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Trappers' Encampment on the
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Trappers' Encampment on the "Big Sandy" River

Description Conservation Provenance Inscription Credit
Description Extracts from Alfred Jacob Miller’s original text, which accompanied his images of Native Americans, are included below for reference. These words, which shaped how Miller’s contemporaries viewed the watercolors, reveal the racism and sexism embedded in 19th-century exploration and colonization of the western part of what is today the United States. "The scene represented in the sketch is on the "Big Sandy" near Green River, on the Banks of which some Beaver Trappers are about to encamp in pursuit of their game. To show the callousness of these men, a traveller mentions a ludicrous incident of his camp: - One night while a violent storm was raging and the rain pouring with Niagara sluice, he heard one of his men singing at the fire; he had the curiosity to go and see who it was,- it was a man sitting crosslegged in Indian fashion, with his hands over the expiring ashes. His features pinched with cold, and lank and thin, wore a comically serious expression as the electric flashes lighted them up;- the rain streaming from his nose & prominent chin, & his hunting shirt hanging about him in a flabby & soaking embrace;- spite of such a situation which was anything but cheering, he was rapping out at the top of his voice a ditty, the chorus or refrain of which was, & which he gave with peculiar emphasis:- 'How happy am I!/ From care I'm free:/ Oh, why are not all/ Contented like me?'" A.J. Miller, extracted from "The West of Alfred Jacob Miller" (1837). In July 1858 William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at twelve dollars apiece from Baltimore born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text, and were delivered in installments over the next twenty-one months and ultimately were bound in three albums. Transcriptions of field-sketches drawn during the 1837 expedition that Miller had undertaken to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (in what is now western Wyoming), these watercolors are a unique record of the closing years of the western fur trade.
Date Description Narrative
Provenance William T. Walters, Baltimore, 1858-1860, by commission; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Monogram] Lower left: AJM
Credit Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858-1860

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watercolor on paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 8 1/8 x W: 12 11/16 in. (20.7 x 32.3 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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