The full content of this document is only available to subscribing institutions. More information can be found via

Title Letters [manuscript]: 1897-1949 [Folders 20 to 33]
Author Burbank, Elbridge Ayer (1858-1949)
Document Type Correspondence; Manuscript
Description From the Newberry Library Catalogue: Box 1 (Folders 20 to 33) This collection contains about 350 letters (1897-1914) written by Burbank from various Indian villages, trading posts, and towns to his uncle Edward E. Ayer and two scrapbooks (1945-1949) of incoming correspondence. The outgoing correspondence includes Burbank’s reports on his painting progress, his travels and experiences in the West, his acquisition of Indian crafts such as rugs and pottery, and mention of his painting exhibitions. The letters were written predominately from Oklahoma Territory, the Southwest, and the Dakotas. In his first letters, dated March 1897, Burbank relates his experience painting the Apache chief Geronimo at Fort Sill, OK. In later letters he describes painting other famous chiefs including Red Cloud and Joseph. Many letters were written from John Lorenzo Hubbell’s trading post in Ganado, Ariz. where Burbank established a temporary studio. The scrapbooks include incoming correspondence to Burbank at the Hotel Manx in San Francisco. They also contain miscellaneous clippings including reviews of his newly-published reminiscences and a few reproductions of his later sketches.
Names Hubbell, John Lorenzo; Hamlin, Herbert; Geronimo (1829-1909); Red Cloud (1822-1909); Chief Joseph (1840-1904)
Places Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Territory, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ganado, Arizona, San Francisco, California, United States
Keywords trading post, travel, travelogue, crafts, pottery, letter, chief, art, portrait
Theme Observation, Representation and Cultural Encounters
Tribe / Nation
Culture Area Southwest, Great Plains, Plateau
Additional Information

This document contains letters dated December 1897 to February 1898.

American painter and illustrator. Elbridge Ayer Burbank was born in 1858 in Harvard, Illinois. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and in Germany, where he developed his technique in life drawing and portraiture. At first specializing in African American subjects, in 1897 Burbank was commissioned by his uncle Edward E. Ayer, to do a series of portraits of prominant Indian chiefs in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Accepting the commission, Burbank began his career as an Indian portrait authority. He painted Apache Chief Geronimo five times, the only artist to paint the old warrior from life. This began his most productive and successful period as a painter of Amercan Indians. By 1902, Burbank was roaming the west and southwest, seeking out the native peoples, painting and drawing. He depicted not only the great chiefs but also ordinary individuals, groups and ceremonies of more and 125 tribes. Burbank made friends wherever he traveled, among them was Juan Lorenzo Hubbell of the famed Hubbell Trading Post, a hub for artists, ethnologists and tourists. There he did red chalk drawings of Navajos and many of the patterns for their rugs. During the Depression, Burbank supported himself by drawing and selling scenes for postcards and greeting cards, pictures of famous Americans, and copies of his Indian studies. His reproductions were inexpensive, and were widely distributed and collected. His last years were spent at the Manx Hotel in San Francisco, where he died in 1949, after having been struck by a cable car.

Library The Newberry Library
Copyright The Newberry Library
Collection The Edward E. Ayer Collection
Reference VAULT Ayer MS 120
Catalogue Link The Newberry Library Catalogue