Adapted from material provided by the Custer Museum

Many believe that photos or first-hand likenesses of Chief Crazy Horse do not exist. However, the Custer Museum in Garyowen, Montana, thinks it may have a tintype of the famous Lakota warrior.

Eyewitnesses described Crazy Horse as 5' 8" tall. He was lithe and sinewy, with a lean face and thin, sharp nose. His had a quiet dignity but was dogged, tenacious and melancholy.  It's said he always wore a white buckskin shirt and dark blue leggings. He wore two loose feathers in his long braids that were wrapped in beaver fur almost the same color as his hair.

During his life, Crazy Horse was known as "the light-skinned warrior."  In his youth, he was called "Curly" for his light loose hair, the "color of a young prairie chick."

There is a strong resemblance between descriptions of Crazy Horse and the man in this portrait. The original portrait is a quarter tintype, 2.5 x 3.5 inches, taken in the summer of 1877 at Fort Robinson.  It was Crazy Horse's 35th  -- and last -- year.

Garnier Baptiste (Little Bat) was the first owner. Little Bat was a good and trusted friend of Crazy Horse. It appears that Little Bat persuaded Crazy Horse to have his picture taken and assured him it would remain a secret while Crazy Horse lived.  While many writers say Crazy Horse was afraid of the "shadow catcher," Little Bat said that's not true: Crazy Horse understood how cameras worked.  He just didn't want his picture shown. With all his enemies, both white and Indian, Crazy Horse needed anonymity.

When Little Bat was murdered in 1900, the tintype went to his wife who was Crazy Horse's cousin.  When she died, it passed onto Ellen Howard, her daughter. After several private purchases, the tintype is now at the Custer Museum. With it is a letter from Ellen Howard attesting to its authenticity.

Both are on display at the Custer Museum.

Note: Tintypes are reversed prints, just like you see yourself in the mirror. This photo is laterally flipped for a more accurate image.
This picture was scanned at high resolution and retouched to removed scratches and chips. The content remains the same.


The Face Wound
Some argue that this tintype is not Crazy Horse because no obvious scar exists on the face. It's known that No Water shot Crazy Horse in the face because his wife, Black Buffalo Robe Woman, rode off with Crazy Horse. However, Mari Sandoz, author of Crazy Horse, the Strange Man of the Oglala, stated that No Water shot Crazy Horse with a small caliber gun hidden in his hand. The powder charge was only about a half load. The bullet entered near the left nostril and exited out the cheek.  In time the scar left a slight ridge that eyewitnesses say gave that side of Crazy Horse's face "a slightly haughty cast --- striking, considering the mildness and gentleness of his face."

Consideration should be given to the age of the wound. This photo was taken in 1877, over 10 years after the shooting.   The picture shows the left cheek is more distinct than the right. The skin is whitened from an old scar below the left nostril to the corner of the mouth. It may be argued that this face has "a slightly haughty cast."

A Pose of Peace: Photographs of Indians of this era show them in full battle dress, wearing a fierce look and holding their favorite weapon. In this photo, however, the man is holding a peace pipe and its tamp with a clutch of Red Willow branches. The Lakota used Red Willow bark in the ceremonial smoke of a peace council.

A Chief's Blanket: The photo shows a man with a blanket draped over his arm for maximum presentation. When he surrendered,  Crazy Horse's most prized possession was a red chief's blanket. If this is Crazy Horse, he would make sure  his blanket was properly presented in the photograph. Mari Sandoz stated that Crazy Horse carried his red blanket folded over his arm as he walked (unwittingly) to the guardhouse, where he was bayoneted by Private Gentles.

Earrings: are common among the Lakota. Each person had their own style. The person in the picture has short, shell earrings, consistent with those known to be worn by Crazy Horse as an outgrowth of his vision.

To read the text in its entirety, visit the Custer Museum's website:
Custer Photos and Document: Custer Museum

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