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Pages from Pequot: Native Americans

Friday, October 17, 2014, 10:00am - 06:00pm

native americans collage CollageOctober 17, 2014 - January 11, 2015, during normal library hours
"Page Turnings" of the Indian Gallery books (Volume l, ll, lll) of chiefs Fridays at 10:45am

  • A selection of rare books about Native Americans, the Pequot War, and King Philip’s War from Pequot Library’s Special Collections, some published in 1736.
  • This is the third exhibition organized by Pequot Library in celebration of its own 125th anniversary, plus the 375th anniversary of the founding of Fairfield.
  • History of the Indian Tribes of North America from the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington, D.C.  by Thomas L. McKenney in 1844. First edition. These three volumes feature biographical sketches and anecdotes of principal Chiefs embellished with one hundred and twenty colorful portraits.
  • Portraits include Po-Ca-Hon-Tas; Red Jacket, Seneca War Chief; Kish-Kallo-Wa, Shawnee Chief; Shin-Ga-Ba-W'ossin, Image Stone; Aseloa, A Seminole Leader; Mon-Chonsia, A Kansas Chief; plus Keokuk, Chief of the Sacs & Foxes, with child.

Accompanying lecture by Jason R. Mancini, PhD, on Sunday, November 9, 2014 at 4pm:
Preserved on the Mighty Waters: Exploring the Indian Mariners Project

The exhibition and lecture are free and open to the public.


More information on:
History of The Indian Tribes of North America with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of Principal Chiefs
Embellished with one hundred and twenty portraits from the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington by Thomas L. M’Kenney, late of the Indian Department, Washington, and James Hall, Esq., of Cincinatti.

History of the Indian Tribes of North America, by Thomas McKenney was printed in three volumes between 1836 and 1844. These volumes are considered a landmark of American ethnography (the systematic study of people and cultures) and one of the major publications of the nineteenth century.  

Thomas McKenney, born in Maryland in 1785, was a United States official who served as Superintendent of Indian Trade from 1816 to 1822. After the abolishment of the U.S. Indian Trade program in 1822, then Secretary of War John C. Calhoun created a position within the War Department entitled Superintendent of Indian Affairs which later became the Bureau of Indian Affairs. McKenney was appointed to this position and held it from 1824 to 1830. He was an advocate of the American Indian “civilization” program. President Andrew Jackson dismissed McKenney from his position in 1830 when Jackson disagreed with McKenney's opinion that the “Indian was, in his intellectual and moral structure, our equal.” McKenney was a Quaker which influenced his approach to interactions with Native Americans. He died in New York City in 1859.

History of the Indian Tribes of North America features more than one-hundred portraits of American Indian chiefs as well as other illustrations. These three volumes also provide detailed biographical sketches and additional information in accompanying text written by James Hall, based on McKenney’s research.

McKenney hired the painter Charles Bird King and together they developed a governmental collection of portraits of prominent Indians who visited Washington D.C. to negotiate treaties. Charles King was an American portrait artist born in Rhode Island in 1785. King studied painting in New York and in London at the Royal Academy before settling in Washington, D.C. His patrons included John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, James Monroe and Daniel Webster. King, popular and successful, died in 1862 and is best known for his Native American portraits.

King painted more than one-hundred American Indian portraits between 1821 and 1842. There were so many to do, King engaged his friend and student George Cooke to assist. In addition, James Otto Lewis painted some in the field that King later copied.

Regarding the portrait of Pocahontas included in Volume III, her likeness was based on a painting done in England, during her lifetime.

McKenney’s intention was “preserving the likenesses of some of the most distinguished among this most extraordinary race of people” because he believed “that this race was about to become extinct, and that a faithful resemblance of the most remarkable among them would be full of interest in after times.”

McKenney had the paintings reproduced as lithographs with hand coloring. This lengthy process was aided by Edward C. Biddle, a Philadelphia printer, who published the first volume of what became the three-volume set. These volumes are one of the highlights of 19th century lithographic printing. They also serve to document the extensive collection of the King paintings, many of which were lost in a fire that destroyed part of the Smithsonian in 1865.


You may also enjoy an exhibition at the Fairfield Museum and History Center, "The Pequot War and the Founding of Fairfield, 1637-1639" from October 15, 2014 – January 18, 2015

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Location : The Perkin Gallery and the Reading Room
Contact : (203) 259-0346 ext. 15