Kno-Shr, Kansas Chief

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

Date: 1853

Medium: Daguerreotype

Dimensions: Image: 17.9 x 14.8 cm (7 1/16 x 5 13/16 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2005

Accession Number: 2005.100.82


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.