An Artist with a Lens —and Eye— for History

Black Foot, Standing Bear and Big Eagle posed for Rinehart in the Sioux Indian Village at the exposition. Tribes were encouraged to build temporary villages with traditional living quarters, such as the Sioux buffalo-hide teepees.
– Courtesy Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online –

“…never before were so many representatives of tribes and nations called together.”

Omaha Daily Bee, August 5, 1898

Nearly 125 years ago, an intrepid Omaha, Nebraska, photographer named Frank A. Rinehart set up a temporary studio at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, aka the Omaha World’s Fair. Rinehart, the official photographer of the fair, could not have anticipated the long-term implications of the opportunity he was given: a contract to photograph the 500 American Indian people from 35 tribes attending the exposition’s Indian Congress. Like other artists before him, from George Catlin to Edward S. Curtis, Rinehart (who had apprenticed with photographer William Henry Jackson) worked zealously, but unlike most of his peers and predecessors, the 37-year-old did not have to travel all over the West to capture these poignant images. With his assistant, Adolph Muhr, Rinehart created a timeless collection of more than 500 photos: portraits, groups and shots of fair events, including the camp life of the American Indian people participating in the fair. As Rinehart biographer Royal Sutton reflected in The Face of Courage: The Rinehart Collection of Indian Photographs, “Rinehart worked to show the Indian photographically with dignity, honor and character. Rinehart’s skill removes the Indian from a subject of curiosity—an exhibit—a freak, to human being with feeling and personality.”

The following selection of these important portraits and group shots are but a fraction of Rinehart’s catalogue preserved in archives today. The primary Rinehart collection of 500 glass-plate negatives resides in the archives at Haskell Indian Nations University. Additional Rinehart and Muhr portraits and photographs are curated by several libraries across the United States, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Yale University’s Beinecke  Library, the Smithsonian Institution and the Digital Commonwealth Collection of Massachusetts. For this photo essay, all images are reproduced from public-domain images.

Editor’s Note:

For readers interested in learning more about Frank A. Rinehart, I recommend the following books and internet sources: Beyond the Reach of Time and Change: Native American Reflections on the Frank A. Rinehart Photograph Collection, edited by Simon J. Ortiz (University of Arizona Press, 2004); The Face of Courage: The Rinehart Collection of Indian Photographs, introduction by Royal Sutton (Old Army Press, 1972; out-of-print); and “Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition,” Trans-Mississippi.UNL.edu. Photo captions are modeled on Rinehart’s original notes that accompanied each original photo. All photos by Frank A. Rinehart, unless otherwise noted.

Over two million people attended the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898, built on 184 acres on the north side of Omaha, Nebraska, adjacent to the Missouri River. Omaha’s city boosters, inspired by Chicago’s 1893 World Columbian Exposition, designed its Grand Court as an homage to the classic architecture of Chicago’s White City fairgrounds, named for its stunning white buildings, and quickly earned the exposition grounds the nickname New White City.
– Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, no. 2574825939 –
More than 545 American Indians, representing 35 tribes, took part in the Indian Congress at the exposition, participating in mock battles, arts-and-crafts demonstrations and the Indian Congress Parade (below) on August 4, 1898. According to the August 5, 1898, Kansas City Journal, “One of the largest crowds that has attended the trans-Mississippi exposition since the opening two months ago, witnessed the inauguration of the United States government Indian Congress to-day.”
– Adolph F. Muhr, Courtesy Library of Congress –
Sauk Indian Family
– Courtesy Library of Congress –
Henry Wilson and Wife, Mojave Apache
– Courtesy Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online –
In Summer, Kiowa
– Courtesy Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online –
Ahahe and Child, Wichita
– Courtesy Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online –
Chief Push-E-To-Neke-Qua, Chief Joe Tyson, Fox Tribe of Iowa
– Courtesy Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online –
Chief Goes To War and Chief Hollow Horn Bear, Sioux
– Courtesy Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online –
Brushing Against and Little Squint Eyes, San Carlos Apache
– Courtesy Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online –
Chief American Horse, Sioux
Chief Wolf Robe, Cheyenne
Peatwy Tuck, Sac and Fox
Chief Mountain, Blackfoot
Vapore, Maricopa
Pedro Cajete, Pueblo
Songlike, Pueblo
Six Toes, Kiowa
Three Fingers, Cheyenne
Freckled Face, Arapaho
Chief Grant Richards, Tonkawa
Gentle Bird, Flathead
White Buffalo, Cheyenne
Yellow Magpie, Arapaho
Naiche, Chiricahua Apache
Afraid of Eagle, Sioux
Antoine Moise, Flathead
Yellow Feather, Maricopa

Chief Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota Sioux
Oglala Chief Red Cloud was about 77 years old when he attended the Indian Congress with the largest delegation of any tribe participating in the Omaha World’s Fair. He was also the only Indian leader in attendance who led his tribe in a successful war against the United States Army, which resulted in the Laramie Treaty of 1868.
– Courtesy Beinecke Library, Yale University –
Geronimo (Guiyatle), Apache
Chiricahua leader Geronimo was a prisoner of war under armed guard at Fort Sill when he attended the 1898 Indian Congress at the Omaha World’s Fair. He was considered one of the celebrity attendees of the exposition. During the Indian Congress parade, Geronimo broke ranks from his guards and the Apache contingency to give a welcoming hug to his American rival Gen. Nelson Miles, who was presiding over the parade in the review stand.
– Courtesy Library of Congress –

 

Related Posts

  • margaret_ep_gordon

    Margaret E.P. Gordon lived a century (1866-1966) and documented the changes and progress she witnessed…

  • transcontinental railroad history old west railway train true west magazine

    Since the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, the entrepreneurial “Big Four”…

  • The Walker Party

    Historian and cartographer Pieter S. Burggraaf has just published a ground breaking history of early…