CATLIN, GEORGE. 1796-1872.
Autograph Manuscript Signed integrally ("Catlin's Indian Gallery"), possibly a circular to government officials, regarding his proposed History Museum, 3 pp recto and verso, folio, New York, , closed tear at upper left of both leaves, tape repair, mild toning and staining, corners bumped, slight separation at folds.
Painter, author, and historian George Catlin importantly made it his life's work to record the likenesses and traditions of vanishing Native American tribes. Catlin repeatedly--and unsuccessfully-- tried to interest the United States Government in purchasing his collection and build a history museum around it. In this letter, written in the third person, Catlin explains his mission and entreats the official(s) it was intended for to purchase his collection. He opens by stating that the paintings are on display at New York's Stuyvesant Institute, dating this letter around late 1837-early 1838. In part: "...stimulated by an ardent and enthusiastic desire to perpetuate something more than the mere History ... of Indian life, Mr. Catlin set out for the wilderness, some 8 or 9 year since, with his brushes and his canvas - leaving friends and relations and the pleasures of civilized life, whilst he threw himself amidst the dangers & difficulties of the rude & untrodden wilds of the Western Regions, with the hope and determination of reaching every tribe of Indians in N. Am. and returning with portraits of the Chiefs and Warriors ... views of their villages - paintings of their Religious Rites - Their games and amusements - and specimens of their own manufactures ... to form a Gallery Unique, as a living & lasting monument to a noble yet unenlightened race who are rapidly passing away....
Catlin eventually had to sell his paintings to industrialist Joseph Harrison of Pennsylvania to pay off debts. Catlin's dream was realized posthumously when Harrison's widow donated Catlin's works to the Smithsonian Institute where it became the George Catlin Indian Gallery.