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Signed with a Large 'X'
By Robert R. Van Ryzin, Coins Magazine
June 13, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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I recently added to my collection of Chief John Big Tree-related items. I’ve argued since the late 1980s that John Big Tree (Isaac Johnny John), a Seneca, was not a model for James Earle Fraser’s famed Buffalo nickel. For my arguments on this, you can most easily see my Fascinating Facts, Mysteries and Myths About U.S. Coins (Krause Publications, 2009) or my earlier book, Twisted Tails, by the same publisher.

Despite my findings against him being Fraser’s “missing” third model, I’m still attracted to items that relate directly to John Big Tree. Readers will remember an image I ran of him, which appeared in this spot a few months ago. This was something I picked up off of eBay.

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The collectible I just purchased dates to 1964 and the 125 anniversary of Waupun, Wis., which is home to one of Fraser’s original “End of the Trail” statues. Big Tree is shown here standing next to that statue during the celebration.

For those who don’t know, John Big Tree also claimed to be the model for Fraser’s statue. This story is as riddled with holes as his claim of modeling for the nickel. Again, see Fascinating Facts or Twisted Tails.

For the 125th anniversary of the city, John put his “X” on cards such as this one, which were then “Witnessed & Authenticated” by two members of the staff of the National Bank of Waupun, which hosted the chief ’s appearance during “the 125th year Jubilee of the City of Waupun. JULY 1st thru 4th, 1964.”

Happy collecting.



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