From the files of M. Melissa Wolfe

Elbridge Ayer Burbank --- 1858-1949


IN THE ARCHIVES of Western Americana stands his score: 128 Indian Chiefs including Chief Joseph, Geronimo, Red Cloud, Rain-in-the-Face, Keokuk, Stinking Bear, American Horse, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Little Wound, Black Coyote, Burnt All Over, Two Moon, Wolf Robe, Many Horses, Plenty Coups, etc. The renowned Frederick Remington once said: Burbank is the greatest of all Indian painters. To Harvard Junction, Illinois came the Burbanks and Ayers in 1836 from Massachusetts (parents of Americas future artist, who was born August 10, 1858). From early childhood he liked to draw. Here he grew up and was educated. In the 1870s he toured the west on the Northern Pacific, sketching towns along the railroad. There he encountered his first glimpse of the Sioux Indians and he was determined some day to return and paint them. In the early 1880s he went to Munich (art center of the world), rubbing elbows with some of the famous masters of all time, studying with men of genius on how to wield the magic brush. On his return to Illinois, General Crook had rounded up Geronimo, who was in prison at Fort Sill, Indian Territory. Here he repaired first, rather than to Sitting Bull in Dakota. By nature Elbridge was genteel and tactful, just the type that rough and tough Geronimo liked to meet. He was the first artist to paint the most dangerous warrior in captivity and down the years he was the last. North and west he went, meeting and painting famous chiefs on their reservations. For 40 years he set up his easel and tripod, making acquaintance with countless chiefs; many of whom confided in him in later years, after he proved his explicit loyalty and won their friendship. The interesting story of his colorful life would make a book for Horatio Alger, briefly told elsewhere in this issue. Burbank is to be honored by the California History Foundation on April 1-2, 1966, at the University of Pacific, under the direction of Leland Case, anthropologist and curator. Original photo in The Pony Express Library and Museum.

Burbank, Portrayer of Indians

[word missing] a brief review of the life of Americas greatest Indian painter, relating his early struggle, trials and tribulations, draw, paint, and excel. Tis a short story citing the highlights of an artist, born of sturdy pioneer stock, whose ever-determined ambition led him far afield to paint Indian Chiefs like no man before his time, or since. Space precludes telling a thousand interesting stories of his 40 years of life on the reservations unfolded by him to the writer during the last decade of his colorful life. By H. Hamlin at request of California History Foundation.


GREATEST GENERAL in history, till the advent of Douglas MacArthur, was leader of the Nez Perces Indians. This claim is not taken lightly, from Alexander the Great to Hannibal and Napoleon. In 1877 he carved his niche high on the roster of immortality. During that year he defeated, and put to rout, three (3) United States Armies, while traveling more than 1,000 miles, over three mountain ranges, through canyons and ravines. At the same time he transported a huge tribe of squaws and papooses. The miracle is almost beyond conception. Read the details in the September, 1947, edition of The Pony Express. He almost, by accident, captured General Sherman, who was touring Yellowstone Park. This would have given him negotiating power with General Miles forces, who finally intercepted him in northern Montana, just short of the Canadian line. One day sooner, he would have escaped. He then turned and delivered a short oration to General Howard that shall live through the ages. Read it in this issue.

Photo - From Chief Skyhawk, Jr.s collection in The Pony Express Library and Museum, loaned to anthropologist Leland Case, University of Pacific.

(The following is presented to the 19th Annual California History Institute, University of Pacific, April 1, 1966, at the urgent behest of Leland Case, anthropologist and Director of California History Foundation.)

Burbank Won Confidence of Chiefs

THE STORY of the American Indians, from the Great Plains to the Pacific, is not complete without the story of Burbank. This is a broad statement but nevertheless true. The unpublished information that he obtained during four decades amongst the Indians is an integral part of the history of the west. After conversations with the famous artist, extending over a period of 10 years, the writer learned a vast amount of western history not revealed in library books. Some of the transcribed notes have been published, most have not. The reason for this important information is obvious. Burbank won the confidence of countless chiefs and braves through years of association with the tribes. They knew he was sincere, admired them, and would do nothing that was not for the betterment of the tribe. Therefore, they trusted him and told him things that they would not reveal to others. With such in mind, it is a pleasure to present the life of this noted individual to your august body.

