Category Archives: Native American

Native Americans

In honor of my latest acquisition for my collection (posted immediately below), I’m going to recap my 19th century Native American images collection.

The new image is a school class photo from Springfield, South Dakota. I find the image fascinating and remarkable by virtue of the racial diversity in the school group. Though the class is mostly Native American, there are white and African-American girls in the class as well. I think the teacher who inscribed the card on the verso is the woman in the center of the photograph.

Native American School Group, Springfield, South Dakota
Native American School Group, Springfield, South Dakota

The inscription reads: “With best wishes, Your loving teacher, Mary B. Benedict, North Walton, Delaware Co. New York. Alice & Lucy Cougar”. I’m assuming that Alice & Lucy Cougar are two of the Native American girls in the photo, but which two I’m not sure.

Native American by G.L. Eastman
Native American by G.L. Eastman
Native American and Friend,Klamath Falls, Oregon
Native American and Friend,Klamath Falls, Oregon

I’m not sure on the date on this one – it could well be early 20th century, but I’m including it because it is non-exploitative. If anything it is similar in spirit to the school class group in depicting interaction between Native and non-Native Americans in apparent social equality.

Two Native American Boys, Kearney, Nebraska
Two Native American Boys, Kearney, Nebraska
Rain-in-the-face, by Morse, San Francisco
Rain-in-the-face, by Morse, San Francisco
Black Star, an Osage Brave
Black Star, an Osage Brave
New Mexican Native Couple
New Mexican Native Couple
Ambrotype, Penobscot Boy, 1857
Ambrotype, Penobscot Boy, 1857

This last one is probably the oldest image of a Native American I own, and will most likely remain so, as images this old are quite rare. Most imagery of Native Americans is from the west and mid-west, as Native populations had been largely subsumed and/or eradicated from the east coast by the time photography arrived.

The other two “Art” photos of Native Americans I have are, albeit sympathetic, exploitative portrayals of Native American men in the line of “Noble Savage/Vanishing Tribe” imagery meant to play on the sympathies (and perhaps the subconscious erotic sentiments) of an Eastern, caucasian audience. The reason I say erotic sentiments is that they depict handsome young Native men wearing signals of exotic “nativeness” (headdress, jewelry), but little else. The signs of “nativeness” may or may not be any degree of authentic or relevant to the individual wearing them. The George Eastman photo here is heading that direction in that the costumery the subject wears may not be of any one particular tribe, much as Edward Curtis would do when he felt a photo needed a little something – he would hand his sitter some wardrobe accessory that they might never have otherwise worn and got them to don it for the picture. In that regard, photos like Curtis’ and Eastman’s work are not “documentary” in a strict sense, but they are often the only record that exists of a person or a culture, so they do have record value.

Navajo Brave, Grand Canyon, attributed to Karl Moon
Navajo Brave, Grand Canyon, attributed to Karl Moon
A Tewa Bowman, by W. Allen Cushman
A Tewa Bowman, by W. Allen Cushman

While the Carl Moon “Navajo Brave” may be wearing authentic Navajo jewelry, he’s not wearing much else, and the loincloth is not exactly practical daily wear. I could be wrong, but the “New Mexican Native Couple” image shows what I believe would have been far more typical attire for that region of the country. Native Americans may be blessed with a higher melanin content in their skin, but that’s still not a good reason to run around near naked all day at 5000′ elevation under a blazing sun.

The “Tewa Bowman” is another in the same vein – what little accoutrements he wears may be authentic or may not, but to the intended audience for the image it is irrelevant because they neither know nor care; the bow and feathered headdress point to “Indian-ness” and the comeliness and physical condition of the sitter make him “noble” in the same spirit of a Grecian marble nude.

These images leave a complicated, conflicted legacy. They purport to be records of a vanishing culture, yet the record they leave is at best fuzzy and at worst totally inaccurate. The 20th century “save the noble savages” images took the problematic record images one step further. By the dawn of the 20th century, there was a growing awareness in Anglo civilization that Native cultures and peoples were truly vanishing, and the attitude began to shift from approval of that fact to a sense of loss and a desire to intervene in that downward spiral. These “art” images fed a market for Anglos who had no first-hand knowledge of Native culture and felt some degree of racial guilt. Even if the base motivation was in the right place, the images exploited Native subjects to feed a market, wether through distortion of identity, sexual exploitation, or both.

