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McKENNEY, Thomas L., & James Hall.

History of the Indian Tribes of North America,

with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs. Embellished with one hundred and twenty portraits from the Indian Gallery in the War Department at Washington.

Philadelphia: Rice, Rutter & Co., 1855 Stock Code: 146818
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"The most colourful portraits of Indians ever executed"

A magnificent record of Native American dignitaries - "the most colourful portraits of Indians ever executed" (Howes); this is the third octavo edition, following the first folio edition of 1836-44, and the first octavo edition of 1848-50.

McKenney, who was Superintendent of Indian trade from 1816 until 1822 and headed the US Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1824 to 1830, collaborated with James Hall, the Illinois journalist, lawyer, state treasurer and from 1833 Cincinnati banker, to produce this famous work. The text, which was written by Hall based on information supplied by McKenney, takes the form of a series of biographies of leading figures amongst the Indian nations, followed by a general history of the Native Americans.

The work is now famous for its colour plate portraits of the chiefs, warriors and women of the various tribes, faithful copies of original oils by Charles Bird King painted from life in his studio in Washington (McKenney commissioned him to record the visiting Indian delegates) or worked up by King from the water-colours of the young frontier artist, James Otto Lewis. The lithography and hand-colouring were entrusted to the distinguished lithographer J. T. Bowen, best known for his hand-coloured octavo edition of another landmark American publication, Audubon's Birds of America (1839-44).

The publication is of great importance - most of King's original paintings were subsequently destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian, and their publication as hand-coloured lithographs in the History of the Indian Tribes is thus the only known likeness of many of the most prominent Native American leaders of the early 19th century.

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3 volumes, large octavo (261 x 172 mm). Original brown morocco, spines lettered in gilt, covers richly panelled in blind, blind serrated turn-ins, yellow endpapers, gilt edges. Housed in custom full morocco solander boxes.


With 120 hand-coloured lithograph plates by J. T. Bowen, mostly after Charles Bird King, with tissue-guards.


Expert restoration around joints and extremities, internally fresh; an excellent, handsome copy.


Howes M129.


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