Various Places: 1927-1929. Tileman, Homer; Topeka Art Guild, et al. Includes the following:
Portrait of Two Guns White Calf. Oil on canvas, 18 x 13 inches in larger contemporary wood painted frame (paint chipped). Signed “F.A.V. 29”, with the pictographic form of Two Guns White Calf’s signature added by the artist. With a medallion around his neck marked “Boy Scout from Fidelity [Kan]sas State Bank”. Stretcher marked on verso “Indian Head. Topeka Art Guild” in ink.
Hileman, Tomer J. Portrait of Two Guns White Calf, photogravure with stamped signature “Hileman 27” and the pictogram of Two Guns White Calf’s signature. Image measuring 7 ½ x 9 ½ inches, sheet measuring 10 ½ x 13 ½ inches.
Goodwin, Walter; Stevens, Margaret. Hail the Baltimore & Ohio, New York: Walter Goodman, [March 1928]. 6pp, 4to, upper cover signed in ink, “Two Guns White Calf” and with his pictographic signature. [Sheet Music]. Item #cat0128
Two Guns White Calf, also known as John Two Guns and John Whitecalf Two Guns, was a Blackfoot chief most famous as the purported model for the “Buffalo” or “Indian head” nickel. The designer of the nickel, James Earl Fraser, was believed by many to have used a mix of Two Guns White Calf, John Big Tree (Seneca) and Iron Tail (Sioux). However, the identity of the subject became a matter of some controversy.
Known in his youth as Two Guns, he was born in Fort Benton, Montana, and adopted by Chief White Calf. Chief White Calf died in 1903 in Washington while waiting for a payment promised by the government for land sold in what would become Glacier National Park. Upon White Calf’s death, Two Guns went to Washington and refused to leave until the government paid their debt to the Blackfoot. He returned to Montana, eventually becoming a spokesman for the Great Northern Railroad. As part of their publicity campaign to attract visitors to Glacier National Park, the railroad played up the story that Two Guns, who was now known as Two Guns White Calf, had been the model for the nickel. Fraser maintained that he had used multiple models, though some people questioned his motives for doing so. One historian speculated that Two Guns White Calf could have been the victim of a government conspiracy to discredit him due to his large influence as a leader, while others suspect that Fraser’s story changed because the publicity around Two Guns White Calf’s role had become too aggressive.
Two Guns White Calf remained quite influential through the early part of the century. He met with President Coolidge in the White House in 1928. The same year, he attended the Centenary Pageant of the Baltimore and Ohio, called “The Fair of the Iron Horse.” The sheet music here, signed with his pictogram (also an invention of the railroad’s publicity team as his original signature had been a thumbprint), was from this event.
Tomer Hileman was a Pennsylvania-born Montana photographer and the official photographer of the Great Northern Railroad. He was most famous for his pictures of Blackfoot. The oil on canvas appears to be based on Hileman’s portrait. The painting was likely produced for the Fidelity State Bank by the Great Northern Railroad as a publicity effort. It shows some flaking and the frame is heavily flaked, but it remains attractive. Photograph in fine condition, painting with some chips but still attractive, though the frame is quite worn.