Born of Pioneer Stock at Harvard Junction

Burbank came from sturdy, pioneer stock. Elbridge Ayer and Abner Burbank (in 1836) brought their families respectively from Haverhill and Lowell, Massachusetts. They were heading toward southern Wisconsin lands, thrown open by the government after a treaty with Chief Keokuk, of the Sac and Fox tribes. Their bull team, covered wagon route was by the Erie Canal, over the Alleghenies into Ohio, and across Indiana and Illinois, settling in Kenosha County. No sooner had the ashes cooled off in the peace pipe than Black Hawk went on the rampage. Settlers armed and fought him in Wisconsin and Illinois, till he was pushed back across the Mississippi into Iowa. All able bodied men enlisted for at least 30 days, including the Ayers, Burbanks, and friends Ned Baker, Abe Lincoln, and Jim Reed, who later led the Reed-Donner party to California. Indeed, any politician who wanted to be elected to office had to fight in the Black Hawk War.

Indian Painter Burbank, Born in 1858

Elbridge Ayer was a man of forethought. In 1855 he saw the Illinois & Wisconsin Railway heading Out of Chicago toward his country and the wheat fields of Minnesota. Later it was called the Chicago Northwestern, but not before Elbridge sold out and settled at Harvard Junction, across the state line. By the next year he had five more children to his household, including the youngest, Edward E. Ayer, whom we shall refer to later. His second child, Annie, was the apple of Abner, Juniors eye. The young lad had been working for Squire Ayer through several harvest moons and their courtship led to the first marriage in the embryo town of Harvard. Three children were born of this happy union. The eldest, Elbridge Ayer Burbank (the subject of our narrative), was born on August 10, 1858.

Edward Leaves for California - 1857

Soon after the wedding of his older sister, Annie, 16-year-old Edward, who was to play an important part in Burbanks life, left with a westbound caravan for the California gold fields. He didnt do so well in the mines, but the embryo pioneer got a job chopping wood in San Francisco. He wasnt home when Burbank was born, nor for several years later. Came 1861, when California was seething with rebellion. It didnt set well with this patriotic youth, who bought a horse and rode to Arizona to join a band of Los Angeles volunteers, Californias contribution to the war. Up the Gus River they went on horseback. It was known as Colonel Jim Carletons battalion. They left youthful Edward in some old quarters, guarding supplies. On a dusty shelf, strewn with cobwebs, he espied an old book. As it was his mania to read anything between covers, especially history, he blew off the dust and went to reading. Lo, and behold, it was Prescotts Conquest of Mexico. He could sit there for the duration of the war and devour that kind of material. More later about this pioneer son of Esquire Ayer, of Harvard Junction, who was raising himself by his own bootstraps, and becoming inoculated with the wild west - the same country that his nephew was to inhabit a few decades later, painting Indians.

Wounded Soldiers Returning

Squire Ayer, who built the Ayer Hotel at the junction, was soon addressed as Judge, on account of his beloved personality. The earliest recollection of his grandson, young Elbridge (named after him), was the Civil War. Soldiers southbound and wounded soldiers returning northbound shall always remain in my memory, he once told me. My grandfather took em in and fed every wounded soldier for nothing. If they stayed overnight, no charge, he added. Long after the war was over the name of Ayer was hailed in three states. Pensioners wrote in, wanting to know how much they owed him. Burbank said Grandpa set the figure at 25 cents, no more. It was published in the paper. Governor Jim Lewis, of Wisconsin, wrote Squire Ayer a beautiful letter praising him for his wonderful contribution. This glorious letter is published in Burbanks biography (November, 1942, issue). Those who remembered sent in $1,200. Mathematicians may figure that out nearly 5,000 wounded soldiers wrote in, sending 25c each.

