[London]: W.S. Johnson, "Nassau Steam Press," . Small printed broadsheet, 10 1/4 x 7 1/2 inches. Pencil annotation on recto: "Septr 11th 44." Old folds, slight tear at right edge center fold. Near fine. Item #WRCAM55356
Rare handbill advertising the public appearance of "fourteen Ioway Indians" as part of George Catlin's traveling "Indian Gallery." Catlin arrived in England in 1840 and set up his Gallery in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, followed by a tour throughout Britain. When a group of Iowa(y) Indians arrived in England in the summer of 1844 under the management of George H.C. Melody, Catlin seized the opportunity and hired them to perform in London. This was perhaps made easier because Catlin already knew three of them - Mew-hu-she-kaw (White Cloud), Neu-mon- ya (Walking Rain), and Wash-ka-mon-ya (Fast Dancer) - having met them in a village on the Missouri River in southern Nebraska in the early 1830s. These three also sat for Catlin, and the paintings were added to his Gallery in subsequent shows. Catlin secured Vauxhall Gardens, where he promised to feature "Grand equestrian and archery fêtes" performed by the Iowa. Further, "Mr. Catlin having made arrangements for these famous and spacious Grounds, will turn the fourteen Ioway Indians loose for a few days, where they can be seen to great advantage, in all the freedom of savage, forest life; their Tents (or wig-wams) brought with them from their country, will regularly be pitched, forming a picturesque encampment, in front of which they will give their dances, games, ball plays, songs, archery, and equestrian exercises." The verso provides a detailed description of the encampment; the program of dances, activities, and speeches; and the names of the Indians, including their interpreter, Jeffrey (Doraway). Catlin also notes, "This, it should be remembered, is the first time that ever a party of Indians have appeared encamped in an open plain in Europe: they will appear in their tents as in their native village, and will enable the public to form a correct idea of their peculiar habits, manners, and customs...." After a successful tour through Britain, the group accepted an invitation to perform in Paris, and Catlin moved them and his Gallery to France, where they were enthusiastically welcomed and performed for King Louis Philippe and the royal family. During the 1830s, Catlin (1796-1872), a self- taught artist, traveled the Great Plains of the American West, absorbing the ways of the North American Indian tribes he found still flourishing there. Over the next decade he embarked on a journey to create a faithful visual study of the people, customs, and surroundings of the tribes he was welcomed by, which culminated in his numerous publications of prints and drawings of North American Indians. In a famous passage from the preface to his NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN PORTFOLIO, Catlin describes how the sight of several tribal chiefs in Philadelphia led to his resolution to record their way of life: "the history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy of the lifetime of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life shall prevent me from visiting their country and becoming their historian." He saw no future for either their way of life or their very existence, and with these thoughts always at the back of his mind he worked, against time, setting himself a truly punishing schedule to record what he saw. From 1832 to 1837 he spent the summer months sketching the tribes, then finished his pictures in oils during the winter. The record he left is unique, both in its breadth and in the sympathetic understanding that his images constantly demonstrate. Catlin painted around 600 highly realistic and powerfully projected portraits of Indians, carefully recording their costume, culture, and way of life. Catlin then spent 1837 to 1852 touring the U.S., England, France, and Holland with his collection of paintings and examples of Indian crafts, and accompanied by representative members of the tribes he had visited. This broadsheet advertising the presence of fourteen Iowa Indians in London is decidedly rare. We found only two copies listed in OCLC (Yale, Library of Congress), and could find no records at auction. OCLC 27861270, 39085626.