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McKenney & Hall
Original Hand Colored McKenney & Hall Engraving "Billy Bowlegs, Seminole Chief"

1865

$4,975

About

An original 19th century hand colored McKenney and Hall engraving of a Native American entitled "Billy Bowlegs, A Seminole Chief", published by Rice, Rutter & Co. in 1865. This is a very rare McKenney & Hall lithograph since it was not included in the early editions and is only found in the 1865 and 1870 editions. Chief Billy Bowlegs (c. 1810–1859), also known as Billy Bolek, as well as by his Seminole name, Halpuda Mikko, which means "Alligator Chief" was a leader of the Seminoles in Florida during the Second and Third Seminole Wars against the United States. He was one of the last Seminole leaders to surrender, living out the remainder of his life in what was then called Indian Territory, which now represents Oklahoma. This original McKenney and Hall engraving is presented in a cream colored mat, suitable for framing with a protective clear sleeve. The mat measures 13.88" x 11.75" and the sheet measures 10.63" x 7.38. There is minimal faint discoloration at the edge of the lower right margin, but the print is otherwise in excellent condition. Col. Thomas J. McKenney was Superintendant of The Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1816 until 1830. He was one of a very few government officials to defend American Indian interests and attempt to preserve their culture. He travelled to Indian lands meeting the Native American leaders. He brought with him an accomplished artist, James Otto Lewis, who sketched those willing to participate. A large number of the most influential Indian chiefs and warriors were later invited to come to Washington in 1821 to meet President Monroe. McKenney commissioned the prominent portrait painter Charles Bird King, who had a studio in the capital, to paint these native American leaders, who chose the costumes they wished to wear for the sitting. The magnificent resultant paintings were displayed in the War Department until 1858, and were then moved to the Smithsonian Institute. When Andrew Jackson dismissed McKenney in 1830, he gave him permission to have the King portraits as well as some by other artists, including George Catlin and James Otto Lewis, copied and made into lithographs, in both folio and octavo sizes. McKenney partnered with James C. Hall, a Cincinnati judge and novelist to publish the lithographs and the text written by Hall. The work was extremely expensive to create and nearly bankrupted McKenney, as well as the two printing firms who invested in its publication. The resultant work gained importance when Catlin's paintings were destroyed in a warehouse fire and Charles Bird King's and James Otto Lewis’ portraits were destroyed in the great Smithsonian Museum fire of 1865. The McKenney and Hall portraits remain the most complete and colorful record of these pre-Civil War Native American leaders. The folio and smaller octavo sized hand painted lithographs remain prized by collectors and institutions, many of which are held by major museums and collections, including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute.

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