Archive of photographs and correspondence belonging to Iron Eyes Cody, circa 1930s-1970s

N.p. N.p., Circa 1930s - 1970s. Archive of 46 vintage photographs, as well as several letters, cards, and a comic book, from the estate of Iron Eyes Cody, circa 1930s-1970s. Most photographs with annotations in Cody's hand on the rectos and versos, and many with his stamps on the versos.

In the 1970s there were few faces more ubiquitous than that of Iron Eyes Cody, owing largely to his memorable appearance as the “crying Indian” in the Keep America Beautiful public service announcement, originally released on Earth Day, 1971, and aired throughout the 1970s. Cody identified publicly and privately as Native American throughout his entire adult life, despite it being revealed in the mid-1990s that he was in fact a second-generation Italian American.

The archive features a number of photographs of various Native Americans and Native American ceremonies. One photograph of particular note shows a Native American ceremony, with annotations in Cody’s hand on the bottom margin, identifying a subject in the photograph as “My Father Plume Cody Cherokee,” and claiming to still have his father’s “war bonnet” and “buck skin coat.”

The archive also includes two inscribed photographs: one from burlesque performer Betty Falconer, and one from Western child actor Bobby Clack to Cody's brother, Joseph William "Silver Moon" Cody. Also included is a 1937 vernacular photograph of the members of the Tim McCoy Wild West Show, a Western-themed act with the Ringling Brothers Circus. Seven photographs are film still photographs, only two of which are identified: one from the 1931 film "The Conquering Horde" (seen here under the working title "Stampede") and one from the 1941 film "The Round Up."

The correspondence in the archive includes an autograph letter regarding early European settlers and their betrayal of Native Americans, with an annotation in Cody's hand, claiming the letter to have been written by his grandmother, “Birdie Cody,” in 1905. Also among the correspondence is a typed note signed from Abigail Van Buren (of "Dear Abby" fame) to a reader, responding to a request for Cody’s contact information, and two hand-illustrated Christmas cards addressed to Cody.

Lastly, the archive includes a copy of the comic book adaptation of the 1956 Walt Disney film "Westward Ho The Wagons!," with an annotation by Cody on the front wrapper, noting, "Iron Eyes as Many Stars.”

Cody appeared in more than 200 films and over a hundred television programs from the 1920s through the 1980s. Originally taking the name "Iron Eyes" for the 1948 Western comedy film "The Paleface," Cody maintained the moniker for the rest of his career. In 1936 Cody married Native American archaeologist Bertha Parker Pallan and the two adopted two children of Dakota-Maricopa descent.

In 1996, New Orleans newspaper "The Times-Picayune" would publish an article questioning Cody's heritage, revealing that he was a second generation Italian American of Sicilian descent, born “Espera Oscar de Corti” in Kaplan, Louisiana. The story was corroborated by Cody’s half-sister May Abshire, and by several legal documents, including baptismal records. Cody would nevertheless maintain his image as Native American, and deny his Italian heritage, up to his death in 1999.

Photographs range from 2.75 x 2 inches to 8 x 10 inches, with the majority being in a 3 x 5 inch format. Very Good plus to Near Fine overall. Housed in mylar photograph sleeves in a Very Good plus black three-ring binder.

Letters, cards, and comic book range in size from 6 x 3.5 inches to 7.25 x 10.5 inches. All materials Very Good plus to Near Fine.


[Book #156416]