Category Archives: Creative Connections

The Ocean of Sunrise

Fall is just around the corner and with it comes a new season of Tea & Talk. This program is geared towards adults who are interested in slowing down their art viewing process and digging a little deeper into our collection (and for those who enjoy a good cup of a tea afterwards!). For our first Tea & Talk of the 2016-2017 season we viewed and discussed a portrait painted by Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief of the Bow, Zuni 1895.

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

As noted in the title, Nai-U-Chi was part of the Zuni, which are a federally recognized American Indian tribe and one of the Pueblo peoples. Today, most Zuni live in Western New Mexico. Traditionally, the Zuni were an agricultural community.

Studio portrait of a delegation of five Zunis and a Hopi brought to Washington by Frank Hamilton Cushing. Standing, left to right: Naiyutchi (Nai-uchi); Nanahe (Na-na-he), a Hopi adopted by the Zuni; Kiasiwa (Ki-a-si). Seated, left to right: Laiyuahtsailunkya (Lai-yu-ah-tsai-lun-kya); Governor Laiyuaitsailus (Hai-ya-ah-tsai-hi or Pedro Pino); Governor Pah-lo-wah-ti-wa (Patricio Pino). Men are wearing traditional clothing, including leather leggings, beaded necklaces, concha belts, and cloth headbands. 1882. Photo by John K. Hillers. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P03402)

Studio portrait of a delegation of five Zunis and a Hopi brought to Washington by Frank Hamilton Cushing. Standing, left to right: Naiyutchi (Nai-uchi); Nanahe (Na-na-he), a Hopi adopted by the Zuni; Kiasiwa (Ki-a-si). Seated, left to right: Laiyuahtsailunkya (Lai-yu-ah-tsai-lun-kya); Governor Laiyuaitsailus (Hai-ya-ah-tsai-hi or Pedro Pino); Governor Pah-lo-wah-ti-wa (Patricio Pino). Men are wearing traditional clothing, including leather leggings, beaded necklaces, concha belts, and cloth headbands. 1882. Photo by John K. Hillers. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P03402)

Nai-U-Chi was a member of the Bow Priesthood, a group that exerted considerable power within Zuni life. During Tea & Talk, many participants commented on the various details they saw in the portrait: the red cloth headband, what appears to be a linen-like top, and a sash decorated with unidentified objects. What are those gray objects adorning the sash? Are they arrowheads? After the program, I consulted some of our knowledgeable museum staff and discovered that the artifacts on Nai-U-Chi’s clothing were shark teeth!

Charles Francis Browne | Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895 | detail

Charles Francis Browne | Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895 | detail

How did a man living in New Mexico in the late 19th century acquire shark teeth? Unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm in print where or how Nai-U-Chi came to possess these items. One must consider a likely possibility that by the time of this portrait, 1895, the Zuni, as with many other native groups, were regularly trading with Americans and other travelers. Another possibility involves a pilgrimage to the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of what we know about Nai-U-Chi is from records of Frank Hamilton Cushing, a pioneering anthropologist associated with the Smithsonian Institution who lived with the Zuni from 1879-1884. Mr. Cushing learned that for many years it had been a dream of some of the Zuni chiefs to visit the East, a land of fable to see “the Ocean of Sunrise.” Living in the dry lands of New Mexico, the Zuni believed their prayers brought clouds from the ocean in the east, clouds that would give them rain.

Many other nearby tribes had had representatives visit Washington, D.C. – the Apaches, the Navajos, but not the Zuni. So Cushing guided a group of Zuni men East, as accounted in an article published in an 1882 issue of The Century Magazine. Eventually, the group made it to their final destination in Boston, selected so as to be as far east as possible.

Upon arriving at the ocean, Nai-U-Chi led the party in a ceremony, scattering sacred meal, which was composed of corn meal and finely ground precious seashells, over the waves. Nai-U-Chi concluded the ceremony with a prayer in which “consideration was asked for the children of the Zunis, of the Americans, and of all men, of the beasts and birds of the world, and of even the creeping and most vile beings of earth, and the most insignificant.”

