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TEXT OF THE TITLE PAGE for VOL. I:
The History of the Indian Tribes of North
America with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes
of the Principle Chiefs.
Embellished with One Hundred Twenty Portraits
from the Indian Gallery, at Washington.
By Thomas McKenney, Late of the Indian
Department, Washington and James Hall
Esq. of Cincinnati.
In three volumes, Volume I
Philadelphia: Published by D. Rice &
A. N. Hart, No. 27 Minor Street 1855
volumes "large 8vo" (10.5" x 7") full
red morocco with gilt embellishment
on spine and boards.
hand colored lithograph plates.
I, 333pp. 40 plates.
II, 290pp. 48 plates.
||Volume III, 392pp. 32 plates.
992. Hand m-61.
||Sabin 43410 (1836-1844 edition).
||Horan, "McKenney Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians."
Slight foxing to title page, vol-1.
closed tear (one third inch) first
plate volume I.
3" tear seventh plate volume three
(between pp. 38-39).
rubbing to corners.
further information, or to inquire about
purchasing this set, please contact:
Books in Beaverton
OF THIS BOOK:
In 1844 the final volume of Thomas McKenney's landmark
History of the Indian Tribes of North America was published,
completing a vast work whose genesis can be traced twenty-three
years earlier to the winter of 1821. At that time, as Superintendent
of Indian Affairs for the War Department, Thomas McKenney
commissioned artist Charles Bird King (1785-1862) to paint
the portraits of a delegation of Native American leaders in
Washington, DC. The paintings captured the likeness of the
leaders and provided a visual record of their tribes, many
of which did not survive into the photographic era. The portraits,
eventually over a hundred in number, lead to the establishment
of the War Department's Indian Gallery. They were later moved
to the Smithsonian Institute.
Thomas McKenney (1785-1859) was an early advocate for Native
Americans and the survival of their cultures. Between 1816
and 1830 he held numerous government posts pertaining to Native
American relations, eventually to be appointed the first head
of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Throughout
his career McKenney acted on his concern that the world of
the Native Americans would vanish without being documented.
In 1835 he began work on the History of the Indian Tribes
of North America the most extensive chronicle of the continents
original inhabitants written to date.
The ambitious work was to feature a series of hand colored
lithographs in folio, based upon the paintings he had commissioned
by Charles Bird King and to a lesser extent, works by P. Rhindesbacher,
R. M. Sully and James Otto Lewis. Each portrait would be accompanied
with a biography of the subject written by McKenney, many
based on personal interviews granted to him by such notables
as Sequoyah, Makataineshekiakiah (Black Hawk), Thayendanegea
(or Brant), Osceola and Red Jacket. In addition to the biographies,
a large essay on the history of Native Americans by James
Hall (1793-1768) was included.
It would take nine years and a huge financial outlay for
the folio to be printed in its entirety. Volume I was completed
in 1836 and published by the firm of Edward C. Biddle. Volume
II followed in 1842 as well as a reissue of vol. I, published
by Frederick W. Greenough, the successor firm of Edward C.
Biddle. The firm of D. Rice and A. N. Clark, printed the final
volume in 1844, as well as new issues of the first two volumes.
The books' large size and expense lead Rice and Clark to
reissue the work changing its format to "royal" octavo in
1848, to "…place it within reach of the thousands, who, with
taste and learning equal to those of the patrons of the large
edition, have no less capacity to appreciate its worth and
beauties." Rice and Clark "….confidently refer it to the public
to decide, whether the most perfect fidelity is not observed
in every department of the work as well in the lifelike
expression of the portraits and their coloring, as in the
typography and the paper."
The new edition also included material added by McKenney
and one additional portrait, that of Red Bird (Zitkaduta)
of the Winnebago tribe. The portrait illustrates an event
that McKenney had direct involvement in, the surrender of
Chief Red Bird after an attack on Praire du Chien in 1827.
McKenney and Michigan Governor Lewis Cass negotiated the surrender,
which prevented the outbreak of a larger war by promising
not to place Red Bird and his party in irons. Red Bird is
portrayed arriving at the surrender, having chanted his death
song earlier. "I have given my life, it is gone..." (blowing
some dust between his finger and thumb) "...like this. I would
not have it back. It is gone." Red Bird and his men were sentenced
to hang for the attack but intercession by McKenney and Cass
lead to their pardon by President Adams. Red Bird however,
had died in prison before the pardon was granted.
Volume one of the octavo edition was completed in 1848 followed
by volume two in 1849 and volume three in 1850. A second octavo
was printed in 1854 followed by the third in 1855 and the
forth in 1858. Printing would continue to 1870 although some
later issues were abridged to contain as few as fifty of the
original one hundred twenty plates.
In 1865 a disastrous fire struck the Smithsonian Institute,
destroying most of the paintings from which the lithographs
were drawn. It is in The History of the Indian Tribes of
North America that Thomas McKenney's extensive portfolio,
perhaps the most important pre-photographic record of vanished
Native America survived.