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1887-88       1891-92       1892       1902-03       1904

 Kronprinzessen Cecilie, 1913 

We are sailing...

The above photograph is featured by Don Russell, captioned:

Buffalo Bill Wild West Group aboard the S. S. Princessen, Bremen Line,
en route to Germany in 1891. Some of the members are:
(left to right) left front, seated, Fast Horse and Nellie, unidentified woman,
Mrs. Swan. Left, rear, nearest the ventilator; Sam Surrounded; to his right, David
Two Bull; and Wallace White Whirlwind (tentative).
Courtesy Fred B. Hackett, Chicago.1

I have no idea what prompted Russell to date it to 1891; certainly, none of the Indians named or depicted are known in connection with the 1891-92 season.

The essential problem with the ship’s name advanced by Russell, ‘S. S. Princessen’, is that insofar as I have been able to determine, no such vessel has ever existed. Russell’s copy of the photograph, however, possesses the singular merit that the three words appearing on the horseshoe-shaped object in the foreground can just about be deciphered. These are ‘Kronprinzessen Cecilie Bremen’, i.e. Kronprinzessen Cecilie, Port of Registration, Bremen.

The same photo is also reproduced by the late Dr Colin Taylor; the caption on this occasion runs:

Sioux Indians on their first visit
to Europe, c. 1887 to perform in
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show
(Most probably Sinte Maza
[Iron Tail] standing centre
wearing the stetson)

Courtesy of the Taylor North American Indian Archives, Hastings2

Taylor attributes the image to an ‘unidentified photographer’ but since he was informed by Fred B. Hackett, to whom Russell credits it, Hackett has to be considered the connecting factor.

It would be interesting to know what prompted him, even tentatively, to date it to 1887. When I obtained my own print from Colin more than twenty years ago, he appeared to be under the impression that it had been taken in 1891, a theory I quickly discounted; the headgear sported by the white men, none of whom I have ever been able to recognise, looks distinctly early 20th century to me.

If this was indeed the first visit of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West to Europe and that term is taken to include England, it is hard to account for the ‘c.’ in front of the ‘1887’. Taylor’s identification of Iron Tail as the man in the Stetson is both bizarre and inexplicable, particularly since several genuine photos of the same individual appear elsewhere in the same paper. Besides, the earliest record known to me of Iron Tail’s participation in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West is 1898.

Examining the history of the Kronprinzessen Cecilie more closely, it was built in 1906 and had its maiden voyage in the following year, 1907, several months too late ever to have been of service in any of Buffalo Bill’s transatlantic ventures. It was interned by the United States following the outbreak of hostilities in 1914. In 1917, on the U.S.A.’s entry into the war, it was seized and turned over the U. S. Navy and re-named U.S.S. Mount Vernon (ID-4508). It follows that the photograph must date to the years during which it plied between Bremen and New York, i.e. 1907-14.

In fact, a perfect match is provided by the passenger list for the ‘Kronprinzessen Cecilie sailing from Bremen November 18th, Arriving at Port of New York November 25th 1913’3, which enters the names of the sixteen Indians, all of them bound for Pine Ridge SD, as follows: John Plenty Wounds, 22; Chas Allman, 32; Frank White Belly, 33; Matteé White Belly, ?; Edward Richard, 25; Edward Lays Bad, 36; Charles Short, 19; Tom Stabber, 33; Salli Stabber, ?; Edward Two Two, 56; Lina Two Two, 54; Tom Little Wolf, 30; Dick White Calf, 32; Maggie White Calf, ?; Henry White Calf, 6, and Ellen White Calf, 3.

Note that the question mark appears to signify that three of the ladies did not wish to disclose, their ages, or were unable to do so.

The Indians listed here provide an excellent match for the photograph. In both, there are four adult females. Of the two juveniles, the little boy is presumably Henry White Calf and the little girl, who appears reluctant to face the camera, his younger sister, Ellen. The woman on whose knee she sits is no doubt their mother, Maggie. Adding these to the ten adult males featured in the photograph, we are left with a total of sixteen – quod erat demonstrandum!

An article in a German language newspaper4 reports on the arrival of 16 tapfere Sioux-Krieger (sixteen brave Sioux warriors), arriving at New York on board the Kronprinzessen Cecilie. It also identifies Iron Tail as the leader of the group, bringing an unexpected and inconvenient ostensible confirmation of Taylor’s statement. It must however be stressed that no such name is entered on the passenger list. In any event, the possibility that THE Iron Tail was actually present can effectively be discounted by the fact that, during the summer and autumn of 1913, he was engaged with the Miller Bros 101 Ranch on a tour of North America.

Dietmar Schulte-Möhring of American Tribes supplies the names of the couple seated to Henry’s immediate right as Thomas and Sally Stabber and the older man directly behind Sally as Edward Two Two. The party was returning from the Stosch-Sarrasani circus in Dresden. Returning there in 1914, Edward Two Two took ill, died and was buried during the summer.

Thomas Stabber was also known as White Buffalo Man; a postcard produced for the Brussels Exhibition of 1935 depicts ‘Chief White Buffalo Man’ and his wife. Reproduced by Richard Green5, it appears to depict the same couple in later years.

The young man in the white shirt, standing directly behind the little girl, might tentatively be identified as Charles Short, as he is the only one present who looks 19.

It might regretfully be commented in passing that the names advanced by Don Russell (supra) have been of no assistance whatsoever.


1 The Wild West - A History of the Wild West Shows (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 1970), p. 36

2 Wo’wapi Wastè - Acting the Part: Image Makers of the North American Indian, in Native Nations - Journeys in American Photography, edited and introduced by Jane Alison (London: Barbican Art Gallery, 1998), Plate 165

3 Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island, p. 102

4 Amerika, 28th November 1913

5 A Warrior I Have Been - Plains Indian Cultures in Transition (Folsom, LA: Written Heritage, 2004), p. 64

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Great Britain