Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shaping the Trans-Mississippi West: 1830-39

As described in the previous blog from this series, by 1830, three relatively small political entities (two states and a territory) had been created in the original Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The remainder of the purchase lands, now called the Missouri Territory, was mostly occupied by Indian tribes. Some of these Native Americans had been located in the trans-Mississippi West for a long time, but many had been pushed west relatively recently by the advance of EuroAmericans from the east coast ever westward. Still, there were significant Indian populations east of the Mississippi, especially in the southeastern part of the United States.

From the beginning of their settlement in the southeast, EuroAmericans saw the five “civilized tribes” (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole) as impediments in the way of their desire for land. Beginning in the second decade of the nineteenth century, military and political pressure was brought by the U.S. government to get those tribes to give up their land in the southeast in exchange for new lands in the Missouri Territory. By the 1820s, much of the Indian land in the southeast was under government control, though few Native Americans had actually moved across the Mississippi.

In 1830, Andrew Jackson pushed the Indian Removal Act through Congress in order to enable to government to "remove" these tribes from the southeast to the trans-Mississippi West. This was supposed to be voluntary, but even more pressure was put on the tribes to accept this removal. Over the next decade, these tribes signed treaties or were forced by military action to move west, and by the end of the decade, most Native Americans from the southeast had moved across the Mississippi.

In order to try to protect the Native Americans in their new lands, and of course also to keep them contained, the Indian Intercourse Act was passed in 1834, setting aside for the Indians "…all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri and Louisiana, or the territory of Arkansas…". That is, essentially all of the Missouri Territory, encompassing the original Louisiana Purchase excepting the three political entitles which had been created in the previous decade.

Most of the land granted to the “removed” Indians was in the southern region, to the west of Arkansas, though there were many other tribes in the more northern parts of the territory. Replaying the previous history of the relationship between the U.S. government and Native Americans, however, this vast Indian territory was regularly whittled down in size through the rest of the century. For instance, just two years after the Indian Intercourse Act, the Sac & Fox tribes were convinced to give back the lands between the state of Missouri and the Missouri river, moving the northwestern border of the state to the west.

The original “Northwest Territory” comprised those lands west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi. By the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, this territory was to be broken up into states and smaller territories as the population increased.

In 1818, when Indiana and Illinois were made states, the remainder of the original Northwest Territory became the Michigan Territory (essentially today’s Michigan, Wisconsin and the eastern part of Minnesota).

In 1834, the Michigan Territory was expanded to include those parts of the Louisiana Purchase north of the state of Missouri and east of the Missouri River, that is, including what today are the rest of Minnesota, Iowa and the eastern parts of the Dakota’s.

In 1836, Arkansas was admitted as the twenty-fifth state. As the thirteenth slave state, this gave slavery proponents an advantage in Congress, so it was decided that a new, free state of Michigan would be admitted (which it was in January 1837). The entire Michigan Territory was too large to be admitted as a state, so in the summer of 1836, the western part of the territory (today’s Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the eastern parts of Dakota) was broken off as the Wisconsin Territory.

Just two years later, the parts of the Wisconsin Territory that were west of the Mississippi were broken off as the Iowa Territory. This new territory, then, encompassed all the lands between the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers from the state of Missouri north to the Canadian border. The Wisconsin Territory was reduced to just those parts east of the Mississippi, that had been part of the original Northwest Territory, a situation which continued until 1848 when Wisconsin was made a state with its current borders.

Thus, in 1839, the trans-Mississippi United States consisted of three states hugging the river—Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, the territory of Iowa, lying between the Missouri and Mississippi, and a large Indian territory lying between these states and territory and the continental divide. Besides this, a vast area north of Mexico and west of the continental divide, called by the Americans the Oregon Country, was in theory jointly administered by Great Britain and the United States. The story of that region will be the subject of the next blog on shaping the trans-Mississippi west.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting an appraisal

I get a lot of queries about how to get a print or map appraised or whether one is "worth having appraised." The Philadelphia Print Shop's web site does have a page about appraisals, but it seems like it is worth going over some of the issues in this blog.

First, I should explain that while I give "free appraisals" on Antique Roadshow, this is a special circumstance. I do this because it is fun, it gets my shop lots of good publicity, and it helps spread information about and create interest in antiques, including prints and maps. Otherwise, I do not give free appraisals, because I am a professional appraiser. Since I charge clients for appraisals, it isn't fair to turn around and give out the same information for free (except in the case of the Roadshow).

The main issue, though, is why get an appraisal? I think in most cases where people are asking for an appraisal, they really just want some idea of what the item is worth. I can understand this, but I feel that even if I am giving only an off-the-cuff dollar value, this is still an appraisal and there should be at least some charge in order to make it fair to all our clients. I do offer general "ballpark valuations," but these are not actual values, but rather a general idea of whether a print is of just "decorative" value, or "moderate" value, or "significant" value, etc. If an actual dollar value is involved, then it is really an appraisal, or at least what we call a "POV" (professional opinion of value), for which the charges are less.

So, when is it appropriate to pay to get a dollar value? Just because you are curious? In most cases this doesn't warrant actually spending money. If you are really curious, maybe a POV is appropriate, but otherwise, you can perhaps satisfy your curiosity by searching on the web to see if you can find your print/map or something similar. There are also books of price records, which some libraries have, so if you put in a bit of work, you might be able to get an idea without having to pay for an appraisal.

