THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: MEET THE MEN OF SLEEPY EYE, MINNESOTA

SLEEPYEYE_0001Members of the cast of the American Western movie “The Magnificent Seven” (1960) pose for a group picture in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. These seven gunmen were hired to protect a small Mexican agricultural village from a gang of marauding bandits. The cast included Charles Bronson (back row left), Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, and Eli Wallach. Wait a minute! Even though the Charles Bronson guy really looks like Charles Bronson, how could the cast of a 1960 movie appear in a turn of the century cabinet card photograph? In addition, what would Hollywood actors be doing in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota if they are in a film where the locale is Mexico? Besides that, is there really a town called Sleepy Eye? It’s time for a confession. The men in this photograph are not members of a movie cast even though I could almost swear that the guy in the back row is Charles Bronson. In regard to the existence of a town named Sleepy Eye; yes it does exist. The town of Sleepy Eye is named after Chief Sleepy Eye, or Ishtakhaba. He was a chief of the Sioux tribe and happened to have droopy eye lids. He was one of four Sioux Indians to meet President James Monroe in 1824 in Washington D.C.. This image was produced by Sleepy Eye photographer S. C. Madsen who also had a studio in New Ulm, Minnesota. He operated in Sleepy Eye between 1884 and 1892 and had a studio in New Ulm in 1888. Since this cabinet card advertises the New Ulm studio on the reverse of the photograph, this photograph was likely taken in 1888. Who are the men in the picture? Unfortunately, they are not identified. They appear to be businessmen from town but that of course is just a guess (two of the men have papers in their shirt pocket). Three of the men in the bottom row have their arms crossed resting on their abdomen. The fourth gentleman apparently didn’t get the message from the photographer who posed them. The man on the far right of the top row must have just finished the all you can eat buffet at the Silver Dollar Saloon judging by the tightness of his shirt.

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