The Return of Red Shirt

The discovery of some archival material has caused somewhat of a  stir amongst local journalists recently (http://www.salfordonline.com/salfordvideos_page/25466-video:_salford_big_chief_found_in_manchester_museum.html). The material consists of a letter addressed to a Mr. Brode written on Buffalo Bill official stationery and a photograph of an  American Indian called Red Shirt.

The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2011

The letter is dated 1888 and was written by Buffalo Bill’s secretary S. Hanfield.  From November 1887 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West company was encamped on the banks of the River Irwell, Salford, Greater Manchester, and would remain there performing to crowds of local people for several months.

Red Shirt, Oglala Lokota Chief, Late 19th Century, Salford, UK. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2011.

Hanfield states in the letter that he also sent Brode a pair of moccasins  which were made at ‘Pine Ridge Indian Agency, Dakota, U.S.A.‘ and worn by Red Shirt during performances. Red Shirt was a Oglala Lakota American Indian and to this day his people live at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. The photograph, taken by Salford photographer C.R. Brandis, is the only known image of Red Shirt taken during his time in Salford.

Moccasins, Late 19th Century, USA. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2011.

In 1928 Mr. Freston, chair of The Manchester Museum Committee at the time, donated a pair of moccasins which he claimed belonged to an ‘Indian Chief’. It is possible that these moccasins are the ones mentioned in the letter.

Stephen Terence Welsh

Curator of Living Cultures

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6 thoughts on “The Return of Red Shirt

  1. Dear Stephen,

    Thanks for again a very interesting insight into Manchester Museums great ethnographic collections. As stated above “a pair of moccasins which were made at ‘Pine Ridge Indian Agency, Dakota, U.S.A.‘ and worn by Red Shirt during performances” were also sent to Brode in 1888. It seems not very likely to me that the pair of moccasins shown is the one mentioned in the letter. The style does not fit for a pair of Sioux moccasins made at Pine Ridge and also is much younger, say around 1900 earliest. A photograph of Red Shirt wearing “right” moccasins taken during his stay in England can be found at the British Museum, following this link: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx?objectid=3232518&partid=1&output=People%2f!!%2fOR%2f!!%2f169630%2f!%2f169630-1-6%2f!%2fPortrait+of+Red+Shirt%2f!%2f%2f!!%2f%2f!!!%2f&orig=%2fresearch%2fsearch_the_collection_database%2fadvanced_search.aspx&currentPage=1&numpages=10

    A couple of Buffalo Bill Wild West Show photographs (including ones from England and some showing Red Shirt) can be found here:
    http://lbha.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=bill&action=print&thread=3585

    Another reason to doubt the connection between the moccasins shown and Red Shirt is the small size of the moccasins. But this is of course just an idea into another direction.

    Is there any proof the moccasins mentioned in the letter came to the Museum together with the letter?

    Best regards,

    Martin

    • Hi Martin,

      It’s great to hear from you.

      The reason I suspect these could be the moccasins mentioned in the correspondence, even though as you quite rightly say they are not Sioux, is because:

      • The accession register only mentions a single pair of moccasins as belonging to an ‘Indian Chief’

      • There is some wear on the bottom of these moccasins which is synonymous with stirrup damage

      • Buffalo Bill was indiscriminate in the acquisition of his apparently culturally specific costumes

      As of yet there is no evidence to link the correspondance with the moccasins but I think further information regarding Mr. Brode, who we now know is actually Mr. Bode, and Mr. Freston will help clarify this.

      Thanks,

      Stephen

  2. I am trying to help my son in law Sean Vine Redshirt, build up info about his ancestors. It would be very helpful if you could advise me how to get copies of any pertinent info and pictures relative to Chief’s Redshirt’s stay in Europe during the late eighteen hundreds.
    Hope to hear from you soon.

    • There are very many sources relating to Red Shirt’s stay in Europe, however I’m only familiar with the wonderful material we have here at the Manchester Museum. It may be worth doing some more exploratory work on-line to determine where these sources are. If I come across anything myself I’ll be sure to let you know.

  3. I appreciate any and all information on my 4 times great grandfather. It warms my heart since I have always wondered about that part of my history.

    • My pleasure Leonita, I’m glad to hear that this has contributed to your family history and ancestry.

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