John Mix Stanley
Distribution of Goods to the Gros Ventres, ca. 1855
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lithograph with color wood engraving, Sarony, Major, & Knapp Lith.
6.50 x 9.25 in
In the mid-nineteenth century, the United States government set out to survey and document its newly acquired lands and territories west of the Mississippi. The goals of these surveys were manifold: to produce topographical maps, to document flora and fauna, and to document natural resources to build the emerging US economy. These surveys, and the images from them, also functioned to build the new sense of American identity with the landscape, condensing vistas into the 'picturesque' tradition of European image making. Thus, the entire span of US territory could be seen as a single, cohesive whole. This lithograph comes from one of six surveys commissioned by the Army's Topographic Bureau in 1853, which sought to find the best route to construct a transcontinental railroad. The result was a thirteen-volume report including maps, lithographs, and technical data entitled 'Explorations and Surveys to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a Railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific Ocean.' In particular, the print comes from the northern survey, commanded by Isaac Stevens, which explored the regions between the 47th and 49th parallels. In this image, Stanley documented the encounter with the Gros Ventre people at Milk River. The explorers were invited to the Gros Ventres camp and the two groups exchanged gifts in friendship. The Stevens Party provided "... blankets, shirts, calico, knives, beads, paint, powder, shot, tobacco, hard bread, etc." The image likewise alludes to how, in 1855, Isaac Stevens, concluded a treaty (Stat., L., XI, 657) to provide peace between the United States and the Blackfoot, Flathead and Nez Perce tribes. The Gros Ventres signed the treaty as part of the Blackfoot Confederacy, whose territory near the Three Fork area became a common hunting ground for the Flathead, Nez Perce, Kootenai, and Crow Indians. 5.75 x 8.75 inches, image 6.5 x 9.25 inches, stone 17 x 20 inches, frame Artist 'Stanley Del.' lower left Entitled 'Distribution of Goods to the Gros Ventres' lower center margin Publisher 'Sarony, Major & Knapp. Lith.s 449 Broadway N.Y.' lower right Inscribed 'U.S.P.R.R. EXP. & SURVEYS — 47th & 49th PARALLELS' upper left Inscribed 'GENERAL REPORT — PLATE XXI' upper right Framed to conservation standards using 100 percent rag matting with French accents; glazed with UV5 Plexiglas to inhibit fading; housed in a gold reverse ogee moulding. Print in overall good condition; some localized foxing and discoloration; minor surface abrasions to frame.