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


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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