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Crossing the Divide
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Crossing the Divide

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description Extracts from Alfred Jacob Miller’s original text, which accompanied his images of Native Americans, are included below for reference. South Pass, or the Continental Divide, was the gateway to Oregon and California. The southwestern desert was not yet as fully explored as the Midwest, and so the trail along the Platte became the favored route. Discovered in 1812, the pass remained unknown to Anglo-Americans until a group of Crow Indians told Jedediah Smith and Thomas Fitzpatrick about it in 1824. After William H. Ashley started the rendezvous system in 1825, Fitzpatrick and others used South Pass as the entrance to the best beaver country in the mountains. Here Miller pictures the frenzy that possessed the men as they neared the fresh water. The Indians, watching in contempt, Miller suggested, had much the same attitude as did Captain Stewart, who would not run his horse for the water but walked casually along as if he did not feel the same thirst that possessed the men. 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
8/19/1981Examinationexamined for condition
8/26/1981Treatmentcleaned; re-housed; mounted
  • Alfred Jacob Miller: An Artist on the Oregon Trail. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody. 1981-1982.
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: AJMiller
Credit Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858-1860

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watercolor on paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 9 x W: 14 3/16 in. (22.8 x 36 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
  • USA, Continental Divide (Place Depicted)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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