Ellis Prentice Cole Collection

Donor Name
Jane Cole Pirie (Granddaughter)
7351 W. Talcott Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60631
Accession Number
Faith G. Bad Bear-Bartlett
Collection Title
Ellis Prentice Cole Collection
Access Restrictions on Use
None. Open to public use.
Terms Governing Use And Reproduction
All publication rights are held by Little Big Horn College. Use for publication must be approved by archivist.
Preferred Citation of Materials
Ellis Prentice Cole Collection, Little Big Horn College Archives, Crow Agency, Montana.

Physical Description

Linear Feet
Comprehensive Dates
Materials Included
Glass Lantern (Stereopticon) Slides, photos, video of the collection’s donation to college, letter from granddaughter relating her grandfather’s biography.
Organization of Materials
This collection consists of photographs of Crow Indians participating in various activities, along with photographs of teepees, landscapes, and animals. All of the photographs are glass slides for use on a Stereopticon or Magic Lantern projector.

Biographical and/or Historical Note

Ellis Prentice Cole was an artist, photographer, writer, lecturer, and weaver. Cole was born in a log cabin on June 14,1861, in Kilbuck, Illinois, 17 miles south of Rockford, Illinois. The family moved to Rockford when he was eight. He was largely a self-taught artist. He learned water color from a local architect who supplied him with left over paint and scraps of paper. He learned photography by helping a Rockford photographer who gave him his first camera.

The success of his photography supply company enabled him to go to Berlin, Germany in 1886, where he studied art at the Royal Academy of Art for two years. On returning to the United State, he worked as a freelance artist and photographer until he gained employment in the art department of Crane Pluming Company where he worked until 1930. Cole explored the American West and took the photographs in the collection on the Crow Reservation in 1908 and 1909. He also photographed Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Painted Desert, and Grand Canyon national parks. Cole turned many of these photos into Stereoptican slides, hand painted with aniline dyes to make Stereopticon slides. These slides were then shown on a Magic Lantern projector. Magic Lantern projectors were a very popular form of entertainment until the widespread availability of motion picture projectors. Cole often travelled with his brother-in-law, Arthur Chapman, author, and poet who worked for a Denver paper. Chapman wrote the poem "Out Where the West Begins" which is still popular today.

Cole continued to travel and paint throughout the United States and Canada until his death in 1952, at the age of 91. He became the friend of many Native Americans who often posed for his photographs. He spent a great deal of time with Native people during his travels and often joined in their daily activities. He had many close friends among the Blackfeet and they made him an honorary member of the Tribe, naming him "Chief Bull Calf." Even as Cole grew older, he continued to give art exhibits throughout the Chicago area. He was a member of the Union League Club and The City Club of Chicago. He was active in the Austin Arts Building, played the flute with a string quartet, played the organ, and kept a prize winning garden. He wrote a weekly column for a local newspaper. Cole never learned to drive a car, but at ninety he could walk the legs off everyone else. Today many would call him a renaissance man, but to those who knew him, he was a person who enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest.


The Stereoptican slides within the Ellis Prentice Cole Collection were part of the voluminous photographs the photographer took across the American West. Cole painted theoriginal slides using dyes after he returned to Chicago. After his death, the family held onto the slides until his granddaughter Jane Cole Pirie donated them to the Little Big Horn College Archives in 1991.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of one hundred and twenty nine glass lantern slides which were hand painted with Aniline dyes to make Stereopticon slides. These slides could then be shown on a "Magic Lantern" projector. The images represented the Crow in various activities in their daily lives along with various reservation landscapes and animals. Cole took the photographs during his visits to the Crow reservation in 1908 and 1909. The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana included many of the Cole Collection slides in a Native American photographic database on their website.


