Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, to July, 1885. Part II. Washington. Pp. 264 + 939.
The first portion of this volume comprises the report of the United States National Museum, made by the assistant director, Prof. G. Brown Goode, reports of the curators of the several departments, a bibliography of the museum publications, and a list of accessions to the collections. These documents cover only the first half of the year 1885, because the reports of the Institution in future are to cover the fiscal instead of the calendar year. The more considerable part of the volume embodies a monograph, by Thomas Donaldson, on "The George Catlin Indian Gallery in the United States National Museum, with Memoir and Statistics," which is illustrated with one hundred and forty-two plates and several maps and portraits. From Mr. Donaldson's memoir, it appears that George Catlin was born at Wilkesbarre, Pa., July 26, 1796, and died at Jersey City, N. J., December 23, 1872. He studied law at Litchfield, Conn., and while there became noted as an amateur artist. He began practice in Luzerne County, Pa., but the law soon had to give way to art, and he removed to Philadelphia in 1823, where he became very popular as a miniature and portrait painter. Catlin's boyhood was passed on his father's farm in the Ocquago Valley, Broome County, N.Y., and on another near Hop Bottom, Pa. The Indians were then being pushed further west, but the locality was still rife with tales of the red men and the pioneers. George's father had served six years in the Revolutionary War; his grandfather on his mother's side had escaped from the "Wyoming massacre" by swimming the river; and when the Indians captured Forty Fort his grandmother and his mother, then a girl of seven years, were among the prisoners. Thus the recollections of his own family, and the stories told by the Revolutionary soldiers, Indian fighters, hunters, trappers, and explorers, who were frequent guests at his father's house, aroused in young George's mind that interest in the Indians which was to become his ruling passion, "The plows in my father's fields," Catlin afterward wrote, "were daily turning up Indian skulls or Indian bones, and Indian flint arrow-heads, which the laboring-men of his farm, as well as those of the neighborhood, were bringing to me, and with which I was enthusiastically forming a little cabinet or museum.… I was in a position to increase rather than to diminish the excitement already raised in my mind relative to the Indians." While practicing his art at Philadelphia, he says, "my mind was continually reaching for some branch or enterprise of the art on which to devote a whole lifetime of enthusiasm, when a delegation of some ten or fifteen noble and dignified-looking Indians from the wilds of the far West suddenly arrived in the city, arrayed and equipped in all of their classic beauty.… In the midst of success (as a painter) I again resolved to use my art and so much of the labors of my future life as might be required in rescuing from oblivion the looks and customs of the vanishing races of native man in America." This resolve was carried out in his "Indian Gallery," to which he untiringly devoted himself during forty-two years. From 1829 to 1838 Mr. Catlin lived among the Indians, traders, trappers, and hunters of the West, and in this period created the original "Catlin Gallery." His adventures, as recounted in his "Eight Years among the North American Indians," are most entertaining. The medicine-men in some places aroused an opposition to his painting by asserting that the operation took away part of the life of the sitter. But the good-will of a powerful chief generally turned the tide in his favor, and the portrait-making became an honor. But this introduced a new embarrassment when he proposed to paint some of the women, they not being deemed worthy of such distinction. After much debate this also was permitted. Catlin's "Indian Gallery" was exhibited in this country, England, and France, from 1837 to 1852, During this period Mr. Catlin won the esteem and friendship of explorers, scientists, statesmen, and artists, among whom were Mayne Reid, Joseph Henry, Henry Clay, Benjamin Silliman, von Humboldt, Bunsen, William M. Hunt, Daniel Webster, William H. Seward, John A. Dix, Michael Faraday, and John Murray. Before going to Europe he had attached to his gallery of six hundred paintings a museum of several thousand Indian articles,