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Kno-Shr, Kansas Chief

John H. Fitzgibbon (American, born Great Britain, 1816–1882)

Image: 17.9 x 14.8 cm (7 1/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    From 1846 to 1860, John Fitzgibbon operated one of America's most prominent daguerreian establishments in the frontier city of Saint Louis, Missouri. Fitzgibbon learned photography in 1839 while apprenticed as a saddler in Philadelphia, but he is best known for his studio portraits and scenes of regional life in the territories west of the Mississippi River. This daguerreotype of Kno-Shr, a Kansa, is one of the few dated pre-Civil War portraits of a Native American whose name and tribe are known. The chief is shown bare-chested, wearing a traditional grizzly bear claw necklace, the most coveted of all Plains Indian body ornaments. Several details are handcolored with red paint, the color of strength and success and a powerful agent to ward off evil spirits. Made during the height of the country's territorial expansion beyond the Mississippi, the photograph is remarkable as a document of a Native American before assimilation.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed on plate and accompanying label: "Kno-Shr Kansas Chief—Daguerreotyped by Fitzgibbon, Presented to G.V. Brooke by F.H. Fitzgibbon—St. Louis, April 4, 1853." Legend and information about Kansas Indian Tribe handwritten inside daguerreotype case under portrait (signed EWH-1893)

  • Provenance

    [Daniel Wolf]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, October 28, 1981

  • See also