They Came to Washington:
The First Ambassadors

Saturday, December 10, 2016–Sunday, March 12, 2017

img hayne-hudjihiniOriginated by the Museum of the American Indian in Novato, California, this striking exhibit features rare lithographic portraits and fascinating life stories of distinguished Native American leaders who came to Washington, D.C. to negotiate for tribal rights in the early 19th century. The lithographs were based on original paintings by Charles Bird King (1785-1862), and commissioned by Thomas McKenney, the U.S. Superintendent of Indian Trade from 1824-1830. Examples of Grace Hudson's seldom-seen Pawnee Indian (Oklahoma Territory) portraits are also on display.

King’s painted portraits of Native Americans were first housed in the United States Department of War, then moved in 1858 to The Castle, the Smithsonian Institution’s first building. McKenney, who had originally commissioned the portraits, next conceived of a project that would reach a broader audience. He planned a three-volume set of hand-colored lithographs to be titled the History of the Indian Tribes of North America. The lithographs it contained were based for the most part on copies of King’s portraits by Henry Inman, and drawn on lithographic stone by Albert Newsam, Alfred Hoffy, Ralph Tremblay, Henry Dacre, and others. McKenney hired James Hall (1793-1868), an Illinois judge with a reputation as a writer, to create biographies that paired with each portrait. The resulting volumes were sold by subscription, and due to a number of publishing problems, took from 1836-1844 to produce.

When a fire broke out in The Castle in 1865, only five of the 295 Native American painted portraits exhibited there were saved. If McKenney and Hall’s publishing project had not been completed, this record of prominent early American Indian leaders would have been irretrievably lost. The original hand-colored lithographs on display at the Grace Hudson Museum are from McKenney and Hall's mid-19th century volumes.

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Above: Hayne Hudjihini (Otoe)

Left: Payta Kootha (Shawnee)

Right: Stumanu (Chinook)

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They Came to Washington:
The First Ambassadors
on display in the Main Gallery

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