The above money bought a golden goblet - presented to Mr. and Mrs. Ayer on their golden anniversary. It was presented to him by 15 army post officers. The [missing words] and the goblet, and the governors letter of 1865, all repose in glass case, property of the Wisconsin Historical Society, at Madison. There are things in this life that money cant buy. It is the legacy left by our pioneer ancestors. How beautiful were such memories down the years. Burbank always cherished those thoughts, as well as his uncle Edward, both of whom forged ahead, achieving honor and glory in their respective fields.


WHEREAS IT TOOK three United States Armies to defeat and capture Chief Joseph (in 1877), it took two generals and one captain to defeat and permanently capture Goyathlay, meaning one who yawns. Born in southern Arizona (near San Carlos Agency) the great leader (1884-1886) had war whoops echoing and signal fires burning over Arizona and New Mexico. General Sheridan dispatched the famous Indian fighter, General Crook, who finally captured him. After his escape, in time, Captain Lawton made the capture. Later he surrendered to General Miles, who relieved General Crook. He was carried off (in chains) to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. There he joined the Dutch Reformed Church (1903) and dedicated his biography in 1906. Branded as the most bloodthirsty chief of all tribes, Burbank (who knew him for many years) claimed it was utterly false. He was trustworthy, kind and sympathetic, loved cats and dogs, and would go hungry himself, before he allowed them to suffer or want. Geronimo loved his wife and family dearly. He nursed his wife constantly, day and night, before she died of cancer. White men could have learned a lot from this famous warrior, entirely misbranded in history, concluded Burbank, who was the only person to paint him from life. Photo - From Lt, Francis Lee Hamlins collection on board the New Orleans when he was killed in the 7th battle of the Pacific November, 1942.

Rothchilds Bought Northern Pacific Railroad for a Song and Dance

From infancy Burbank had a mania to draw. He carried a pencil and paper around, also a slate. When school days were over he wanted to draw Indians. At this time the chiefs were farther west and he had to be satisfied with drawing buildings, streets and towns to make a livelihood. Via the Chicago Northwestern he went to St. Paul, opening an unpretentious studio. By this time he was sketching and painting. He is always sharpening his pencils. One day while whittling away, Eugene Smalley editor of the Northwest Illustrated Monthly, had seen his work in windows and opened his creaking door. He had [word missing] Henry Villard on publishing sketches (in his magazine) of hamlets and towns along the Northern Pacific Railroad. The story of Villard, which was his name, is another chapter of an enterprising Bavarian that the Jewish house of Rothschild had sent over from Europe when they bought the defunct railroad for a song and a dance as far [west as Bismark?]. It started from Duluth 187[0 but?] sold under foreclosure in 1875. All Burbank knew was he had job at $100 per town and that was big money for a fledgling artist. Little he knew that he was working for the richest man in the world.

Smalley with Burbank on Tour

Railroad fare cost nothing and meals came free all the while. What a glorious array of sketches advertised each month the wonders of the Northwest, the way to Seattle or Portland. Soon homesteaders in emigrant cars were westbound, looking for new opportunities in life. Gene pointed out towns he painted, said Burbank, and I put em in shape for the magazine. Sometimes I painted and drew towns not on the railroad, where cowpunchers came in and stages stopped. Everyone wanted to get into the act and be mentioned. Sometimes we slept under trees, in haystacks, or barns. When we got back to the railroad, our private car awaited us concluded the brush sweeping Bur bank who was making money with no place to spend it. As a result, Burbanks magic brush, pen, and pencil were bringing on the hordes that followed Horace Greeleys advice to go west and grow up with the country. Smiles on faces of the Big Four of the Central Pacific (who had grown fat) were now waning away. Land was better and cheaper up north and a new empire was on its way.

