Sunday, November 4, 2018

Black Hawk and Keokuk Meet Artist George Catlin in New York City - 1837

George Catlin as painted by William Fisk
(public domain image taken from Wikimedia Commons.
In public domain because artist died over 100 years ago)
During their whirlwind tour of the East Coast following the Black Hawk War, Black Hawk and Keokuk visited one of George Catlin’s presentations at the Stuyvesant Institute in New York. It’s an interesting look at one of Catlin’s shows and what the Indians thought of his paintings. This account is from the (New York) Morning Herald, October 26, 1837.

Keokuk, Black Hawk, and their chiefs? Their appearance at the Stuyvesant Institute.

A considerable excitement was created yesterday in our city, by the arrival of the Sacs and Foxes, lowas, and other Indians at this city from Washington.

The National Hotel and the City Hotel where they are staying was at an early hour besieged by immense numbers of the curious, who were anxious to get a peep at the renowned red man.

The place most thronged was the Stuyvesant Institute, where it was understood that they would appear at a lecture given by Mr. Catlin, upon themselves and brethren.

They took their departure from the lower part of the city in an omnibus, and their wild cry as it resounded along Broadway, must have astonished many of the peaceful citizens, who were not aware what sort of a freight the vehicle carried.

The Stuyvesant Institute was densely crowded in every part, a few minutes after the opening of the doors, and numbers must have doubtless gone away—unable to obtain admittance for love or money. Among the audience, was a large number of the fair sex. The Sacs and Foxes sat at the left of the lecturer, the lowas at the right.

Mr. Catlin proceeded to show his portraits. He had not proceeded far before a voice was heard exclaim.

"Mr. Catlin, Mr. Catlin."

" What is it," asked the lecturer.

"I have a particular favor to ask of you."

"Be so good an to name it."

"I've lost my little boy here, I wish you to allow me to cry him."

"Lost what?"

" My Little boy."

"Oh certainly."

"Clark Tiler," shouted the gentleman in a double bass.

"Here sir," immediately answered a voice in a thin falsetto.

It was all right, the son was within a few feet of his father—a hearty laugh was occasioned by this incident.

Mr. Catlin continued his portraits. The majority of them were recognized by the Indians, who called their
names before they were mentioned by the lecturer.

Keokuk's was shown, he rose and showed himself to the audience and bowed gracefully to them.

The picture of a son of Keokuk was then exhibited. The youth was present and rose and bowed to the audience.

Keokuk's wife's portrait was also shown, and she also rose to the great delight of all present.

The picture of Black Hawk was presented, and immediately recognized; that warrior rose in like manner with the other Indians.

A call was now made by the red mem for Keokuk on horseback, through their interpreter.

"Tell them," said Catlin, "that I always reserve the best for the last. I shall show it at the end."

"Hoo her," exclaimed the gratified Indians.

Black Hawk's men's portraits were now shown.

Those which they did not name themselves, but which were named by Mr. Catlin, received the approbatory cry, of "Hoo her."

The lecturer then showed the Buffalo. He then addressed the meeting as follows:

"I have stated that the Indians kill this splendid animal by the means of their little bow and arrow and that the arrow often passes completely through the buffalo. This has been discredited, and some gentlemen have openly expressed their disgust of a statement which they have stigmatized as false and impossible; I now wish the agent to ask the Indians whether such is the
fact or not."

The agent put the question: an Indian replied, holding up the bow and arrow to show how it was done, and
confirmed Mr. Catlin's statement at once.

After the Buffalo and the Buffalo hunts had been exhibited, Keokuk on horseback was produced. This much delighted the Indians, who used their usual expression of satisfaction?

"Hoo ber!"

"This," said the lecturer, "is a portrait of the horse, as well as the rider; I painted it at Keokuk's own request, who thought he should look better on horseback. Many persons have thought this a fancy sketch, and some have said that no Indian ever rode such a horse; I wish the agent to state this to Keokuk. and ask him whether it is like the horse or not."

Keokuk replied:

“It is like the horse; I am fond of good horses; I bought it of the agent; If it had not been a good horse, I should not have bought it"

Mr. Catlin then showed some Iowa portraits, they were recognized by the tribe.

After this, he called upon them to confirm what he had said of them.

They replied that he had spoken the truth.

Mr. Catlin then told them the object for which he had spent seven years of his life; in order that the white men might understand their noble natures and do them justice.

The "hoo her" followed this harangue, and then they prepared to depart

The ladies and gentlemen were anxious to see them go out and lined the hall to shake hands with them.

The ladies seemed particularly anxious to lay their white hands in the red palms of the Indians.

We observed a young couple; they both held out their hands for a shake, but the Indianans—good judges—almost invariably rejected the hand of the gentleman and took that of the lady. She was very pretty—the Indians are men of taste. The gentleman did not seem much pleased, but the lady was delighted. There was a young lady also of great beauty, a brunette, with a fine, dark, full and expressive eye, and glossy raven ringlets; her palm seemed to get more pressure than any other.

Keokuk is a fine noble-looking man; his wife one of ten, is exceedingly interesting, as is his son. Black Hawk is a fine fellow, as are the majority of these Indians.

Before the Iowas left, one of them addressed the audience. He stated that all that had been said, as far as he could understand, was correct; that Mr. Catlin spoke the truth. They then departed also.

These are not such fine men as the Sacs and Foxes, but they seem to have made some progress with our language and bade "good bye" and "good night" in good English.

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