Skip to Content
Ledger Drawing of a courting scene between a woman, her suitor and a chaperone | Donald Ellis Gallery

Ledger Drawing

anonymous artist
Sheridan Ledger Book (pg 23)
Southern Cheyenne
Central Plains

ca. 1885

graphite and coloured pencil on lined paper

height: 5 ¼"
width: 11 ¾"

Inventory # P4048i

Please contact the gallery for more information.


Collected at Camp Supply, Oklahoma, in the 1880’s, by John L. Sheridan (1837-1898), a lawyer and certified land registrar, and brother of General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888), who led military campaigns against Southern Plains Indian and other tribes.


Fairfield University Art Museum, Fairfield, CT, "Picturing History: Ledger Drawings of the Plains Indians", September 27 to December 20, 2017


Keeping Time - Plains Indian Ledger Drawings 1965-1900, Donald Ellis Gallery, New York, 2014, pg. 67, pl. 33

This drawing is page 23 from the Sheridan Ledger Book. The Sheridan Ledger is a rare assemblage of hand-drawn courting scenes created by at least two warrior-artists around 1870. The pages are both biographical and autobiographical, recalling the wooing exploits of the artists and their fellow comrades. As with warfare, the Southern Cheyenne courting process was illustrious. The pages were intended to celebrate the virility and social prowess of the male protagonists. This drawing, created by an anonymous Southern Cheyenne artist, shows a forbidden encounter. In it, an unchaperoned Native woman is speaking to two mounted warriors, each named clearly by their glyphs. A bucket, positioned on the ground to the left of the beautifully dressed woman, suggests that she has been interrupted by the horsemen on her way to or from fetching water or wood. According to convention, this is a figurative device commonly used as a signifier in courtship scenes to communicate the illicit nature of the meeting and the great boldness of the warrior(s) depicted in them. With marriage and warfare making opposing demands on a man of the Central Plains in the mid to late nineteenth century, one may infer how courtship became to some men a stand in for war.

To say this collection of pages is “rare” would be an understatement. Of the handful of known Southern Cheyenne ledger collections, only a few focus on courtship. Ledger Art was a male-dominated art form in which the vast majority of surviving ledgers depict combat scenes. Fewer still are surviving pages which predate the 1880s – a time when Native Americans were still roaming the Plains. Their rarity, age and overall condition make The Sheridan Pages a remarkable discovery. Not only do they offer significant commentary on Plains warrior culture in the 1870s, they represent an art form that is uniquely American. It is interesting to note that the drawings were collected and preserved by the Sheridan family. With members like General Philip H. Sheridan (1831-1888), the family played an integral role in the shaping of Southern Cheyenne history in the 1870s.

Featured in the Press