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Trappers and Indians Communicating by Signs
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Trappers and Indians Communicating by Signs

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 Trappers experience much difficulty in acquiring a knowledge of the Indian tongue, and as if the language was not embarrasing enough, its pronounciation is still more puzzling,- the sound proceeding from the throat. It requires them to sojourn for years amonst the tribes to acquire anything like a proficiency, and in the absence of this they resort to signs, the meaning of which they learn readily, and thus hold animated conversations. Many of the half breeds however are well versed in the lingo of the various tribes of Indians;- these are sought out for interpreters, and travel with the Camp, making themselves useful also in other matters and duties connected with the Comapny, such as hunting, mounting Guard, &c." 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: 9 3/4 x W: 14 1/4 in. (24.8 x 36.2 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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