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Title: "The Great National Work": James Otto Lewis, Thomas McKenney, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and the Visual Politics of American Empire, 1789-1871
Authors: Grummitt, Julia Anne
Advisors: Sandweiss, Martha A.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Book History
Native American
U.S. West
Visual Culture
Subjects: American history
Art history
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines connections between U.S. “Indian” Policy and visual culture in the early nineteenth century. Focusing on a period that extends roughly from the nation’s founding to the passage of the “Indian” Appropriations Act that ended treaty-making in 1871, the project considers how the federal government relied on what I call “visual statecraft” to reshape the legal, moral, and bodily status of Native Americans during a transformative period in U.S./Indigenous relations. Following a series of treaty portraits from negotiations held in Anishinaabe- and Dakota-controlled lands in Michigan Territory through government offices, lithography workshops, and into the pages of Congressionally funded publications, the dissertation tracks images through the diplomatic, political, and industrial networks of nineteenth-century North America. As federal officials increasingly relied on artists and printmakers to mediate diplomatic relations and create classificatory tools that enabled territorial governance, visual culture played a vital and strategic role in transforming ideas about U.S. and Indigenous nationhood. Drawing on methodologies from art history, book history, and critical Indigenous studies, the dissertation contributes much-needed historical frameworks for visual sources that receive scant analytical attention in histories of nineteenth-century America. It highlights three well- known color-plate publications: treaty artist James Otto Lewis’s Aboriginal Port Folio (1835- 183[6]), U.S. Superintendent of “Indian” Affairs Thomas McKenney and James Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844), and U.S. “Indian” agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Conditions, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States (1851-1857). Emphasizing print’s material contingencies and the way nineteenth-century books were financed, circulated, and sold, the dissertation variously explores how specific mediums visualized ideas about race, civilization, gender, and color, and maps the way patterns of image consumption corresponded to the geographical dynamics of Indigenous dispossession and U.S. territorial growth in the decades preceding the Civil War. Bringing renewed attention to the antebellum federal government’s role as a major producer of graphic print, the dissertation links political history and the manufacture and mobilization of images, demonstrating how pictures actively shaped the meaning of personhood and citizenship in an expanding settler nation.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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