In 1898 New York photographer Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934) embarked on a deeply personal project, creating a set of prints that rank among the most compelling of her celebrated body of work. Käsebier was on the threshold of a career that would establish her as both the leading portraitist of her time and an extraordinary art photographer. Her new undertaking was inspired by viewing the grand parade of Buffalo Bill's Wild West troupe en route to Madison Square Garden for several weeks of performances.
Käsebier had spent her childhood on the Great Plains, and retained many vivid, happy memories of playing with nearby Native American children. She quickly sent a letter to William "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917), requesting permission to photograph Sioux Indians traveling with the show in her studio. Within weeks, Käsebier began a unique and special project photographing the Indian men, women, and children, formally and informally. Friendships developed, and her photography of these Native Americans continued for more than a decade.
Samuel Lone Bear developed the closest lasting friendship with photographer Gertrude Käsebier following this initial portrait sitting in April 1898. "Sammy" was educated at a Government Indian School and wrote letters to Käsebier in English over many years, dated as late as 1912. Käsebier's granddaughter Mina Turner remembered vividly one visit to a Wild West show performance, and having Sammy pull her from the ground for a horseback ride around the arena with him. "Granny" waved happily from the stands.
Lone Bear stands alone for the third portrait in a series in the midst of the 5th Avenue studio, a table covered in white behind. Embroidered American flags decorate his blanket border.
Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.