Portrait of Nai-Uchi (Elder Brother of the Bow Priest) in Native Dress with Squash Blossom Necklace and Ornaments 1879. Photographed by John K. Hillers. National Anthropological Archives. NAA INV 06370200 OPPS NEG 02233 A.

Portrait of Nai-Uchi (Elder Brother of the Bow Priest) in Native Dress with Squash Blossom Necklace and Ornaments 1879. Photographed by John K. Hillers. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution. NAA INV 06370200 OPPS NEG 02233 A.

During Tea & Talk, I asked the group what they might infer about the sitter or how they would describe the sitter in Charles Browne’s portrait of Nai-U-Chi. Someone said they imagined him to be an important man. Another participant admitted to feeling respect for the man. In one of the few written descriptions I have found of Nai-U-Chi, he was described as having “a genial, contemplative look, a kindly placidity of countenance, and he was full of poetry, telling folk lore stories charmingly.” I like to imagine what stories Nai-U-Chi could have told us had we had the chance to sit with him longer.

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Tea & Talk, September 2016, Sid Richardson Museum

Tea & Talk is a free monthly program, offered the 1st Wednesday of every month at noon from September-May. I hope to see you next time!

Cowboy Journals and the Art of Handwriting

Have you ever kept a journal or a diary? Did you ever travel with your journal?

In 1868, Texas cowboy Jack Bailey kept a journal of his experience on a cattle drive. It is one of the earliest known day-by-day, first-hand accounts of a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas during the period just after the Civil War.

The era of the cattle drive was a short-lived period, from about 1865-1895. But it is from this period of the open-range cattle industry that many of the myths, legends, or heroic concepts we have of cowboys today was derived.

It’s estimated that 6-9 million head of cattle were driven by cowboys from Texas to Kansas between 1867-1886. What do you think was the average age of the cowboys who drove these cattle?

Charles M. Russell | Breaking Camp | ca. 1885 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Charles M. Russell | Breaking Camp | ca. 1885 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Most of these cowboys were young men in their late teens early twenties. Jack Bailey was 37 yrs old when he ventured on his 3 month journey. Relatively speaking, Bailey was an old man doing a young man’s job.

How often do you find a cowboy who keeps a journal while on the job? The answer is not often. Most accounts of the cattle drive experience we have are recollections told decades later. The earliest known diary of a trail drive was kept by George Duffield in 1866, two years before Jack Bailey’s journey. But Duffield’s record contains little detail of the drive, only short summaries of each day’s activities. In contrast, Bailey’s journal is a narrative. He shares a story, the ups and the downs, sprinkled with a few humorous anecdotes.Bailey Journey

Bailey kept his journal in a small notebook, similar to the ones sold in drug and general stores in the West during the late 1860s. Aside from a few dates that are printed at the beginning of entries, everything else is written in black ink, perhaps iron gall.

Bailey’s writing consistently stays within the printed blue lines. Remember that he’s writing these entries while on the trail, not from the comfort of a desk at his home. Bailey’s penmanship is good, suggesting that he learned it in school, where he would have learned  Spencerian handwriting.

Do any of you remember learning cursive in school? Do you still write in cursive?

In the mid-1800s, abolitionist and bookkeeper Platt Rogers Spencer attempted to democratize American penmanship by formulating a cursive writing system, known as the Spencerian method, which was taught by textbook. Schools and businesses quickly adopted this form of handwriting, so much so that the Spencerian form of penmanship became the standard at time when an elegant handwriting was much prized.

Jack Baily Journal, 2001.074, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Jack Baily Journal, 2001.074, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

IMG_7186How many of you still mail hand-written letters to friends/relatives and write notes to loved ones? Today, in our computer age, a fine, beautiful, and legible handwriting brings a warm personal touch to our correspondence. The museum recently hosted a program in which participants learned the principles of Spencerian script, practice their handwriting, and even learned how to fashion their own feather quill pen.

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Beef Bonanza!

The Texas Cattle Trail era is a mythological period of American history. The language and characters of the period have become part of our identity. You’ve heard of maverick politicians. Ever use the phrase “time to hit the trail?”

