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, History Nebraska (formerly the Nebraska State Historical Society) receives a letter offering 350 Anderson negatives for sale. With the help of the Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS) Foundation, the plates were purchased in June 1970. Since that time, the Anderson Collection has been an important part of the History Nebraska 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.

Chief Hollow Horn Bear (Mato He Oklogeca) [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]


Ceremonial tipi [RG2969-2-248]


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

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

Sewing the Flag

Sewing the Flag

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.