Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, John Hauser was one of several early twentieth century Ohio artists known for paintings of Western Indians. As the son of a German cabinet maker, Hauser showed early aptitude for creativity and art. Before age 15, he studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy, and later studied with Thomas Noble at the McMicken Art School. In 1880, Hauser enrolled in the Munich Royal Academy of Fine Arts as as student of Nicholas Gysis, and later studied in Dusseldorf and Paris, staying in Europe until 1891.
After returning to the United States, Hauser taught drawing in the Cincinnati public schools. In 1891, he traveled to Arizona and New Mexico where he was captivated by the scenery and indigenous people. After his initial trip, Hauser continued to make yearly visits to reservations where he created highly realistic depictions of Indian figures, genre and animals. He created many portraits of famed Indian chiefs including Sitting Bull, Lone Bear, Spotted Tail and High Horse. His love and sympathy for the Indians was recognized in 1901 when he and his wife were adopted into the Sioux nation, and he was given the name "Straight White Shield." Hauser is given credit for doing much to educate Americans about the culture of frontier Indians, including the Apache, Navajo and Sioux.