Cattle herd and cowboy, circa 1902

Cattle herd and cowboy, circa 1902

After the Civil War, the cattle business blossomed, largely by the booming industry in the north and reconstruction in the south. From 1867 to 1895, over 98,250,000 cattle trailed from Texas to northern markets. Beef was starting to replace pork as the country’s preferred meat product.

In 1867, Joseph G. McCoy, a visionary in the beef industry, began working with railroads like Union Pacific to build a rail spur in Abilene, Kansas, where he opened his operation the following year. McCoy advertised for northern cattle buyers and Texas cattle drivers. In his first season, 35,000 head of cattle passed through his depot. That number doubled the following year and doubled again by 1870. In 1874, McCoy penned the classic Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, which scholars consider to be one of the most important books about the early cattle industry.IMG_6648

Joseph G. McCoy. Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, By Joseph G. McCoy, the Pioneer Western Cattle Shipper. Kansas City, MO: Ramsey, Millett & Hudson, 1874.

Joseph G. McCoy. Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, By Joseph G. McCoy, the Pioneer Western Cattle Shipper. Kansas City, MO: Ramsey, Millett & Hudson, 1874.

What was life like on cattle drives? A trail crew, or “outfit,” usually consisted of 10-12 men. The ideal size of a trail herd was about 2,500. Rather than race to the cattle depot, the trail boss made sure the herd kept a steady pace of 7-10 miles per day so as to keep the cattle plump for market.

One of the biggest dangers on the drive was crossing rivers. As the crew traveled north, the rivers became wider. Most men could not swim.

Cowhand, waddy, cowpuncher, vaqueros, buckaroos. These were the common names for what we now refer to as cowboys. Who were these men?

The species “cowhand” is no special breed of human; but he is a special type created by his special way of life. Perhaps, though, it does take a special kind of guy to choose to be a cowhand. The cowhand is possessed by a sort of pioneering spirit; he likes nature – that is, nature in the raw. He doesn’t mind taking a chance win or lose. He can take it on the chin and keep coming back for more. – Fay E. Ward

Cowboys came from Texas and everywhere else. The group was diverse: Black cowboys, Mexican cowboys, American Indian cowboys, British cowboys. It’s estimated as many as 20% of the cowhands were born outside the U.S.

James Sanks Brisbin | The Beef Bonanza: Or, How to Get Rich on the Plains | 1881 | Book | The Rees-Jones Collection

James Sanks Brisbin | The Beef Bonanza: Or, How to Get Rich on the Plains | 1881 | Book | The Rees-Jones Collection

By the 1880s, the landscape of ranches and the cattle business was changing. The trail industry was dissolving into the hands of larger ranches, often financed by British capital and other non-local entities. James Brisbin, vice-president of the National Cattle and Horse Grower’s Association, actively promoted investment. In 1881, Brisbin published The Beef Bonanza; Or How to Get Rich on the Plains. Historians consider this publication to be the most important promotional book to draw major financial investors from northern Europe and the East Coast to the cattle industry.

Frederic Remington | The Fall of the Cowboy | 1895 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection

Frederic Remington | The Fall of the Cowboy | 1895 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection

The year 1885 marked an end of an era. With the invention of barbed wire, the development of railroads, overgrazing, settlers, what was once known as the “open range” was no more.

The Rare Breed

On Feb 2, 1966, The Rare Breed premiered in Fort Worth at Palace Theater, 117 E. 7th Street, the first of four pre-release showings of the film. The premier coincided with what was then called Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. An archive of the premier features Maureen O’Hara and James Stewart walking the red carpet to Fort Worth fanfare.

1968 photo courtesy of Larry Brown

1968 photo courtesy of Larry Brown

The film is directed by Andrew McLaglen, who is known for films like McClintock!, Shenandoah, Bandolero, just to name a few of his 31 feature films. In addition to film, Mr. McLaglen directed such television shows as Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, and Rawhide.

Buried in the credit of The Rare Breed is a name some movie fans might recognize. The music for The Rare Breed was scored by Johnny Williams, now known as John Williams, the composer of many film scores, including Jaws, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.Hereford_bull_large

The Rare Breed is about the introduction of Hereford cattle to the American West. The Hereford breed – originally from Herefordshire, England – has been called “the great improver.” Texas cattle were tough, which was great for the rough terrain, but not so great for the meat. By crossbreeding with Herefords, folks hoped to improve the quality of Texas beef.