Native American portrait by Gilman L. Eastman, Portland, Oregon

Here is a stunning Native American portrait from Portland, Oregon.

Native American by G.L. Eastman
Native American by G.L. Eastman

I’m showing the back and front separately because the image is just so nice I wanted to let it stay larger on the page, and I also wanted to keep the text on the verso very clear because it’s so specific and unusual. It really speaks to late 19th century business style for a custom service business.

Verso, G.L. Eastman portrait
Verso, G.L. Eastman portrait

This photo would have been taken between 1886-1900, my guess is the earlier part of that period based on the style of the mounting card. Again guessing, this looks like Chinook tribal decoration but I could be completely ass-over-teakettle wrong, so if anyone has a better idea or knows specifically (and even better, if you can identify the sitter!!!) please let me know!

Here is what I found about Prof. G.L. Eastman in Portland:

R. L. Polk’s Portland City Directory:
1881: I didn’t find any reference to G. L. EASTMAN.
1887, page 202: EASTMAN, George L., artist, 229 5th.
1889, page 234: EASTMAN, Gilman L., photographer, 283 1st, res same.
1890, page 223: EASTMAN, Gilman L., photographer, 283 1st and 169 3rd, res 283 1st.
1897, page 257: EASTMAN, Gilman L., photographer and printer, 203 1/2 1st and 167 4th, res 203 1/2 1st.
1903 and 1904 didn’t have anything on EASTMAN the photographer.

Ancestry:
1900 Census, Idaho, Ada County, Boise, Wd 2, E.D. 2, Sheet 10B, line 93:
EASTMAN, Gilman L., Boarder, White, Male, born Oct. 1848, 51, Married, 7 years, born in Maine, father born in Maine, mother born in Maine, occupation Photographer.

Ancestry:
U.S. National Home for Disable Volunteer Soldiers 1866-1938, Sawtelle, Los Angeles County, California.
#13021, Gilman L. EASTMAN
Military History:
Private, E. Company, 30th ME Inf.
Enlistment: 19 July 1864. Augusta, Maine
Discharge: 20 Aug. 1865 Savanah, GA.
Domestic History:
Born in Maine. Age 68. Height 5′ 10″.
Religion: Protestant. Occupation: Photographer.
Residence subsequent to discharge: Salt Lake, Utah. Married. Nearest living relative: Mrs Minnie EASTMAN.
Date of Admission: 6 Apr. 1915; 26 Sept. 1917; 5 Sept. 1918; 10 July 1919.
Discharge and Transfer: 31 Jan. 1917; 6 Oct. 1917; 9 Oct 1918. In the same column was a stamped date “Sept. 17, 1924”.
Pension Certificate: 1078,985.

Ancestry:
1910 Census Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, E.D. 145, Sheet 1A, stamped #216, lines 88-89, shows Gilman L. EASTMAN as age 62, a photographer born in Maine, with 23 year old wife named Minnie and daughter Minnie L. age 11 months. It also shows they hav been married 2 years and this is Gilman’s 5th marriage.

Ancestry:
1920 Census, California, Los Angeles County, Malibu, Dist 486, Sheet 18A, stamped #24, line 38. in the National Military Home.
Gilman L. EASTMAN is listed as an inmate, born in Maine, age 73 (see census for additional information).

If anyone is interested in this Gilman L. EASTMAN, there are several Ancestry Family Trees posted by Ancestry members for Gilman.One of these postings had several sources attached to their information, some of which are above. They also show the name for his middle initial L. and the names of his parents and names of other spouses. Date and place of birth and death are also listed.

Based on the above information, your G. L. EASTMAN, photographer, was Gilman L. EASTMAN. He was a photographer in Portland, Oregon, possibly from about the end of 1886 until at least 1897, and possibly a year or two more. He was in Boise, Idaho for the 1900 census.
[Information gathered for city directories was usually done at the end of the prior to the year of the directory in order to be printed in time to issue the first part of the year for which the information was gathered.]

