.

While the bulk of the images collected by Dr. Todsen are real photo and photomechanical postcards, his collection also includes photographs he took himself while traveling the state. He photographed post offices, stores, hotels, and churches in small towns like Animas, Clayton, and Trementina. The images in his collection have been digitized and can be viewed in our online photo database. Dr. Todsen’s collection is a tremendous visual resource documenting the landscape, landmarks, and life in New Mexico and the Southwest.

black and white photomechanical postcard of St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico

St. Genevieve Catholic Church, Las Cruces, New Mexico, postmark December 19, 1907. Photomechanical black and white postcard by Las Cruces Drug Company, Las Cruces, New Mexico; Made in Germany. Thomas K. Todsen collection (02230294)

black and white copy negative of postcard, Mandie Fleeman calf roping, Portales, New Mexico

Calf-roping, postcard reads: Miss Mandie Fleeman. Time 30 Seconds, Portales, New Mexico, postmark April 16, 1912. 4×5-inch copy negative. Thomas K. Todsen collection (02232191)

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