Butted Over by Ram

Through to Seattle went Burbank with Smalley, where a train load of sheep from the Dakota plains were loaded on a big barge, bound for British Columbia. This was good advertising, thought the magazine editor, so Burbank was scheduled to get out his sketch book at day break. They traveled at night while the cloven- hooves were bedded down. Burbank said: I was in no mood to sketch or paint, as the critters were ba-baa-ing all night in my ear and to make things worse, a big ram butted me in the rear and over I went, nearly in Puget Sound.

1886 was now at hand. The job was finished. Homeward, across the Cascades and Rockies they traveled like millionaires in a private car, eating cuisine, a la Northern Pacific, as good as the Rothchilds got at Frankfort on the Main. They passed places along the line where they had once slept in haystacks and barnyards. Severe droughts and raging winter blizzards had dried the country and froze the stock. In western Dakota (Billings County), where Teddy Roosevelt was elected Sheriff, he returned one spring to find his steers hanging in the tops of cottonwood trees, frozen to death. Here they ate the last morsel of food (leaves) above the drifted snow. What a change in atmosphere as the train rambled across Montana, Dakota, and Minnesota. At St. Paul ment was pleas wi is work an IEt.W1aint like theiiig1gr, BId ding his mother, rather, two sisters, and Grandpa Ayer goodbye, he was off for Europe


Wagon Boxes, Red Clouds Last Battle

FAMOUS OGALALLA Sioux Chief, who won many coups in many battles. Older than Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse (or Rain-in-the-Face) was not at Custers Massacre (June 25, 1876). His last battle of the Wagon Boxes was against Bill Reid (a pal of Buffalo Bill, see The Pony Express, September, 1949), when the old frontiersman first used rim-fire cartridges in the summer of 1867. He was hauling logs to Fort Phil Kearney, Wyoming, when Red Cloud and Dull Knife (with 500 warriors, armed with muzzle loading rifles) attacked them. Bill ordered all the wagons tipped over and used them as a barricade. How they fired their cartridges ten times faster, Red Cloud couldnt understand. He hollered bad medicine and ordered his braves to retreat. (See details in story, also why he went blind.) (Editors Note: Previously, on December 21, 1866, Red Cloud (with High Backbone as leader) had wiped out Col. Fetterman and the 80 soldiers at this same fort. The Indians then laid siege. Portagee John Phillips dashed for help, 236 miles away. He made it to Fort Laramie in 92 hours. Alas, his blooded mount dropped dead on arrival but soldiers returned and drove off Red Clouds forces.)

Studied Under Rosenthal, Greatest of All Painters,

Whom Parrott Sent to Munich

At Bavarias art center of the world, his instructor was none other than San Franciscos Toby Rosenthal whom Burbank claims the greatest of all painters, American or European. This was quite a claim, but he always stood ready to argue and prove it. Lets briefly tell how Toby got there. About 20 years earlier, his father was a Jewish tailor on Stockton Street, making suits for Tiburcio Parrott, from John Parrott and Son, Bankers, and patron of the arts. Jules Tavenier and Tojettis were amongst the artists that he sponsored in early life. He noted young Tobys remarkable drawings when he was having suits fitted, promising to send him to Munich some day. In 1874 he commissioning him to paint Elain[?] described by Tennyson for the Philadelphia Worlds Fair of 1876. Details of it we will not tell here, but when one brands Burbank as the greatest Indian painter of all time, as Frederick Remington did, what we have told accounts for it. Two other Jewish sons of San Franciscos clothing merchants followed in the wake of Rosenthal, taking lessons from him, but they never made the grade, Joe Grennabaum and Is[?] Lando, G. V. Millet, Burbanks colleagues called the latter, Noisey Izzie.