Charles M. Russell, When Cowboys Get in Trouble (The Mad Cow), 1899, Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches

Charles M. Russell, When Cowboys Get in Trouble (The Mad Cow), 1899, Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches

Interestingly, Herefords were first introduced to the US in 1817 by Henry Clay, the Kentucky statesman and orator. Unfortunately, Mr. Clay did not bring over enough cattle and bulls, so his Herefords were eventually bred out. Decades later, a number of important ranchers, including Charles Goodnight, brought Herefords to Texas and successfully began crossbreeding.

Musing at the Museum

Exciting news! In partnership with Texas State University, the Sid Richardson Museum has launched a new mobile app – Musing.musing_logo

What is Musing? Musing is a FREE iPhone application that allows museum visitors to use their phones to access fun and educational information at participating museums and galleries. Visitors can scan the artwork on display to learn more about the artist and the particular work you are viewing.

How does it work?

Step one: download the app on your iPhone.app-store

Step two: Find the current exhibition, Remington & Russell, Retold. Take a photo of the selected artwork with the app.IMG_6222

Step three: Explore the various points of interest to learn more about the artwork and artist.IMG_6223

Points of interest include fun facts about the artwork, history related to the painting, links to behind-the-scenes content related to the subject of the artwork, as well as links to artist’s biographical information.POI

The next time you visit, we encourage you to take advantage of this FREE mobile app to enhance your museum experience and dig a little deeper into the art of the American West.

(Android version coming soon!)

 

The Photographic Legacy of George Catlin’s Indian Gallery

Last week we had the good fortune to be joined by Karen Barber, Curatorial Fellow in Photography at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, where she is currently working on a project related to photography and Native America. Karen talked to us about the continuing legacy of George Catlin’s Indian Gallery in 19th and 20th-century photography.Karen Barber lecture

After amassing an Indian Gallery of more than 500 paintings, Catlin began to exhibit his collection to American audiences. He believed that Indian cultures were vanishing and would be known by future generations only through the visual record he was preserving. What he didn’t know at the time was that others would continue his mission through a new visual record: photography.

David Barry, Curley, ca. 1885-1895, Albumen silver print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

David F. Barry, Curley, ca. 1885-1895, Albumen silver print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

David F. Barry, Sitting Bull or Tata'nka I'Yota'nka, ca. 1886, Collodion silver chloride print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

David F. Barry, Sitting Bull or Tata’nka I’Yota’nka, ca. 1886, Collodion silver chloride print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Frank A. Rinehart,  Portrait of Sherman Niles in Partial Native Dress with Ornaments, 1900,  Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Frank A. Rinehart, Portrait of Sherman Niles in Partial Native Dress with Ornaments, 1900, Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Frank A. Rinehart, Geronimo, (Guyatle), Apache, ca. 1898, Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas;

Frank A. Rinehart, Geronimo, (Guyatle), Apache, ca. 1898, Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas;

The same year Catlin left the U.S. to find new prospects abroad in Europe in 1839, the birth of photography was publically announced. Six years later, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson produced what some consider to be the first existing photograph of a Native American. Photography was quickly adopted as the favored medium by which to record American Indians. In addition to its speed, the reproductive aspect of photography appealed to many. The insured survival of an image had become a newly cherished feature, particularly after the devastating 1865 fire at the Smithsonian Institution, which destroyed their entire collection of invaluable Indian portraits by artists Charles Bird King and John Mix Stanley. By the late 19th century, photographers like Edward Curtis and Joseph Kossuth Dixon were commissioned to lead expeditions with a mission similar to Catlin’s – to study the habits, costumes, and villages of Native Americans.

Edward S. Curtis, The Old Cheyenne, 1930, Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Edward S. Curtis, The Old Cheyenne, 1930, Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Edward S. Curtis, The Vanishing Race-Navaho, 1907,  Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Edward S. Curtis, The Vanishing Race-Navaho, 1907, Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Both Curtis and Dixon have been criticized for the sentimental quality of their work. Although photography began as a simple record of reality, by the turn of the 20th century, pictorialism dominated the field. Through staged shots and photographic manipulations, photographers transformed what was once a purely documentary medium into an art form. By “creating” their own image, Curtis and Dixon’s photographs reinforced the romanticized identity of the “noble savage.” Like Remington and Russell’s paintings that helped craft the myth of the Wild West, photographers began to use their camera to construct a notion of the Indian.

