The following photographers are known to have visited
Camp Robinson [in 1877]:
Unidentified Photographer, January 1877
Newspaper reporter Robert Strahorn visited Camp Robinson
and the nearby Red Cloud Agency in late January 1877,
traveling with General Crook. He noted that a small
log cabin studio was in operation at Camp Robinson
near the post trader's store and doing a good business
in producing portraits for the natives. The name of
this photographer is not known nor how long he stayed.
Could he still have been there four months later when
Crazy Horse surrendered?
is one small carte-de-vista print known in the collection
of the Nebraska State Historical Society bearing the
imprint "Hamilton & Smith's Gallery of Art,
Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska." We do not know if
this is that unknown photographer. The background
in this image incidentally does not match the Crazy
James H. Hamilton (c1833-1897), photographer from
Sioux City, Iowa, at Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Agencies,
August to September 1877.
was at the agencies during the period that Crazy Horse
was there and did produce a number of Indian portraits,
though mostly of Brule at the Spotted Tail Agency.
Hamilton did include on his list of images a portrait
labeled "104. Crazy Horse." An example of
this image with the negative number marked on it has
not been found yet. However, at least one image in
the Hamilton series is known with the name Crazy Horse
handwritten on the reverse; it has been shown to actually
be of a Pawnee named "Chak-ur-t-kee", an
image actually made by Byron Gurnsey and later reprinted
by Hamilton. There still may be a Hamilton image out
there waiting to be discovered. However, of the number
of Hamilton Indian portraits from the agencies from
1877 that are known, none of them have the backdrop
visible in the Crazy Horse tintype; Hamilton instead
used a blanket, tree branches and other props in his
Private Charles Howard, 4th Infantry, at Camp Robinson
Sept. 30 to October 4 and from Oct. 25 to Oct. 28,
1877. Crazy Horse had already died by this time, so
he could not be the photographer. Only one image showing
a backdrop is known by Private Howard. It dates to
the 1878-80 period and is different than the Crazy
David Rodocker (1840-1919), from Winfield, Kansas,
passed through the Red Cloud Agency in October 1877,
after Crazy Horse died. All of his stereocards are
outdoor views; no Indian portraits are known. The
backdrops in his known portraits from Winfield, Kansas,
do not match the Crazy Horse tintype.
D. S. Mitchell (1838-1929) was a traveling photographer
with his partner Joseph McGowan in the fall of 1877,
having just shut down his studio in Cheyenne. We do
not have any independent evidence to document that
he visited the Red Cloud Agency, however, he produced
a set of 38 portraits of Oglala and Arapahoe men and
women from the Red Cloud Agency in the fall of 1877.
He had a painted backdrop, however, it is different
than the one appearing in the Crazy Horse tintype.
And he does not list a portrait of Crazy Horse in
his catalog of views; seems he would have had he taken
one. The fact that the Oglala headmen are wearing
their Grant peace medals suggest that the portaits
were made after the delegation had returned from Washington
D. C. in October 1877, after Crazy Horse died.
historical record documents that at least five different
photographers passed through Camp Robinson and the
Red Cloud Agency in 1877. Of these, only one -- James
Hamilton -- can be shown to have been there during
the period that Crazy Horse was also there. None of
the backdrops used by four of the photographers (the
fifth one is not known) match the Crazy Horse tintype.
just based on the information we have about the photographers,
the timing of their visits and their known backdrops,
I find it highly unlikely that the tintype discussed
was taken at Camp Robinson in 1877.
— Ephriam Dickson