Leighs Famous Action Paintings, Marries Ethel Traphagen of New York

Other American artists, classmates of Burbank who did make good, were J[?] Sharp, of Kansas City. He later made his mark and especially William R. Le[?] of New York, whom Burbank always praised highly. His buffalo, in action, is comparable to Californias Bierstat who came across the plains by stage in 1863 and saw them at first hand. Though he was a landscape artist, living r[?] J. M. Hutchins and Thomas Hill in Yosemite, his Indian Shooting the Buffalo, with bow and arrow, is a scene of great action, indeed, Virgil West, of Sonnora, is another who stands alone. His horses in action are comparable to Canadian J. H. Smith, whose name has been rubbed off of sundry paintings, inserting Russells and being sold for fabulous [?]. Burbank commented on them all. [?] would he speak ill of any mans effort, but he did praise the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, by his Munich colleague, Leigh. This rare scholar of Toby Rosenthal, married Ethel Traphagen, an accomplished artist, whom he met while working with the Navajo Indians in New Mexico. She later conducted the noted Traphagen School of Fashion in New York, resurrecting and depicting costumes of Indian maidens.


BURBANK returned to this windswept country, after the death of his Redskin brother to say a prayer at his grave. On the near side is engraved Hin-m[?]-too-yah-lat-kekt, meaning Thunder in the mountains, his tribal name. On the opposite reads: He led his people in the Nez Perces War of 1877. Died September 21, 1904. Age about 60 years. No chief in all the 400 tribes of American history compared with him, thought the famous painter.


NEAR CUT BANK, MONTANA, in the Bear Paw Mountains (after defeating three United States armies in 1877), he delivered this famous speech: Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no (voting in council). He who led on the young men is dead (Josephs younger brother, Alokut). It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, and no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever. (Editors Note: Burbank made seven paintings of Chief Joseph and five of Geronimo, all from life. Above is in the Pony Express Library and Museum.)

Worlds Greatest Collector,

Marshall Field Museum

On his return to America he found his Uncle Ed, San Franciscos former wood chopper, a millionaire. He had been cutting down Wisconsins forests and selling ties and telegraph poles to the Santa Fe Railroad. He had also acquired a forest near Flagstaff. Arizona, and had a sawmill there, for supplying more poles and ties to the western end of the line. Uncle Ed was also a collector of Indian artifacts and countless items, now in the Newberry Library, at Chicago, headquarters of western history. Listen to this! Uncle Ed became the worlds greatest collector, which is another broad statement. He went to Europe, Greece, Egypt, and the Holy Land with Andrew Carnegie, who admired Uncle Ed. Let us add here, that Marshall Field built his Chicago Museum to house it all.

Burbank was independent as a government mule. He never borrowed money. If he couldnt make his own way, painting and selling his work, he would go hungry till he could. Therefore, he didnt want any of Uncle Eds money. However, he did accept commissions to paint Indian chiefs for him.

Fabulous Sums Didnt Come to Burbank

It was he who sent him to Fort Sill to paint Geronimo. Burbank evidently needed money in the meantime, and sold it for $300 to an army officer. It later sold for $15,000. Another incident could be cited here. Considerable time was spent at Fort Sill as Geronimo, in captivity, took a liking to him and vice versa was Burbanks affection for the outlaw Apache. He noticed a beautiful Kiowa maiden one day and asked her to sit for a portrait for $2.00, which was a lot of money in those days. He borrowed a Navajo blanket to drape over her shoulders. Gi-aum-e was her name. The painting was superb. Chicago Colortype Co. gave him $200 for it. At 50 cents each, they sold 11 million lithographs of Gi-aum-e in ten years. Figure it out. Thats $5 million on a $200 painting, indicating how badly he needed a manager.


(Braves On Canvas, Live Forever)

FORTY YEARS you lived with Indians;

Forty years you learned their ways.

All the while, they learned to smile

With Paleface in palmy days.

Confidence you won from Redskin;

Trusted were you like a brave.

Secrets of life, in a dual strife

Went with you into the grave.

Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Wolf Robe,

Blinded Red Cloud, Rain-in-the-Face,

Plenty Coups, and scores you knew,

Were leaders of the conquered race.

