History Nebraska Blog

Throwback Thursday Photo, John A. Anderson Collection

Today’s #ThrowbackThursday features the photographs of Nebraska photographer John A. Anderson, including this portrait of Mato He Oklogeca (also known as Chief Hollow Horn Bear).

John A. Anderson is best known for his stunning portraits of the Rosebud Sioux. For over 40 years many believed Anderson’s original glass plate negatives were destroyed when his house burned down in 1928. Then one day out of the blue in 1970, NSHS receives a letter offering 350 Anderson negatives for sale. With the help of the NSHS Foundation, the plates were purchased in June 1970. Since that time, the Anderson Collection has been an important part the NSHS photograph archives and has been shared around the world.

Anderson was born in Sweden in 1869 and the family immigrated to America in 1870. After a short stay in Long Island, the family settled in Pennsylvania. In April of 1883, John’s father decided to take his three sons and made the long journey to Nebraska to the recently formed town of Valentine.

At sixteen John became the apprentice to another well-known Nebraska photographer, also famous for his Native American images, W.C. Cross who was working in the nearby Fort Niobrara. Not long after going to work for Cross, John was asked to take pictures for the Army. In 1889, General George Crook hired John as an official Army photographer for the Crook Treaty Commission.

During the early 1890s, John traveled between Nebraska and Pennsylvania, attending college in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and working as a clerk at the Jordan Trading Post on the Rosebud Reservation. In 1895, John married Myrtle Miller in Pennsylvania. He promised his new wife they would be in Nebraska for no more than two years. They ended up staying for more than thirty.

John continued working at the Jordan Trading Post, eventually becoming partner and later owner. While working at the post, John continued to take photographs and collect Native American artifacts. He gained a reputation for paying the Sioux more for their objects than any other trader on the Reservation.

In early 1922, the Andersons decided to move to California for John’s health. As a sign of respect, the Sioux gave John and Myrtle a farewell dance and presented them with beaded pouches. They, however, didn’t stay away long and returned to Rosebud by October of that same year.

The house fire in which his plates were believed destroyed occurred in 1928. His Native American artifact collection, however, was housed in another location and was known to have survived.

In 1930, John retired and moved to Rapid City to manage the new Sioux Indian Museum, built specifically to house his collection of Native American artifacts. The Department of the Interior purchased John’s collection in 1935 when he retired from the museum.

John and Myrtle moved to California in 1939. Sadly, John died of stomach cancer on June 26, 1948. 

Explore more of the John A. Anderson Collection with the NSHS online Collections Database. 

Hollow Horn Bear (Mato He Oklogeca) [RG2969-1-13]

Hollow Horn Bear (Mato He Oklogeca) [NSHS RG2969-1-13]


Nebraska photographer John A. Anderson, ca. 1889 [RG2969-2-6]

Sam Kills Two works on the Big Missouri Winter Count [RG2969-2-1]

Sam Kills Two works on the Big Missouri Winter Count [RG2969-2-1]

Ceremonial tipi [RG2969-2-248]

Ceremonial tipi [RG2969-2-248]

Katie Roubideaux with doll [RG2969-2-165a]

Katie Roubideaux with doll [RG2969-2-165a]

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