Letter to E. E. Ayer, Fort Sill, Oklahoma

E. A. Burbank. March 25, 1897.

Image of Letter to E. E. Ayer, Fort Sill, Oklahoma

The painter Elbridge Ayer Burbank was commissioned by his uncle Edward E. Ayer to produce portraits of American Indians of the West. Here, Burbank discusses painting two Kiowa women as well as Geronimo and other Apache and Comanche chiefs.

Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory

Mch 25/97

My dear Uncle & Aunt

Have made up my mind not to go to Sommerville, Texas, don’t want to waste any time going there and painting darkeys, I never was so well satisfied with painting anything as am with these Indians. I wish you both could see now a picture I have finished of a Kiowa Indian girl dressed up in her native costume. I never painted a more beautiful picture in my life her costume is

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is marvelous in color. I have two Indians sitting for me every day one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon, in the afternoon am painting another Kiowa girl full length with a beautiful costume that the doctor here loaned me a genuine Kiowa costume. I had some trouble with the two Indian girls after I had started the picture. They didn’t want to sit any more. One morning they didn’t come so I went after them and they came at noon and said we sit no more, tired of sitting, well I wasn’t in a good

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humor and just gave them thunder and they commenced to sit. I told Capt. Scott and he told their Father and now they sit fine, but how they do hate it. They sing Indian songs most all the time. When the Indians saw my finished pictures they didn’t know what to make of it one of them said I made strong medicine that enchanted me to do it, so now I am a big man in their estimation.

I just got Chief Natche the rightful Chief of the Appache by inheritance to sit for me this forenoon have heard abt him ever since I have been here.

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[p. 4]

Artists have tried to have him sit for them and he wouldn’t he was offered $100.00 if he would sit and turned his back on them and walked off. I gave him a dollar a sitting for four hours, he will sit for me every other morning and the Indian girl in the other mornings. Am making arrangements now for Looking Glass Chief of the Comanches to sit for me in full war costume Capt. Scott who has been with the Indians 20 years and who is a fine judge of the costumes says that I have the right costumes. Will try and

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remain here until the hot weather sets in which won’t be for two months yet, then I want to go North where Chief Joseph is. He is some where in Montana. I never dreamed what the Indians were until I came here it is impossible to find any thing more picturesque than these Indians are in their costumes. Natche is a fine looking man such fine features and such a nice expression to his face and such nice manners but they tell me he was a perfect devil when he was with Geronimo. Before I leave here expect to have at least 25 pictures.

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I work every day Sunday and all for when I return to Chicago will have a private exhibition of nothing but Indian pictures and everyone of them correct as far as costume your I wont have a Kiowa moccasin on an Apache Indian. I want to ask you a question, do you known the difference between a Kiowa moccasin and an Appache one? I do. After I get through work take long rides on my wheel. The roads are good here and perfectly dry, the weather is beautiful peach tree in blossom, grass green, etc.

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If I want to go to Montana from here do you suppose you could get me a horse? Won’t go for two months yet. After I get through here there is no use of me returning to Chicago not until Fall anyway. I just feel as though I had lost a pile of time in not painting these Indians before and don’t want to lose time by getting away from them. Since have finished with Geronimo am working in a room with a North light that one of the Lieutenants let me have and have the Indians come to me to pose for me.

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Capt. Scott is awfully enthusiastic over my pictures, and he wished he could have them if he had money he would buy every one of them. The first free time I have am going over to see Geronimo and have him tell me his life, several people have been at him to tell them his life but he wouldn’t say a word. He seems to like me, he has a cat and he likes the cats whiskers clipped close all the time. Well, I must close. Expect you are having a nice time, hope you both are enjoying your health. Your affectionate nephew,

E A Burbank

Metadata Details
Item Type Letter
Title Letter to E. E. Ayer, Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Short Title Letter from Fort Sill, 1897
Creator E. A. Burbank
Publication Date March 25, 1897
Call Number Ayer MS 120, Box 1, Folder 2
Location Special Collections 4th floor