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CUSTER SCOUT “CURLY” CABINET CARD – BOZEMAN, MONTANA  PHOTOGRAPHER – ICONIC LITTLE BIG HORN IMAGE:  One of the most sought after subjects among the participants of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, this is an excellent cabinet card image of Curly, one of the Crow scouts assigned to the 7TH Cavalry.  

Born sometime between 1856 and 1859 in the area of the Little Rosebud River, Montana, Curly’s (also seen spelled Curley) proper name in his native Crow language has been variously recorded as Ashishishe, and Shishi'esh, - as well as others – and is said to translate as "the Crow".  In his late teens, Curly had already participated in several armed encounters with the Sioux when he enlisted as a scout with Colonel John Gibbon in April 1876.  Assigned to the 7TH Cavalry, Curly joined the other scouts accompanying the column led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer. 

Having been ordered from the column before Custer’s soldiers made contact with Sioux and Cheyenne village, Curly and the other Crow scouts did not participate in the battle.  How- ever, he apparently witnessed the battle at some distance, for some two days later he arrived at the “Far West”, a steamboat serving in support of the campaign which was located at the confluence of the Bighorn and Little Bighorn Rivers, and Curly was the first to report the disaster.  While he made no claims to have participated in the battle, his first account was later determined to be quite accurate, confirming his presence on the field.   

As the years passed, a version of Curly’s participation began to evolve that had him as an active participant in the battle.  Eventually, hounded by historians and the press, he seems to have decided to give them what they were seeking, and he embellished his role to suit their tastes.  In other cases, historians simply revised his story themselves to suit their theories of the battle.  It should be no surprise that the backlash resulting from these conflicting reports landed in Curly’s lap and he was labeled as an outright liar.  As most of us know today, the first mistake you make when dealing with the press is when you open your mouth, but Curly didn’t have the benefit of our experience.  Modern Little Big Horn historians generally regard Curly’s initial report of the battle as true and accurate, and he is considered to be probably the last member of Custer’s column to see him alive.   

Curly lived out the later years of his life on the Crow Reservation on the banks of the Little Bighorn River, in close proximity to the scene of the famous battle.  He was a police officer for the reservation, was married twice, and had one daughter.  Beginning in 1920, Curly received a pension for his service to the U.S. Army, and he died on May 21ST, 1923 due to pneumonia.  He was buried two days later at the National Cemetery at the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.   

Frank Jay Haynes (1853 –1921), a professional photographer, from Minnesota, made a significant contribution to the history of the American West by documenting the settlement and early history of the Northern Plains.  During his career he was the official photographer of the Northern Pacific Railway and Yellowstone National Park.  Haynes bought a Pullman Rail Car in 1885, had it outfitted as a rolling studio, and operated it as a successful enterprise until 1905.  Haynes’ photographs were well published in periodicals and books of the day, and survive today as one of the most valued collections of images of the period.  

By comparing this image to another image taken by Haynes of Curly in 1883 where he appears to be the same age and is dressed in the same white shirt, same scarf secured at the throat with the mirror, what appears to be the same otter fur wraps on his braids, and wrapped in the same buffalo robe decorated with a classic Crow beaded strip, it is extremely likely this image was taken during the same period, perhaps at the same sitting, which would date this image to within 7 years of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  

This cabinet card, measuring 6 ½” by 4 ¼”, is legibly backmarked with the advertising callout of the Haynes Studio Company, indicating it was a product of Hanyes’ private railroad studio car.  The cabinet card is in excellent condition with no damage or fading to the image and the card is is full form with no damage to the edges.   

This is a very historical image, taken when the survivors of that fateful day on the Little Big Horn were still front page news and certainly were celebrities in their own right.  In excellent condition, this cabinet card will be a significant addition to your Indian War collection.  SOLD


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