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E. A. Burbank Indian Portraits, Prints

Identifier: Oversize-Ayer-Art-Burbank.Prints

Scope and Content of the Collection

This collection is composed of nearly sixty prints of varying sizes relating to the oil paintings, drawings, and illustrations of E. A. Burbank with a particular focus on Burbank’s extensive Indian portraits series.


  • Creation: approximately 1897-1937



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Inventory of the E. A. Burbank Indian Portraits, Prints are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Inventory of the E. A. Burbank Indian Portraits, Prints are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of E. A. Burbank

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 prominent 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 and was purported to be the only artist to paint the old warrior from life. This began his most productive and successful period as a painter of American 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 conté crayon 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.


1.3 Linear Feet (1 custom box)


Collection of photogravures, colortype lithographs, and other offset color prints of drawings and oil paintings by E. A. Burbank. Consisting primarily of prints of oil paintings included in Burbank’s extensive series of American Indian portraits, this collection of mass-produced, predominately twentieth century prints offers insight into cultural appeal of the American Indian and the wide dissemination of the work of E. A. Burbank during the last century.


The prints have, with the exception of Numbers 43-46, been uniformly matted and are arranged alphabetically according to the name of the portrait subjects, with miscellaneous or unidentified prints positioned towards the back of the arrangement. Numbers 43-46 consist of an assortment of loose prints of varying sizes that are either duplicates of matted prints or pages extracted from unknown publications.

Collection Stack Location

2 44 8


Gift, Edward E. Ayer.

Processed by

Gordon Dearborn Wilkins, 2015.

Inventory of the E. A. Burbank Indian Portraits, Prints, approximately 1897-1937
Gordon Dearborn Wilkins
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States