Today, many American Indians have stepped behind the lens to respond to the romanticized representation of Native peoples. Photographers like Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk), Will Wilson (Diné), and Rosalie Favell (Cree Métis) examine the experiences of the American Indian and seek to portray the complex identity of their cultures. The result is a contemporary vision of Native North America.

George Catlin Landscapes

Last week the museum hosted an adult program called Sid’s Studio, in which we created landscape paintings inspired by the works of George Catlin.IMG_5962

While Catlin is known for his portraits and scenes of everyday life of American Indians, at the foundation of his paintings are his landscapes. When Catlin made his first trips up the Missouri River in 1830 and 1832, he was enraptured by the landscape. Although the Philadelphian portraitist originally intended to paint the Native Americans themselves, the artist felt compelled to depict their prairies, rivers, and hills as well.

In his Letters and Notes, Catlin wrote:

There is no more beautiful prairie country in the world, than that which is to be seen in this vicinity…The surface of the country is gracefully and slightly undulating, like the swells of the retiring ocean after a heavy storm.

Later, while traveling with an expedition of military dragoons in 1834 through the Arkansas Territory, the artist was again enchanted by the geography of his journey.

The landscape scenes of these wild and beautiful regions are, of themselves, a rich reward for the traveler who can place them in his portfolio; and being myself the only one accompanying the dragoons for scientific purposes, there will be an additional pleasure to be derived from those pursuits.

background painting 2Layered landscape

During our Sid’s Studio program, we studied and discovered the intricacies of Catlin’s landscapes. Like him, we layered our paintings, first establishing our background. After a sketching trip to the galleries for inspiration (and to let our first layer of paint dry), we returned to our canvases to complete our landscape compositions. I think our participants derived as much pleasure from these pursuits as George Catlin did during his 1830s excursions West.

Doubly Gifted: George Catlin’s Writings

Recently we had the honor of hosting a lecture by Dr. Ron Tyler for our latest Coffee & Collecting program. Dr. Tyler is the retired Director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. He is former Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Texas State Historical Association and the Center for Studies in Texas History at the University and has published a number of works in the areas of Texas, Western American, and American art and history.  Dr. Tyler is very knowledgeable on the topic of George Catlin and his writings, as the Amon Carter acquired their copy of Catlin’s publications while Tyler was the museum director.CC Ron Tyler 2

Catlin began his travels west in the 1830s to record the manners and customs of American Indians, both in visual and written form.

“Black and blue cloth and civilization are destined, not only to veil, but to obliterate the grace and beauty of Nature. Man, in the simplicity and loftiness of his nature, unrestrained and unfettered by the disguises of art, is surely the most beautiful model for the painter,—and the country from which he hails is unquestionably the best study or school of the arts in the world: such I am sure, from the models I have seen, is the wilderness of North America. And the history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy the life-time of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life, shall prevent me from visiting their country, and of becoming their historian.”

-George Catlin, Letters and Notes…, 1841

letters and notesCatlin LettersIMG_4943

In addition to producing over 500 paintings, Catlin wrote letters to newspapers about his observations during his summer excursions. The artist later self-published these collected newspaper columns in 1841. The two volume book is titled Letters & Notes of the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians. It was a hit! Readers and critics alike loved the book and it sold well. Unfortunately, the publication did not earn enough to pay for the extravagant production costs.portfolios

By 1844, Catlin began work on his second book, a large folio edition of his paintings in four parts with 25 lithographic prints in each. The four parts would include: hunting and amusement scenes; portraits and costumes; religious rites and ceremonies; warfare and its cruelties. The volume provided Catlin with a means of widening the audience for his advocacy of the American Indian.

