Othniel Marsh 18311899

Frank A. Bowman (lifedates unknown)
Albumen silver print, 1883

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

This photograph commemorates the meeting between the paleontologist Othniel Marsh and the Lakota chief Red Cloud in New Haven in 1883.

While digging for fossils in Dakota Territory nine years earlier, Marsh observed and later reported to government officials and newspapers in the East the deplorable conditions and widespread corruption on several Native American reservations. Marsh had met Red Cloud on this trip and later invited him to visit his Connecticut home.

The first professor of vertebrate paleontology in the United States, Marsh was a frequent member of western expeditions sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey. The fossils he and his team of assistants collected helped to build important collections at the Smithsonian and at Yale University’s Peabody Museum. During an era when Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection was hotly contested in America and abroad, Marsh was one of Darwin’s earliest supporters.