Nez Perces, Apache, Sioux, Comanche,

Northern Cheyenne, Kiowa cool;

Navajo, Crow, and Arapahoe,

Moqui, Zuni, Hopi, and Brule.

Chiefs admired you, squaws, papooses,

Medicine man, gentle and bland;

Trappers of fur, knew who you were

Wielder of the magic wand.

Braves on canvas live forever,

Roaming happy hunting grounds;

Your brush and paint subsided plaint;

War cries echo distant sounds.

Neath the sod lies Red Mans secrets

Trusted to one, unafraid.

You knew their book, signs and Chinook.

Friendship never was betrayed.

W. F. Skyhawk

(Editors Note: Though trapping days were over for Palefaces in the 19th century, Indians continued on into the 20th, trading their furs for supplies, guns and equipment. Elbridge Burbank painted the above chiefs and many more. Chief Joseph, greatest of all warriors, white or red, would allow no other artist to paint him save Burbank, and the same for Geronimo. All other paintings made of them are done from photographs, indicating the high esteem in which they held Americas most famous Indian painter. All warriors were called braves. [2005 Note: text removed as inappropriate for school-aged children.])

SITTING BULL - 1834-1890

GREAT LEADER of the Hunkpapa Sioux, who made medicine at the battle of the Little Big Horn while Crazy Horse, Mad Bull, One Bull, Gall, and Rain-in-the-Face used guns, swords, and knives in leading their braves to victory. He didnt like the encroachment of the white men into the Black Hills, when gold was discovered in 1874, nor the coming of the railroad in 1869; referring the engine as Iron Horse - heap much steam, no smoke! In the 1880s traveled with Buffalo Bills show when Annie Oakley was advertised as Little a Sure Shot. His falling in love with Paleface Squaw nearly broke up show. He was murdered at Fort

[?]tes, Dakota, while resisting arrest on September 15, 1890, followed by the battle of Wounded Knee, last fight with Indians, in sub-zero temperature. All dead Indians, including squaws and papooses, lay frozen in their own blood. Sitting Bull was killed by two Indian police, named Tamahawk and Bullhead.


BURBANKs classmate in Bavaria, during the 1880s. Grass Valleys Lola Montez brought on the revolution of 1848. As the Countess of Landsfield (mistress of King Ludwig) the students at Munich rebelled, triggering a revolution that spread over Western Europe; just prior to the gold rush of 1849, which brought many of them on to California.


W. R. LEIGH and E. A. Burbank were students together at Munich, Bavarian capital, and headquarters of the masters. While Burbank became famous as a portrait painter, Leighs famous strides were made by painting animals in action. No American artist exceeded him, unless it was Virgil Wests material among the cowboys. Leigh also painted beautiful scenes, one of Pocahontas pleading for the life of Capt. John Smith. Paul Reveres Midnight Ride is out of this world for action, said a critic. He married an accomplished teacher - beautiful Ethel Traphaggen, who worked with the Navajo later conducting a school of fashion in New York, restoring Indian garments and costumes.

Geronimo, Kind and Considerate

Time and space does not permit me to tell many stories about Burbanks conversations with Geronimo. Let it be told here that history books have branded him entirely wrong, according to intimate deductions. Burbank claimed: No man lived with a more tender or considerate heart. He dearly loved his daughter, Ewe. He nursed his wife, who died of cancer, with constant care to the bitter end, making her last days as comfortable as he could. White men could learn plenty from this fearless warrior of the Apache tribe. Even a little kitten to him was a part of Gods creation. He would not retire at night till all his pets were fed and asleep in their kennels. He would go hungry first before he would let them suffer. How many Palefaces are that considerate? asked the famous painter, who made five portraits of him.

We must tell about Red Cloud, of the Ogallala Sioux at Pine Ridge. When Burbank was daily working on his portrait, he noticed that the old chief had trouble finding his chair. No one had told him he was blind. One day he volunteered to mention it. Burbank picked up the conversation from there asking how it happened. He told him from too much smoke around the camp fire. Many of my people go blind from smoke in the eyes, he related, but I am not sorry, only for one thing. When he inquired what it was, the Sioux warrior replied: I cant sneak up on paleface no more and stab him in the back.

