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The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 8, February 18, 2001, Article 11

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS 

   Don Groves writes:  Jan Monroe’s suggestion of McKenney- 
   Hall “Portrait Gallery of American Indians” is a splendid 
   recommendation for numismatists interested in medals. 
   Indian Peace Medals, particularly those beginning with the 
   Washington administration are of tremendous interest for the 
   numismatist. 

   When Indians first received these medals they far out-classed 
   anything the British or French had been presenting them to 
   encourage their loyalty to the King. With an expression of 
   friendship and gifts, these medals were used by our forefathers 
   to assuage Indian chiefs and great warriors that their loyalty 
   to the new found United States of America was paramount 
   in their best interest. 

   The McKenney-Hall books come in two sizes - very, very 
   large and large.  Each set is in three volumes with 50 plates 
   in each for a total of 150 outstanding copies of the portraits 
   of significant Indians at that time.  Some of the Indians were 
   captured on canvas in the field but most were invited to the 
   White House for an audience with the great white father and 
   thence sat for their portrait.  The portraits were later  hung 
   on the walls of the War Department Building. 

   Unfortunately, most of these great paintings have not survived 
   because of a fire, but to possess the volumes with the colored 
   print is indeed an outstanding accomplishment.  The small, 
   three-volume set now sells at auction for about $30,000. 
   The large volume set, $125,000 to $150,000.  So, the 
   practicality of acquiring them is not attainable for most of us. 
   However, most of the great libraries in our country do possess 
   the volumes. 

   Many years ago I visited the New York Public Library and 
   had the pleasure of reviewing the plates.  They are absolutely 
   fantastic.  Of the 150 portraits, 49 of them feature Indians 
   wearing their medal or medals. The most prominent medal is 
   worn by Red Jacket, Chief and leader of the Six Nations, 
   who played a paramount part in the American Revolutionary 
   War.  His medal is the large size 1792 Washington piece. 

   Sometimes these prints become available at auction or through 
   print shop dealers.  Philadelphia Print Shop is one in particular. 
   There are others.  In the case of Red Jacket, that print can 
   usually be acquired in the $500 to $1,000 range.  Since the 
   books have now skyrocketed in value, dealers no longer break 
   them up to sell the prints individually so they will become 
   scarcer in the future.  See the books at your nearest large 
   city library or watch the antique publications for sales of the 
   individual prints." 

   [Editor's note:  While the original McKenney-Hall books 
    are indeed quite rare, Jan Monroe was recommending an 
    affordable substitute: "McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery of 
    American Indians by James D. Horan, Crown Publishers, 
    1972.  The Horan book contains the biography of Col. 
    Thomas L. McKenney and his efforts to collect Indian 
    Peace Medals.] 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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