“Sha-ha-ka. A Mandan Chief.” From McKenney & Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Philadelphia: E.C. Biddle, 1837. Folio: image ca. 15 x 12. Lithograph. Original hand color. Very good condition.
Thomas McKenney, superintendent of Indian Affairs, gathered a remarkable collection of life-based portraits of notable Native Americans. Done both when the Indians visited Washington and in the field, this important collection was mostly destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian in 1865. Luckily, McKenney had made copies of many of the portraits, which he he proceeded to have turned into lithographed prints to be gathered in a portfolio entitled History of the Indian Tribes of North America. 121 folio prints were produced in all, though one never appeared in the bound publication. The project took years to produce, with many changes of publishers and lithographers, but finally in 1844 it was completed. The striking series of prints documents an important part of American history and so are as historical as they are decorative.