Synopses & Reviews
In November 1852 James Swan moved to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington Territory. Fascinated by the Indian communities he encountered, Swan spent the remainder of his life studying their art, material culture, and history. The author of several books, he became the Smithsonian Institution's principal agent in the Northwest, collecting natural history and ethnographic objects from Gray's Harbor through the Alaskan panhandle. He lived among the Makah Indians of Neah Bay where he taught school and was among the first Americans to visit the Haida villages of the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Known as an avid correspondent and diarist (he kept a daily journal for the last 41 years of his life), Swan was also a talented draftsman who sketched many of the people he met, the places he visited, and the events he witnessed. He also commissioned and collected work by Indian artists he befriended. 115 drawings from his collection, donated to the Yale Collection of Western Americana by Franz and Kathryn Stenzel, are reproduced here, nearly all of them for the first time. They provide a striking, visual record of the Northwestern frontier. Introductory essays trace Swan's life, his interaction with Indian artists, and the that role Dr. and Mrs. Stenzel played in preserving his drawings.
The catalogue of the 2003 exhibition at Yale University s Beinecke Library shows drawings from the extraordinary collection of James Swan, 19th-century chronicler of the American Northwest and collector of ethnographic objects and artwork from native peoples of the region, including the Makah Indians of Neah Bay and the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Swan s own sketches provide a striking visual record of the Northwestern frontier. Introductory essays trace Swan s life and the role that Franz and Kathryn Stenzel played in preserving his legacy.