Probably the most common reason I get asked for an "appraisal" is because someone wants to sell the print/map and wants to get an idea of what to sell it for. In general it doesn't make sense to pay for an appraisal before you try to sell an item. First, you might not gain enough advantage from the appraisal to recover the cost of the appraisal. Secondly, even if you ask for an appraisal indicating a wholesale price, each dealer figures wholesale prices differently depending on the nature of their business, their needs, cash flow, etc. Thus it is very difficult to come up with a wholesale price that would apply to a general range of dealers. Finally, as a matter of ethics, a dealer should not both give an appraisal and make an offer (as that is a conflict of interest), so if you get an appraisal, you are eliminating one possible purchaser.

One way to get an idea of what to sell something for is to ask a dealer what he would offer for the item, or to ask an auction house what they think it would bring at auction. It is not, in my opinion, fair to do this unless you honestly might sell the item to the dealer or through the auction house, but if the offer/estimate is too low, you certainly do not need to sell the item. If you intend to sell it yourself, then set a minimum price that you are willing to take and let the market decide if that is reasonable. If you are afraid of selling too cheaply, then maybe you ought to deal with a professional dealer or auction house.

Another fairly common reason to ask for an appraisal is to get an idea of how the print should be treated. Really, no matter what a print or map is worth, if you do not treat it well, it will not survive, so if you like it, you should treat it well (museum quality framing, etc.) so it will survive, no matter what it is worth. This is also why I will give out our ballpark valuations, so the owner will have some idea of what they have.

As for estate, tax or insurance reasons, then it is really best to get a real appraisal and pay for it. If there is ever a question, having an appraisal from a professional appraiser will give you a solid foundation to maintain the value you have assigned the object.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chon-Man-I-Case, portrait of a chief

In the nineteenth century, Native American names were not written down by the Indians themselves, so the names as documented by Euro-Americans were either phonetic approximations or nicknames used as a matter of convenience. Thus it is that the Oto chief pictured above had his name written as “Chon-Man-I-Case,” in this print from Thomas McKenney’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America, but also as “Shaumonekusse,” which is the spelling that James Hall preferred in his biography. This chief was also called the Prairie Wolf and L’Ietan, the latter name used by the French perhaps because of an exploit he had against the Ietan tribe.

The Oto tribe originally came from what is today Wisconsin, but by the late eighteenth century had settled along the Missouri and Platte Rivers in today’s Nebraska. It was there that Shaumonekusse was born about 1785 and there that the tribe was located on the map which accompanied McKenney’s volume. When Stephen Long’s expedition passed through that area in 1819, Shaumonekusse was one of the warriors who described to the exploring party his martial exploits, which involved taking coup and stealing horses from many other tribes.

Just a couple years later, in 1821-22, a large delegation of plains Indians, from the Pawnee, Sauk, Fox, Sioux, Miami, Menominee, Chippewa and Oto tribes, went to Washington to meet with government officials, including President James Monroe. This was part of the government’s policy of both honoring and impressing Native American leaders so that they would be more malleable in making treaties (and giving up their rights). Shaumonekusse, though only a “half chief” (that is a minor chief) at the time, was part of the delegation along with one of his wives, Hayne Hudjihini, or Eagle of Delight.

At this time, Thomas McKenney was head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. McKenney was a champion of American Indians and fought throughout his tenure to preserve something of their culture, which he recognized as an integral part of the history of America. Towards this end he started a collection of Indian memorabilia for the government and took advantage of the visit of this large delegation to have a number of the visitor's portraits painted.

McKenney convinced some of the members of the delegation, including both Shaumonekusse and Hayne Hudjihini, to go to the studio of the leading Washington portrait painter Charles Bird King, to sit for their portraits. This was the beginning of the government's Indian portrait gallery, which grew considerably in size during McKenney’s tenure. After McKenney was dismissed from his position, he borrowed the original paintings in order to produce illustrations for his planned History.

After many ups and downs, lasting over a decade, this monumental work was completed containing 120 prints (all but three portraits) and biographies, written by James Hall, of many of the individuals pictured. Lithographic copies of both Shaumonekusse's and Hayne Hudjihini’s portraits were included. It turned out to be a good thing that McKenney undertook this project and produced these copies, for in 1865, a fire at the Smithsonian destroyed almost all the original paintings.

Shaumonekusse’s biography in the History, says of him that he “was distinguished early in life as a daring, active and successful warrior.” And according to Hall, he rose to his position as chief, not through heredity, but “gradually by his own merits.”

An interesting story, of which there are a number of versions, tells how Shaumonekusse and his brother, Blue Eyes, fought each other over ownership of some ponies, during which Blue Eyes bit off the end of his brother’s nose! Shaumonekusse retreated to his lodging to recover and try to cool off, but in the morning he was still furious, telling his brother that he was going to kill him, an act which he shortly thereafter carried out. Though Shaumonekusse was said to be distraught by this, according to Hall it was this act of revenge, which was widely approved by his tribe, which led to Shaumonekusse’s rise to being a full chief.

The portrait of Shaumonekusse shows a proud warrior, wearing an impressive bear-claw necklace and headdress with bison horns, both indicating his great prowess. He also hears a presidential medal, with Monroe’s likeness on it, given to him when he visited the president.

The portrait of Shaumonekusse was one of the first prints produced for the McKenney History, some time around 1830. As the production of the History ran its convoluted way towards completion in 1844, a number of portraits, including this one, were redrawn on stone and reissued. Usually the later images were a bit more “polished” or Europeanized, as can be seen by comparing the image above the previous paragraph, published in 1836 by E.C. Biddle, with the one just above, published in 1838 by F.W. Greenough.