MCKENNEY, Thomas L. (1785-1859) and James HALL (1793-1868)
Mo-Hon-Go, an Osage Woman
Philadelphia: E. C. Biddle, 1836. Hand-coloured lithograph by Lehman and Duval. In excellent condition. Image size (including text): 14 1/4 x 11 inches. Sheet size: 19 x 12 3/4 inches.
A fine image from McKenney and Hall's 'Indian Tribes of North America': `One of the most important [works] ever published on the American Indians' (Field),` a landmark in American culture' (Horan) and an invaluable contemporary record of a vanished way of life.
Mo-Hon-Go was an Osage woman, who in 1827 unknowingly embarked on a three year cross-continental journey after being duped by the French con artist, David Delaunay. Under the pretense that he was taking them to Washington to meet the President, Delaunay took a group of Osage that included Mo-Hon-Go and her husband Kihegashugah, or Little Chief, to France, Holland, and Germany, where he displayed them as primitive curiosities in a successful Wild West show. When they arrived in Le Havre from New Orleans, he told them they were merely taking an extremely circuitous route to Washington via Europe. Whether it was because he was incarcerated by his creditors or because popular interest in the show began to wane, Delaunay eventually deserted the group in Paris, leaving them destitute and disoriented. They wandered the streets, Mohongo pregnant, and all of them hungry. Someone brought the group to Lafayette, who kindly paid for their passage back to America, though several members soon died of smallpox, including Mohongo's husband. Wandering again in Norfolk, Virginia, they were boarded by charitable strangers. Someone alerted McKenney of their situation, and ultimately, Mohongo (and her son) and the remaining group were brought to Washington to meet President Jackson in 1830. They were then given passage back to their homeland.
McKenney and Hall's 'Indian Tribes of North America' has long been renowned for its faithful portraits of Native Americans. The portraits are largely based on paintings by the artist Charles Bird King, who was employed by the War Department to paint the Indian delegates visiting Washington D.C., forming the basis of the War Department's Indian Gallery. Most of King's original paintings were subsequently destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian, and their appearance in McKenney and Hall's magnificent work is thus our only record of the likenesses of many of the most prominent Indian leaders of the nineteenth century. Numbered among King's sitters were Sequoyah, Red Jacket, Major Ridge, Keokuk, and Black Hawk. After six years as Superintendent of Indian Trade, Thomas McKenney had become concerned for the survival of the Western tribes. He had observed unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the Native Americans for profit, and his vocal warnings about their future prompted his appointment by President Monroe to the Office of Indian Affairs. As first director, McKenney was to improve the administration of Indian programs in various government offices. His first trip was during the summer of 1826 to the Lake Superior area for a treaty with the Chippewa, opening mineral rights on their land. In 1827, he journeyed west again for a treaty with the Chippewa, Menominee , and Winebago in the present state of Michigan. His journeys provided an unparalleled opportunity to become acquainted with Native American tribes. When President Jackson dismissed him from his government post in 1830, McKenney was able to turn more of his attention to his publishing project. Within a few years, he was joined by James Hall, a lawyer who had written extensively about the west. McKenney and Hall saw their work as a way of preserving an accurate visual record of a rapidly disappearing culture. (Gilreath).
Cf. Howes M129; cf. Bennett 79; cf. Field 992; cf. Lipperheide Mc 4; cf. Reese American Color Plate Books 24; cf. Sabin 43410a.