Elbridge Ayer Burbank

By Jo-Mora from Burbank Among the Indians by E. A. Burbank and Ernest Royce.
Elbridge Ayer Burbank
Also Known as
E. A. Burbank
E. Ayer Burbank
Harvard, Illinois 1858
San Francisco, California 1949
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Luce Artist Biography

Elbridge Ayer Burbank’s first job was for Northwest Magazine, illustrating the Northern Pacific Railway route from Minnesota to Puget Sound, Washington. After two years of working as a portraitist in England, he settled in Chicago. Critics praised his work, but Burbank was not particularly ambitious and rather than compete in the cutthroat world of society portraiture, he traveled around the South sketching African Americans. In 1897, Burbank’s wealthy uncle, Edward E. Ayer, president of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, commissioned him to go West and document American Indian life. Several prominent museums along with Wanamaker’s department store entered into a bidding war over these portraits, and the Chicago public school system even ordered 10,000 color reproductions of a single image. Burbank spent the last years of his life in San Francisco, contributing illustrations to the San Francisco Chronicle. He died after being struck by a cable car. (Wolfe, American Indian Portraits: Elbridge Ayer Burbank in the West (1897-1910), 2000)