Southwest Photography – A Tewa Bowman, by W. Allen Cushman

A Tewa Bowman, by W. Allen Cushman
A Tewa Bowman, by W. Allen Cushman

Here is a circa 1920 image, entitled “A Tewa Bowman” by W. Allen Cushman, a noted photographer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In keeping with the Edward Curtis tradition of tarting up his models with inauthentic costume bits to make a “better” photograph, Mr. Cushman put a plains Indian headdress on a southwest tribe member. And while the Tewas may have run around in loincloths on occasion (ceremonies or religious rituals), like their neighbors the Navajo and Hopi, they tended to wear shirts and leggings – the sun can be brutal when it’s out, and the cold can be equally so in wintertime – New Mexico is at similar altitude to parts of Colorado, so they get snow at higher elevations.

The image serves as a historic landmark in understanding the evolution of white man’s attitude toward native Americans. For the first several centuries of contact, the primary attitude ranged from indifference to hostility to downright genocide. By the beginnings of the 20th century, a new romanticized view of the ‘noble savage’ was taking hold, along with the growing realization that native peoples were truly dying out and vanishing altogether. In addition to the general romanticization, there is an obvious homoerotic undertone to the image. Note the smooth skin and the taut physique of the model. It’s a form of sublty emasculating the subject, making him at a time both sexually charged and non-threatening. All you’d have to do to turn this into an F. Holland Day photo would be to swap the feather headdress for a turban, and substitute an African model, and bingo.

Native American and Friend, Klamath Falls, Oregon ca. 1910-1920

Native American and Friend,Klamath Falls, Oregon
Native American and Friend,Klamath Falls, Oregon

Original print roughly 4×6, in a cardboard passé-partout with the photographer’s imprint Henline (or is it Henune – hard to tell from the typeface), Klamath Falls, Oregon. It’s another image that’s fun to speculate on the relationship between the sitters – most probably just friends, but who knows? It’s the odd-couple pairing that inserts the questions as much as anything else. Unlike other, older tintype photos of two unrelated men together, there’s no obvious physical affection occurring. Is the absence of affectionate gesture a sign of “just friends”, or is it an indicator that by the 20th century, affectionate gestures between men were no longer acceptable, even when it was “just friends”?

More Native American Boys

Two Native American Boys, Kearney, Nebraska
Two Native American Boys, Kearney, Nebraska

Here’s another cabinet card, this time from Kearney, Nebraska (which I’ve actually been to before, on my cross-country drive from DC to San Francisco). These boys are obviously from a family which had assimilated to Anglo culture. It would be interesting to try and illustrate the divergence between assimilation and resistance through photographs like this. Too bad there’s not a date on the card to help with the process.

Anonymous Carte-Sized Portrait Cabinet Card

Sometimes the reason you buy something is purely aesthetic – there doesn’t need to be an historical association, famous subject or famous photographer to make an image worth buying. This is an example of just that – a very handsome subject, simply captured, plainly presented. Is he part Native American? Hard to say, but he has a certain look about his nose and jawline.

Handsome Youth, Belfast, Maine
Handsome Youth, Belfast, Maine

This is an example, as I mentioned, of a carte-sized Cabinet Card. It is the same dimensions (2 1/2 x 4 1/2) as a carte de visite, but is printed on the heavier card stock with the beveled, gilt edges and the larger front imprint of the photographer’s logo typical of the Cabinet Card. Because of the style, I would definitely call this a Cabinet Card, and not a CDV, because the time period of its creation is definitely later, as are the material conditions of its composition.

Native American stereoview – Chief Standing Buffalo, Winnebago tribe

Here’s a vintage stereoview of Chief Standing Buffalo (although he’s not standing in this image) from 1871. This is a perfect example of what I was just discussing in the comments on the last post – this is a copy stereoview of an original. You can tell this is a copy by the overall lack of sharpness and contrast, and by the fact that the card is completely unlabeled as to subject or photographer. An original card from the original photographer would fetch something 6-10 times what I paid for this one.

Chief Standing Buffalo, of the Winnebago tribe, copy stereoview
Chief Standing Buffalo, of the Winnebago tribe, copy stereoview

Here is a scan from a 2008 auction catalog of the original stereoview, by Hamilton & Hoyt. Notice the difference in quality.

Hamilton & Hoyt, Standing Buffalo Stereoview
Hamilton & Hoyt, Standing Buffalo Stereoview