To produce the prints, or plates, the artist contracted with the best lithographers in London – William Day and Louis Haghe. The first issue of Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio included plates that were hand-colored, while the second issue (as in the copy displayed in our exhibition) had tinted plates. Both editions are now very rare. Again, Catlin received public praise, with critics citing the publication as “an artistic and historical volume of very rare merit” (The Times, November 26, 1844).Pl30_BuffaloeHuntingCatlin Buffalo Dance Portfolio 2IMG_5286

Unfortunately, from the costs of self-publishing both books and traveling an exhibit of his paintings and artifacts throughout the U.S. and Europe, Catlin became submerged in severe debt. He sold his first collection of paintings to Philadelphia Industrialist, Joseph Harrison, and his books to British publisher and bookseller Henry G. Bohn. By 1875, Chatto & Windus acquired Bohn’s rights to Catlin’s books. Today, one can find many different versions of Catlin’s books, but none as beautifully produced as those early rare editions.

Happy Holidays

The holiday season can be filled with joy and merriment. But it can also be a time of stress and anxiety. To help assuage your concerns, we consulted some of the artwork in our galleries for advice on how to best enjoy the season’s celebrations.

Frederic Remington | The Puncher | 1895 | Oil on canvas | 24 x 20 1/8 inches

Frederic Remington | The Puncher | 1895 | Oil on canvas | 24 x 20 1/8 inches

SRM: Travel during the holidays can be a mess. Do you have any tips for transportation?

Puncher: Find a dependable vehicle. The last thing you want to worry about is your carriage falling apart, leaving you stranded far away from home. Me? I count on my trusty steed. A cowboy is only as good as his horse.

Charles M. Russell | Trouble on the Horizon [Prospectors discover an Indian Camp] | 1893 | Oil on canvas | 26 1/8 x 34 inches

Charles M. Russell | Trouble on the Horizon [Prospectors discover an Indian Camp] | 1893 | Oil on canvas | 26 1/8 x 34 inches

SRM: Do you have any advice for packing lightly for holiday travel?

Prospectors: As you can see, we enjoy a minimalist lifestyle. We can carry only what will fit on our packhorse. However, minimalism does not equate austerity. While we are prepared to pan for our fortunes, we do not neglect such creature comforts as a good pot of coffee.

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:  The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:
The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

SRM: What does it take to host a good holiday dinner party?

Mandan Chief: One word: hospitality. I like to let my guests know that I put their needs first. That’s why I never eat with my guests, but rather sit by them, wait upon them, and prepare for after-dinner festivities.

The Sash

During last week’s blog post, I shared an exciting discovery revealed during a recent Tea & Talk program, which enlightened me about the Métis people. After some further research, I learned about another connection our collection has to this tribe.

Frederic Remington, Buffalo Runners - Big Horn Basin, 1909, Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

Frederic Remington, Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin, 1909, Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

When you view Remington’s Buffalo Runners, you’ll notice that the figures, the Métis, are wearing a sash around their waists, the trimmings of which blow in the wind from the hurried gallop of the horses. This sash is a typical Métis article of clothing. In fact, the Métis still own and use these sashes today for ceremonial purposes. Historically, the sash had many functional uses. The fringed ends could serve as emergency sewing kits when the men were out on a buffalo hunt, like in Remington’s painting. The sash could also perform as a key holder, first aid kit, washcloth, towel, and as an emergency bridle and saddle blanket.

Originally known as L’Assomption Sash, named after a town in Quebec where it was produced, the garment eventually became known as “the Métis sash.”

But the Métis were not the only ones to don the sash. From his earliest days in Montana, Charles Russell began wearing L’Assomption Sash. Apparently, he felt the belt-like item made him look slimmer. Charles once wrote:

“I have all ways worn one and like them better than a belt. I believe they keep me from having a big belly—all breeds usto ware them Mex french lots of people in Quebeck ware them I saw men in france waring them—all that I saw [were] all silk Italions ware.”

Charles M. Russell, Utica (A Quiet day in Utica), 1907, Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches

Charles M. Russell, Utica (A Quiet day in Utica), 1907, Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches

Russell proudly displayed the sash in many photographic portraits as well as paintings. In Russell’s 1907 canvas Utica, the artist paints himself into the composition. He can be easily identified in the background by the red Métis sash around his waist.Sid Richardson Museum