McKenney and Hall: Preserving Native Portraits for Posterity
History of the Indian Tribes of North America was first published as a three-volume folio set between 1838 and 1844. It's based on paintings that Thomas McKenney, superintendent of Indian trade for the U.S. War Department, had commissioned of leaders and others who came to Washington, DC. To reach a wider audience, McKenney decided to have lithographs made of the paintings and asked James Hall to write the biographies of the people portrayed. Only a few of the original paintings exist today, so McKenney's foresight in commissioning the lithographs and publishing the volumes was valuable for future generations.
The Missouri History Museum’s Library collection includes the 1838–1844 edition as well as four smaller-sized editions published in later years. The portraits shown in the photo gallery below come from the first folio edition, with the exception of two. Different editions used different artists for the lithographs, creating subtle differences between portraits, such as those of Osage chief Le Soldat du Chene. The various editions also included different portraits. For example, the portrait of the Osage woman with child is in the 1855 edition but not in the early folio edition.
I hope you enjoy the portraits as much as I do. To see the rest of the portraits contained in the History of the Indian Tribes of North America, come see us at the Museum’s Library and Research Center on Skinker Boulevard.
—Randall Blomquist, Assistant Librarian