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Charles Schreyvogel Papers

Identifier: 1969-197

Scope and Contents

The collection is arranged in four series: Biographical, Correspondence, Subject Files and Photographs.


  • circa 1880-1926


Conditions Governing Access

The Charles Schreyvogel Papers has no restrictions and is available for research. If you are interested in researching the materials, please contact the Dickinson Research Center to make an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

The Charles Schreyvogel Papers is the property of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Materials, even if owned by the NCWHM, may be protected under third party copyright. It is the patron’s responsibility to research and secure any such additional copyright and pay any required fees or royalties. It is not the intention of the NCWHM to impede upon any third party rights, and the NCWHM cannot be held responsible if the patron is involved in legal action due to violation of third party copyright claims.

Biographical / Historical

Charles Schreyvogel (1861-1912) was born to German immigrant parents in Hoboken, New Jersey. After studying with the Newark Art League and the Munich Art Academy, Schreyvogel established a studio in Hoboken and began his art career by painting portraits, ivory miniatures, and sketches for calendar manufacturers.

A friendship with William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody inspired hime to sketch Western characters. Eventually, Schreyvogel traveled West, where he spent time sketching and collecting Native American and military artifacts. After his trip West, Schreyvogel returned home to New Jersey and painted Western-inspired works on the rooftop of his building with models such as Storie Schultze. Schreyvogel continued to make trips out West for research and inspiration.

After several exhibition entries that did not sell, Schreyvogel entered "My Bunkie" into the annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design and won the Thomas B. Clarke Award for the best American figure composition. This raised the popularity of his work.

In 1902, Schreyvogel painted "Custer's Demand," a piece that led to contention with Western artist Frederic Remington. Remington criticized it for its historic inaccuracy, but Elizabeth B. Custer, General George A. Custer's widow, and Lt. Col. John Schuyler Crosby, former aide-de-camp to General Sheridan, supported Schreyvogel's painting. "Custer's Demand" eventually won the St. Louis World Fair Exposition Bronze Medal.

Schreyvogel's growing popularity led to President Theodore Roosevelt permitting Schreyvogel to visit any Army post or Indian Reservation for research for his artwork. After Remington's death in 1909, Schreyvogel was then hailed by many as the premier painter of the American West.


1.20 Linear Feet (1 document box, 1 flat box, 2 oversized folders)

Language of Materials



Papers and photographs of artist Charles Schreyvogel, as preserved by his widow, Louise Walther Schreyvogel Feldmann, and his daughter, Ruth Elizabeth Schreyvogel Carothers; also includes some posthumous material about Schreyvogel and his art collected by Feldmann and Carothers. This collection primarily documents the period when Schreyvogel was one of the most popular historical Western genre artists in America: from 1899, when he won the Clarke Prize for his painting “My Bunkie,” through his untimely death in 1912. Primary focuses of the collection are Schreyvogel’s career, his artwork and his relationships with some of the most prominent men and women of his time, including William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Elizabeth B. Custer, Frederic Remington and Theodore Roosevelt. Collection photographs document Schreyvogel’s family and art career.


Series 1: Biographical (1899-1930) This series consists primarily of news clippings, both loose and collected in Schreyvogel’s scrapbook. The major milestones, sales and awards of Schreyvogel’s career are documented by this collection of newspaper and magazine articles in English and German; the controversy between Schreyvogel and Frederic Remington over the accuracy of Schreyvogel’s painting, “Custer’s Demand,” is also covered. Additionally, the scrapbook also includes some correspondence, primarily concerning art competitions, and small prints of Schreyvogel artwork cut out from sales brochures. Also included are some notes about Schreyvogel’s career, probably written by Louise or Ruth Schreyvogel, and a eulogy of Schreyvogel written by Rudolph F. Rabe, a New Jersey homeopathic physician.

Series 2: Correspondence (1900-1911) This series is perhaps the most interesting in the collection, featuring letters from a number of luminaries of the late 19th century and early 20th century including William Merritt Chase, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody; Elizabeth B. Custer, the widow of General George A. Custer; Frederic Remington; President Theodore Roosevelt; and Schreyvogel himself.

A handful of letters from Schreyvogel to his wife Louise, whom he calls by the endearment “Schnuck,” document his life while in the West on his sketching tours. He writes about what he is sketching, his problems with a bad batch of photography plates, poor food, windy weather, and his interactions with the military officers. At one point, some officers threatened to mail a dead coyote to Schreyvogel’s home in Hoboken, and he took the threat seriously enough that he instructed his wife not to open any package supposedly from him that did not have a secret code in the address. He also played tourist, giving a glowing review to the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado, but he complained that his sketch of Pikes Peak was ruined because black smoke from the smelting plants were obscuring the view. Schreyvogel wrote to Louise from Washington in 1903 just after meeting President Theodore Roosevelt, and he quotes Roosevelt as supporting Schreyvogel’s position in the Remington-Schreyvogel controversy over the “Custer’s Demand” painting.

