Native American Boy, Ohio

These two photos came as part of an estate lot purchase I made. In looking at the first photo, the boy to me looked like he could be Native American. After doing some research, I’m not so sure anymore. The photo was taken by Edgar Decker, a Cleveland society photographer. This would be from the Civil War period or shortly thereafter. The Superior Street imprint on the verso indicates this was taken between 1859 and 1883, but given the style of the CDV, it would argue for before 1870. While certainly not impossible, I think it would be less likely than not that a society photographer would be doing portraits of Native American boys at that time. I don’t know the history of the Native American presence in the Cleveland area in the mid-1800s, so I can’t say to what degree there was one and to what degree they were integrated into Anglo society.

Native American Boy, E. Decker, Cleveland, Ohio
Native American Boy, E. Decker, Cleveland, Ohio

A biography of Edgar Decker, as found at OhioLink :

Edgar Decker (18 February 1832-1 December 1905) was one of Cleveland, Ohio’s earliest and most prominent photographers. Decker grew up in New York State and was largely self-taught. At 13, he became a clerk in a store, after 7 years managing his own store where he developed an interest in photography. He moved to Cleveland in 1857 and worked in various studios for 2 years before opening his own on Superior Street in 1859, moving it to the more fashionable Euclid Avenue in 1883. Decker maintained a studio in Cleveland for over 40 years, producing an enormous volume of work that included portraits of old pioneers, lawyers, businessmen, physicians, society women, and families. In 1862 he photographed Cleveland regiments encamped outside the city prior to their involvement in the Civil War. Decker won many prizes for his portraits of famous statesmen, soldiers, diplomats, and actors and actresses. Among these were 4 presidents–Garfield, Grant, Hayes, and McKinley–as well as General Sheridan. His original photographic portraits were tipped in the book Cleveland, Past and Present; Its Representative Men (1869). Active in photographic societies, in 1887 Decker was elected president of the National Photographic Association. His work was continued by his protege George Edmondson, who also became a well-known Cleveland photographer. Edmondson acquired Decker’s studio at the turn of the century. Decker also served on city council from 1878-1882. He married Julia English on 2 February 1857. They had a son, Edgar, Jr. Decker was buried in Lake View Cemetery.

The second image I believe is the same boy – they have very similar hair, and similar facial structures. Since the poses and composition are different, and neither photo is labeled who it is. it’s hard to tell for sure. This is the image that makes me think the boy is not Native American moreso than the identity of the first photographer.

Boy, Stein's Photographic Gallery, Ravenna, Ohio
Boy, Stein’s Photographic Gallery, Ravenna, Ohio

If any of you out there are expert enough on the topic to provide guidance on if this boy is Native American, part Native American, or is totally Caucasian, I’d love to hear from you.

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