  1. Group of Crow Indians, not identified
  2. American Flag: Crow men going to a parade
  3. Crow men in parade: note three United States flags
  4. At Battlefield: two Crow men at the monument
  5. Ration day: Crow families wait for food
  6. Crow Indians: not identified
  7. Crow men at Little Big Horn Battlefield
  8. Campsite: possibly Little Big Horn River
  9. Teepees in a row by river: flagpole possibly holds a medicine bundle
  10. Three children playing around pole outside of their teepee
  11. Baby in cradle
  12. Four children playing with puppies next to a teepee
  13. Woman and child retrieving water.
  14. Crow onlookers at a performance
  15. Custer’s last stand painting
  16. Duplicate of previous slide
  17. Village scene: set by river at sunset
  18. Red Teepee: similar to one in Richard Throssell collection
  19. One teepee situated away from rest of campers
  20. Fair time: camping in a circle with a large tent at the center
  21. Two Buffalo
  22. Buffaloes
  23. Battlefield in afternoon.
  24. Crow Warrior: possibly Curly and taken by Richard Throsell
  25. Two Chiefs with American Flag
  26. Group of Buffalo
  27. Little Boy dressed as chief standing in front of a tent. (Note) tent made in WashingtonState
  28. Man with American Flag standing close to three Teepees
  29. Crow men doing a sack race
  30. Crow Men at Council
  31. Crow Girls on horseback going to school with a local priest
  32. Crow Men with horses standing next to a teepee
  33. Horseracing at Crow Fair
  34. Crow woman holding her sleeping baby next to a teepee in cradleboard
  35. Chief Plenty Coups
  36. Men dancing/dressed as chiefs
  37. Horse trappings with women and dog by the horses
  38. Buffalo
  39. Gathering of women and children
  40. Horserace, possibly at old Crow Fair grounds
  41. Parade: men singing on a stage
  42. Crow Men: Horserace at Old Crow Agency Fair grounds
  43. Young Crow men racing horses
  44. Relay race on foot Crow Fairgrounds
  45. Crow Agency Fairgrounds
  46. Rodeo
  47. Crow Indians at grandstands
  48. Parade circle
  49. Men racing horses
  50. Man on horse
  51. Teepee with horse standing next to it
  52. Six men in a footrace
  53. Crow Indian Police
  54. Women and children in front of teepee
  55. Man and daughter at parade note the hat on the little girls
  56. Prized horse
  57. Men singing and one person dancing
  58. Two men dancing
  59. Crow girls on horse back
  60. Women posing for a picture
  61. New bride: Crow man announcing her to the public
  62. Boarding school girls
  63. Woman and daughter in parade
  64. Supply wagon
  65. Women at council
  66. Parade crossing river
  67. Buggies traveling together down a hill.
  68. Men crossing river on horses
  69. Parade in town
  70. Crossing river
  71. Children at Fairgrounds
  72. Map of Crow Reservation
  73. Crow women: photographed from shoulder on up
  74. Showing off horse
  75. Crow men singing
  76. Men at Little Big Horn Battlefield
  77. Moving Day
  78. Target practice with guns
  79. Placing flag at battlefield
  80. Crow man
  81. Guest speaking with Crows at battlefield
  82. Boy & girl playing with dog
  83. Horse riders at Crow Fair
  84. Scaffold (gravesite)
  85. Crow police
  86. Crow police in village
  87. Battlefield
  88. Summer bath
  89. Female elders on walk
  90. Men singers
  91. Honor dance
  92. Crow woman and her trappings
  93. Letter: unclear what is written
  94. Horserace
  95. Crow Boarding School: young men and teacher pose for picture
  96. Display for Crow Agency school
  97. Daughter and Father
  98. Crow girl
  99. Letter
  100. Scenery, possibly near battlefield
  101. Buffalo
  102. Two Crow women at church: sitting on front steps
  103. Crow man watering his horse
  104. Crow men in front of teepee
  105. Buffalo herd
  106. Teepee
  107. Teepee with sheep wagon
  108. Teepee village
  109. Miniatures of home and yard
  110. Watering of horses
  111. Crow village
  112. Teepee Trappings
  113. Herding horses
  114. Two men and one woman treating a horse on the ground
  115. Mare and foal
  116. Viewing Crow Land
  117. Gathering of Crow Nation, possibly at Crow Fair
  118. Non-Indian children
  119. Children racing
  120. Two Crow men
  121. Crow women in teepee
  122. Woman kneeling at river
  123. Woman holding baby
  124. Three children outside of small teepee
  125. Woman carrying firewood on her back
  126. Male students standing outside of boarding school
  127. Large crowd gathered around arbor
  128. Crow man posing for picture on a horse
  129. Elderly man posing for picture in warrior regalia

The video of the transferal of the slides to the Little Big Horn Archives is located in the Archives video collections, while the biographical material Jane Cole Pirie provided is in the accession folder in the Archivist’s office at Little Big Horn College.