In Montanas Crow Agency, Curly, the Crow Scout

As a memorial to fearless Custer at his last charge, when his 7th Cavalry was wiped out, the Crow Agency was established. These Indians were a branch of the Sioux Tribe, but were literally despised by them, on account of their association with the whites. Originally from along the Missouri, they became known as the Bird People, from flying around and being nomadic. There we the River Crows and Mountain Crows. To the latter belonged Curly the Crow scout, an important man of Custers forces. Burbank, who knew his Indians, cultivated Curlys friendship till he agreed to sit for a painting. After his confidence was won, he told him plenty. We will mention only one incident here:

Foxy Sitting Bull. Crazy Horse, Gall, and Rain-in-the-Face, et al, lured the 7th Cavalry over the Rosebud and down into the Valley of the Little Big Horn. Custer could see, when it was too late, that he was vastly outnumbered by thousands of Indians coming upon him. The fight was already under way. Indians and whites had already fallen, he turned to Curly, ordering him to ride fast to Benteen, over the mountain, to head the train of supplies and to bring on his ammunition and men. Soon the Hunkpapas were riding in a huge circle, firing at the bodies and legs of the 7th Cavalry, now surrounded. Had they fired higher, there was danger of hitting Redskins on the opposite side. Curly was a Crow. His life wasnt worth a plug nickel. How could he get through that circle? The clever fellow grabbed up a Sioux war bonnet of a fallen brave, mounted a stray horse, and was off. He rode through the Sioux lines, disguised, and was the only man of the 7th Cavalry not killed. There was one other living object that survived. After all the Indians had departed for Canada and the white men arrived on the scene, they found Comanche, Major Keoughs mount, shot full of holes, but still alive. He was taken down to Fort Lincoln, on the Missouri, and with careful attention the honored horse lived into old age. [2005 Note: for additional information on Comanche see: Famous Horses at the Smithsonian]

Plenty Coups, Chief of the Crows

This fellow was one of the most amusing chiefs that Burbank ever painted. He ran a store at the agency. He could not write, but could draw and make figures. Those whom he trusted, he drew their picture or an object which reminded him of the indebted person. His ledger was several posters nailed to the wall with characters drawn upon them, and the amount they owed was placed beside the picture. Naturally, everyone knew everybody elses business. It had a good tendency to make those who got too far behind, pay up. Paleface might copy this idea from Plenty Coups. If so, they wouldnt need collection agencies.


AT BATTLE of the Wagon Boxes

Red Cloud lost his might.

No more, again, my Redskin men,

Foolish in long range fight!

Bad Medicine, opined the Sioux Chief:

Paleface him got shell!

No more me run with iron gun!

White man, him go to hell!

The Embarrassed Officer

While painting Chief Plenty Coups, the subject of Fort Sill came into conversation, more than a thousand miles away. He had been down there on an invitation from an important army officer, whose name will nut be told. It seems that this commanding individual had visited the Crow Tribe in Montana. Plenty Coups spread the carpet. for him, nothing was too god for such a dignified person, including the best tepee in the village and the beat looking squaw to make his evenings rest comfortable. A year later, at Fort Sill, Plenty Coups, after dinner was over and it came time to retire, selected the officers sister-in- law for his evenings companion. Upon being refused, he bluntly told him:

Me give you heap best looking Crow squaw, when you came to Montana. Now you give me nothing! Needless to say, he walked away disgusted. Burbank concluded with these words: Was that army officer embarrassed when his wife heard what, the chief had to say.


