CONDITION: All three volumes have extremities scuffed, text browned, occasional light finger soiling, heavy foxing, browning, edges have some water staining. Owner’s name written in ink in front. Some minor spine issues, page folding, tears, other various condition notes. We have not inspected every page or illustration, but believe the books are complete. Considering their age and use, these volumes are in very good condition. However, inasmuch as condition is a matter of opinion, we strongly recommend that anyone wishing to bid on this lot preview the volumes in person, or send a representative to do so on their behalf.
“The History of the Indian Tribes of North America, is a three-volume collection of Native American biographies and accompanying lithograph portraits originally published in the United States from 1836 to 1844 by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. The majority of the portraits were first painted in oil by artist Charles Bird King. McKenney was working as the US Superintendent of Indian Trade and would head the Office of Indian Affairs, both then within the War Department. He planned publication of the biographical project to be supported by private subscription, as was typical for publishing of the time.
Believing that Native Americans were threatened as a race, McKenney wanted to preserve a record of their leaders for government archives, as well as to share it with the American people. He commissioned Charles Bird King to paint portraits of leaders who came to Washington to negotiate treaties, and James Hall to write biographies of them. The publication project incorporated lithographs made from the paintings.”
-- excerpted from Wikipedia
Much like Curtis or Catlin, the story of the McKenney and Hall folios is fascinating: full of twists and turns, financial woes, broken partnerships and a national depression. Then, in 1865, almost all of the original portraits were destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian. Only five were saved. The printed volumes immediately became the only pictorial and historical record of many important Indian chiefs and figures in the age before photography. The publications are considered by many to be a National Treasure.