Sep 29, 2022 - Sale 2615

Sale 2615 - Lot 4

Price Realized: $ 2,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(AMERICAN INDIANS.) Scrapbook kept by the notorious Indian impersonator Edgar Laplante, a.k.a. Chief White Elk. Approximately 18 manuscripts, 33 postcards (most of them Real Photo postcards), 52 other photographs, 9 handbills and programs, and numerous clippings, all mounted on the stiff coated-stock leaves of a somewhat dismembered 1919 textile sample book of the United American Tailors of Chicago. Folio, 18 x 16 inches, pictorial red, white and blue gilt cloth, worn; contents generally worn, with many of the larger clippings ragged at the edges. Various places, 1908-1920

Additional Details

Edgar Laplante (circa 1888-1944) was a con man from Central Falls, RI. In his longest-running scam, from about 1917 to 1926, he assumed the character of Chief White Elk (or sometimes Prince Tewanna Ray), and toured the world singing, dancing, and giving speeches on Indian rights. His purported tribal affiliation was generally left vague, although we find one reference to him as a "Cherikee." His wife Burtha Thompson often accompanied him, billed as "the Princess." He was imprisoned for fraud in both Switzerland and Mussolini's Italy. This is his own personal scrapbook kept as Chief White Elk, apparently maintained to demonstrate his credentials to the gullible. It is filled with photographs, testimonial letters, promotional broadsides, newspaper clippings, and more. Highlights:

A letter from the chairman of an American Red Cross chapter in California testifying that "Dr. Whitelk" volunteered during the influenza outbreak, "thinking not of himself but only of the welfare of the helpless who were left in his charge," 14 November 1918.

Letters from the offices of the Treasury Department and Committee on Public Information addressed to Chief White Elk, thanking him for his patriotic endeavors, 1918.

A promotional photograph of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody with a quite possibly forged inscription, "With my best compliments to Chief White Elk, W. Cody, May 15th 1914."

A photograph of "Milton J. Thompson, my father-in-law" which ties the album to Laplante, although his born name appears nowhere in the album.

Certainly one of the strangest lots to pass through Swann's Americana department--and we have seen some strange ones.