Several letters from William F. Cody help to document the relationship between Cody and Schreyvogel. Cody requests a full set of signed Schreyvogel prints for his daughter whose husband is being stationed at Fort Assinniboine in Montana; says he will personally show Schreyvogel the Western “life I love;” requests that Schreyvogel paint some of the “fights” in which he participated, such as the Battle of Summit Springs, which Schreyvogel did paint the following year (“Summit Springs Rescue, 1869”); answers specific questions about cavalry equipment and practice; and touts the idea that Schreyvogel should enter the $25,000 competition to sculpt a heroic-sized equestrian statue of General George A. Custer for the town of Monroe, Michigan, which was ultimately sculpted by Edward Potter. One of the Cody letters includes a postscript by Cody’s mistress Bess Isbell in which she thanks Schreyvogel for a print depicting Chief Iron Tail, a Sioux Indian.

Another group of letters, from Elizabeth B. Custer, Lt. Col. John Schuyler Crosby, General G. A. Forsyth and Frederic Remington primarily concern the research for and controversy surrounding the painting “Custer’s Demand.” Mrs. Custer writes about some people Schreyvogel should talk to at the War Department and encloses one of her calling cards with a note introducing Schreyvogel to assist him in his research. She also thanks Schreyvogel for his enthusiasm for doing a Custer painting, discusses Custer’s dress and appearance, and mentions three photographs of Custer from her personal collection that she apparently lent to Schreyvogel for his use while creating the painting. A letter from General G. A. Forsyth, who served with Custer and later commanded the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee, to a third party who had contacted him on Schreyvogel’s behalf, expresses his willingness to assist Schreyvogel with his observations about the Plains Indians and the Indian Wars. Lt. Col. John Schuyler Crosby, who was aide-de-camp to General Sheridan during the Indian Wars, also recounts some of his experiences, but more importantly, he passes along a letter Crosby had received from Frederic Remington about the “Custer’s Demand” controversy in which Remington agrees to end his criticism now that Elizabeth Custer has sided with Schreyvogel, but states that “I despise Schreyvogel.” This group of letters is interesting, both because it gives an insight into the depth of Schreyvogel’s research before starting a major painting, and because it shows the extreme competitiveness between these two major figures in the historical Western art genre. Apparently Schreyvogel harbored no ill will, because the collection also includes a thank you card from Eva Remington acknowledging Schreyvogel’s expression of sympathy at the untimely death of her husband.

There are some short personal letters from President Theodore Roosevelt, mostly complimenting Schreyvogel on his paintings and thanking him for prints given to Roosevelt. Also included is a 1910 letter from Leslie’s Weekly editor John Sleicher stating that, with the death of Remington, Schreyvogel is now the “greatest artist” in the historical Western art genre. A brief note from artist William Merritt Chase confirms an appointment with Schreyvogel at Chase’s home. There is also a group of letters concerning a number of art competitions, which Schreyvogel had entered, including the 1900 Paris Exposition, the 1901 Pan-American Exposition and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Some letters from the National Academy of Design concern the prize awarded to “My Bunkie” and other issues.

Series 3: Subject Files (1897-1962) This series consists of material collected by Schreyvogel and his family to document his art and other aspects of his life and interests. Included are a wide variety of newspaper and magazine clippings featuring Schreyvogel artwork, an album of Schreyvogel images and brochures promoting Schreyvogel souvenir prints. Other material in this series includes a Cody-Dyer Arizona Mining and Milling Company stock certificate presented to Schreyvogel by Buffalo Bill; a document from the Metropolitan Museum of Art acknowledging the donation of Schreyvogel material by Louise Schreyvogel Feldmann; a pen, ink and watercolor drawing of a “primitive ornament” with a 1924 date, which was probably done by Ruth Schreyvogel; and a poem inspired by Schreyvogel’s painting “My Bunkie” written for Schreyvogel by Rudolph F. Rabe.

Series 4: Photographs (ca. 1880-ca. 1911) This series consists of 14 photographs and two copy negatives. Personal photographs include a photographic Christmas card with Schreyvogel’s image, photos of his wife Louise and daughter Ruth, and images of Schreyvogel’s mother and Louise’s parents. Photographs documenting his career include a small, out of focus photograph of Schreyvogel and Buffalo Bill Cody, two photographs of Schreyvogel sketching and painting on Indian reservations, and five photographs of Schreyvogel’s studio that feature his extensive collection of military and Native American artifacts, as well as a photograph of Schreyvogel working on the roof of his Hoboken studio painting a model posed as a cavalryman shooting a pistol.

Processing Information

The Charles Schreyvogel Papers was purchased by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1969 from Ruth Schreyvogel Carothers, the daughter of Charles Schreyvogel.

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Repository Details

Part of the NCWHM Special Collections at Dickinson Research Center Repository

1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 73111 United States