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The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 9, February 25, 2001, Article 9

SOME NOTES ON MCKENNEY AND HALL PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN INDIANS AND THEIR PEACE MEDALS 

   Bill Spengler writes: "I took particular pleasure from your note 
   in the last E-Sylum on the above subject because of long 
   personal association with original lithographs, large and small 
   sized, from the McKenney and Hall portfolios and other 
   contemporary series. 

   My parents began collecting these so-called "Indian prints" in 
   the 1930s and managed to assemble about sixty of them by 
   the 1970s when they divided and gifted them to me and my 
   three siblings.  We each inherited about fifteen, supplemented 
   by a few which we purchased ourselves along the way.  Most 
   of these have now been handed down to the third generation. 

   I have kept my favorite trio which happen to be among the 
   most popular of the entire portfolio: Red Jacket, 
   "MA-KA-TAI-ME-SHE-KIA-KIAH" or Black Hawk a 
   Saukie Brave", and Keokuk "Chief of the Sacs and Foxes" 
   depicted with his young son (the only father-son combo in the 
   series). All, including Keokuk's son, are shown wearing 
   presidential peace medals. 

   Red Jacket's medal is identified in your note as one of President 
   Washington dated 1792.  Black Hawk's appears to be of 
   President Andy Jackson who brought him to Washington as a 
   sort of paroled prisoner where his portrait in a red feather 
   headdress was painted by Charles Bird King in 1837.  (There 
   is a later portrait of a more mature Chief Black Hawk wearing 
   a blue coat, not in the McKenney-Hall portfolio but sometimes 
   available in original lithograph.)  The presidential portrait on the 
   peace medals worn by Keokuk and his son does not look like 
   Jackson's, as on Black Hawk's medal, though their likenesses 
   were painted by King in Washington the same year, 1837. 
   This was Jackson's last year in office and Martin Van Buren's 
   first, so perhaps their medals were awarded by the latter. 

   The details of these medals are quite unclear on the original 
   lithographs and even more so on the mediocre reproductions 
   in Horan's 1972 reprint.  Only historical research into the actual 
   presenter and date of presentation of the medals can resolve 
   such questions.  Hopefully someone will undertake this 
   identification for ALL the peace medals in this important series 
   of portraits -- of which I counted fifty-three, rather than forty-nine, 
   if you count the three medals ostentatiously sported by 
   Naw-Kaw and the three by the "Winnebago Orator". 

   I might point out that while these lithographs are attributed to 
   Thomas L. McKenney, Superintendent of Indian Affairs under 
   four presidents up to and including Jackson, and his historian 
   colleague James Hall, they only reproduced prints of paintings 
   most of which had been made by King and his pupil George 
   Cooke in Washington in the 1830s; or copied by King from 
   original paintings done earlier by James O. Lewis at the sites 
   of treaty councils with exotic French placenames such as Butte 
   des Morts ("Hill of the Dead"),  Fond du Lac ("Bottom of the 
   Lake", i.e. the southern end of Lake Winnebago) and Portage, 
   all in eastern or southern Wisconsin.  I was born and raised 
   between the first two named places, longer ago than I would 
   care to admit, and grew up in awe of the memory of many of 
   these personages. 

   More later when I find the time to comment further, as Red 
   Jacket, Black Hawk and Keokuk & Son beam down on me." 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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