GIAUME [2005 Note: Gi-aum-e Hon-o-me-tah], of the Kiowa Tribe, painted at Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory, about the turn of the century. He borrowed a Navajo robe from an army officer and hung it over her shoulders. The result was one of his most noted masterpieces. The Chicago Colortype Co. bought it for $200. During ten years (1899-1909) 11 million colored lithograph prints were sold, at 50 cents each, netting the owners $5 million, a lot of money in those days. During winters when life was quiet on the reservation, Burbank sat in Marshall Fields Chicago window autographing prints for purchasers, at 25 cents. This was good pin money for him. Beautiful Giaume was a brilliant squaw, speaking Comanche and Apache as well as her native Kiowa. (Editors Note: With a business manager, Burbank could have been a millionaire. As it was he returned to the reservations each spring a poor man. From autographed print in the Pony Express Library and Musuem.)

RAIN IN THE FACE 1835-1905

Longfellow wrote The Revenge

of Rain-in-the-Face

FULL BLOODED Hunkpapa Sioux (the same as Sitting Bull), he was in the thick of the fray at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, cutting the heart out of Custer, as told about in the story. Note the scar over his left eye, where he was tommyhawked in battle. He obtained his name from a boyhood battle. When blood streaked his war paint a chief said: He looked like one rained upon, hence what a man Rain-in-the-Face. It is said he had seven wives. Burbank won his confidence and obtained much information, some on the Battle of the Little Big Horn. See story. [2005 Note: See Longfellows poem THE REVENGE OF RAIN-IN-THE-FACE]

Painting Rain-in-the-Face,

Who Cut the Heart Out of Custer

Now that all are dead and gone,, the story we are about to unfold was secret with Burbank for many years. Never was it told. When Indians got out of line at Standing Rock Agency, they were transferred to the jail at Fort Yates. The agent there, whose name we wont mention, understood the Sioux language. Tom Custer (a little known brother of General Custer), arrested the Hunkpapa Sioux and placed him in confinement for a few days. The agent overheard a conversation between Rain-in-the-Face, who was pretty sore, and another friend of his. This is what he said; If I ever get the chance, Ill cut that fellows heart out and eat it.

Years later, came the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and sure enough Custers heart was cut out. The news got to, Longfellow, who wrote his breath-taking poem: The Revenge of Rain-in-the-Face. it was read nation wide and believed as gospel that it was General Custer, and that he ate the heart. The writer has seen many bets lost over Montana bars, wagering that General Custers heart was not cut out. Tourists especially are the victims, as they never heard of Tom Custer. Now as to his eating the heart.

Burbanks sincere and honest endeavors were observed by all the old chiefs, who honored him as a Medicine Man among their tribes. Explicit confidence placed in him was never betrayed and they knew it. One day, while painting Rain-in-the-Face, as conversation ensued and [missing words] feeling good, the artist asked him the question. It was not: Did you eat the heart out of Custer, but When you cut the heart out of Custer, did you eat it? It must be remembered that all his life he hadnt ever admitted that he cut out anyones heart, regardless of Longfellow. The old chief twisted and squirmed in his seat for a few seconds. Then came back the answer he knew would be kept secret: No! Me no eat em! Me stick knife in, lick the blood, and throw heart away!

To the 19th annual California History Institute: At some future time we will continue with the subject you have laid at my door, Burbank, Portrayer of Indians. I thank you.


PEEPING OUT of a Hopi Indian basket is one of Burbanks pets. He loved animals (an earmark of a great man) and especially cats and kittens.

Original is in The Pony Express Library and Museum, care of Norma Anzini Agar, Stanford graduate, and cataloger of The Pony Express.


RUTHLESSLY KILLING these noble animals just for a fur coat to wear clown Broadway was a part of the white mans life, after the transcontinental railroad in 1869. They shot them from the railroad train, afterwards leaving the carcasses to rot on the plains. This made the chiefs of Missouri Valley tribes hostile, especially Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Rain-in-the-Face. This, and other troubles, including ghost shirt dances, brought on the Battle of Wounded Knee, the last battle against the Indians, and one of which the Paleface should feel totally ashamed. Murdered squaws, papooses froze in their own blood.