Pikuni (Piegan) [Blackfeet Nation, Browning, Montana] Search this
Germany -- Bavaria -- Munich
This collection consists of 38 photographic prints of Native and non-Native peoples involved with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, primarily in the years 1890-1891.
Scope and Contents:
The Frank Lehner photographs of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show collection consists of 38 photographic prints (and 5 copy negatives created at a later date by the NMAI staff). The images portray Native and non-Native peoples involved with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show primarily in the years 1890-1891, and include a number of publicity and studio portrait shots. Notable photographs include King Ludwig III of Bavaria and his daughter, Princess Maria Ludwiga Theresia of Bavaria, visiting with and even photographing some of the Wild West performers in Munich, Germany, in 1890. Although the bulk of the photographs date to either 1890 or 1891, images in the collection encompass a time period of approximatey a half-century, from 1876 to 1926.
The specific identity of the photographers of these images is not certain. While these photographs have historically been attributed to Frank Lehner, it is more likely that he was the collector rather than the photographer. It appears that at least one image (P10215) was probably taken by Bavarian Royal Court Photographer J. Seiling, and one image (P10192) or possibly two (P10193) were taken by Charles Henry Braithwaite, a portrait photographer in Leeds, England, in 1891.
The materials in this collection are organized into folders.
Biographical / Historical:
William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody opened the first Wild West show in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1883. Within four years the fame of the Wild West had grown so great that Cody took his fellow performers on an international tour of Europe, performing between 1887 and 1906 in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, and a host of other countries.
Undeniably, Cody's Wild West constructed and promoted inaccurate views of Native Americans, defining "real Indians" as only those who lived in tipis, rode horses, and wore feather headdresses. Such stereotypes have sadly been perpetuated in dime novels, television shows, and major motion pictures down to the present, ignoring the staggering cultural diversity of the Indigenous peoples of North America.
In spite of the Wild West show's culpability in creating and perpetuating narrow views of who Native peoples are and what they look like, several recent scholars have argued that there were some upsides for those Native Americans who chose to perform with this traveling show. One of the major bonuses was the relative freedom Wild West performers experienced compared with their community members who had to remain on the reservations. L.G. Moses in Wild West Shows and the Images of American Indians, 1883-1933 and Michelle Delaney in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Warriors both note Native performers' opportunities to not only see the world and earn an income, but also to practice their beliefs and live their days free from the interference of the ever-present missionaries, politicians, and BIA agents back at home.
In addition, Wild West performers experienced opportunities otherwise unimaginable to many Americans of their day, including being presented to Queen Victoria at her Golden Jubilee in London in 1887, attending the 1889 World's Fair in Paris with its debut of the newly constructed Eiffel Tower, and having their photograph taken by the daughter of the future King of Bavaria, Ludwig III, in Munich in 1890.
This collection was exchanged with Frank Lehner in 1932.
Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).