HOME / PRODUCTS / PRINTS / MCKENNEY + HALL

Native Americans

McKenney & Hall. The Indian Tribes of North America with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs.

The text was written by James Hall based on material supplied by McKenney.  James Hall was a complex flamboyant frontiersman and a literary pioneer of the Ohio Valley.  He was a competent backwoods prosecutor of early western outlaws, newspaper editor and publisher, biographer, author of frontier histories, and one of the earliest writers of western fiction.The three-volume set is now one of the most valued items of Americana, usually found only in rare book rooms of major libraries and museums.  They offer the finest example of early American lithography.  It is fortunate that McKenney forced his dream to became a reality.  In 1865, the gallery of original portraits, then housed in the Smithsonian Institution, was destroyed by fire.  McKenney's portfolios are truly a landmark in American culture as a faithful recording of the features and dress of celebrated American Indians who lived and died long before the age of photography.Print: 11" x 7½"

The majority of the paintings were by Charles Bird King.  All the portraits were either copied from originial watercolor sketches done by James Otto Lewis, a young frontier artist, or painted from life when McKenney brought the chiefs and warriors to King's studio.  Here King painted portraits of famous Indian leaders of more than a score of tribes.After he was dismissed by President Jackson in 1830, McKenney launched his project to publish a series of elephant portfolios of the Indian portraits containing lithographs in color accompanied by an extensive text.  He was to experience a great deal of frustration, unbelievable obstacles, and financial hardship before Volume I of the first Folio Edition was printed by Edward C. Biddle in 1836.  Volume II was published in 1838 by a different publisher, and Volume III in 1844.  The volumes, entitled The Indian Tribes of North America with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs, first appeared in London in 1837 where Catlin's Gallery was attracting wide attention.  

Thomas Loraine McKenney, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, under Presidents Madison, Monroe, Adams, and Jackson, was the man most responsible for bringing the Indian delegations to Washington in the early years of the 19th Century.  For 16 years he controlled the destinies of more Indian nations on the American continent than any one man.He was an early champion of the Indians and to protect their rights, he fought Senate giants like Thomas Hart Benton and the flamboyant Sam Houston.  He was no desk administrator.  At President Adams's request, he traveled more than 7,000 miles in canoe and on horseback along a dangerous frontier, settling treaties with the western and southern tribes.  He was rewarded with a congressional investigation of his travel expenses.  He was part of America's earliest and wildest frontier.  He despised President Jackson, but to remain at his post, McKenney foolishly believed the promises of Jackson that the wholesale uprooting of the Cherokee nation would be done peacefully.McKenney's memorial is the portrait gallery of famous American Indians which he established soon after he took office.